A recipe for Crown Royal apple marmalade and an espresso to jumpstart your morning aren’t two things most people would head to an automotive repair shop for, but DuFresne’s Auto Service in Portland, Ore., isn’t your typical shop and Tee Clunas certainly isn’t the typical marketing manager.
Along with the standard responsibilities associated with a marketing manager, Clunas oversees the drive-thru espresso shop connected to the repair shop, runs the loaner fleet and towing services, manages the shop’s Facebook page and creates the company’s monthly newsletter, which includes “Secrets from Nancy & Tee’s Kitchen” as well as auto tips, customer reviews and games. Clunas also heads the food and coat drives that have helped grow the shop’s reputation within the community.
Clunas’ marketing efforts have been a huge factor in growing the shop’s sales. When Clunas joined the team in 2003, DuFresne’s June sales were $56,000—compare that to June 2017 and sales have almost doubled to $105,305. Clunas’ commitment to finding ways to make the shop stand out have made her a valued member of the community and an invaluable member of the DuFresne’s team.
I started working here in 2003. I came back after working for dealerships for a while. This is my mom’s shop. I worked here when I was younger and took a break. I missed it. I was so burnt out working over 60 hours per week that I needed to come back. I actually responded to a help wanted ad in the newspaper to show my mom I was serious.
Every morning, I get up at 4:20. I commute from Washington. The drive isn’t that bad but we open the shop at 6, so I need to get an early start. My mom—Nancy, the owner—is usually here at that time as well. We have a drive-thru coffee shop, so I take about 5–10 minutes and put cash in the till and start brewing coffee. Sometimes, we’ll have customers come in early to check their cars in, so my mom and I will do that. While we’re getting everything ready, we’ll talk about the agenda for the day. I might need to get the newsletter ready to send to the publisher or we might discuss a new marketing initiative.
The rest of the staff, including my barista, usually gets in close to 8 a.m., which is when we open. We’re a small shop, so we all work together throughout the day to make things work. We all answer the phones and check in customers. My main task throughout the day is to manage the books for both the repair and the coffee shops.
My barista’s desk is right next to the drive-thru lane, so she can see whenever a car comes in. I’ll cover her during breaks or if she’s doing something. We have people that come in just for the coffee. It’s a really fun way to break up the day. It’s like being a bartender—you get to know the customers and their life stories.
My barista helps out with a lot of projects. She does a great job monitoring all of our online customer reviews. We try and answer every single one that comes in, even the negative ones. She usually dedicates about a half hour per week reviewing those. If there is a negative one, I’ll usually respond to that one. We’ve gotten comments from customers that say they respect that we keep those up there and that we’ve taken the time to address them—it pays off.
I’m also in charge of our loaner fleet, which now includes four vehicles. We have a calendar so we know what’s going to be needed throughout the day. It’s all about constant communication with the staff to make sure that we have the schedule right. We all just do what we have to do when someone comes in—it’s all about multitasking.
Once the books are ready, I spend the second half of the day working on various projects. Throughout the day, I’m managing our Facebook page. I like to put up informative information and also give our followers a look at what’s going on inside of our shop. For example, I posted a photo of our new service writer’s desk and I also snapped a photo of a pie that a customer brought in for us. I also work on our newsletter, which we send out once per month.
The newsletter has changed a lot over the years. It’s really personal. We put a recipe in there—“Secrets from Nancy & Tee’s Kitchen.” We recognize a customer of the month, there’s usually a game and discounts. I never realized how much our customers liked it until there was a delay one month. They called and asked where it was. People love it, and I think they love it because they know that it comes directly from us. Since I’ve been doing it for so long, it doesn’t take long at all for me to get it ready. It probably takes me a few hours total to put each month’s together.
We try and do some sort of fun promotion at least once every two months. We have a coat drive, an Easter egg hunt, casino night, but our most popular by far is our December free brakes event. During the month of December, we rent a storage pod and any customer that brings in a bag of groceries will get a free brake inspection and receive free brake pads if needed. We still charge for labor, but this event is hugely successful. We’re able to fill that pod up with food and because of this event, we’ve become a top 10 donor for the Oregon Food Bank. December is one of our biggest sales months. This will be our 13th year doing it. I went to a NAPA event recently and other shop owners in the area knew exactly who DuFresne’s was because of this promotion—it’s famous. I think that doing stuff like this has helped us retain our current customers. Giving back is so important. If the community is good to you, then you should be good to it.
I keep track of all of our marketing efforts. I ask every customer where they heard about us. If it’s a repeat customer, I check and see what kind of coupon or special that they’re using. I have a form where I document everything so I can see what’s working and what isn’t. Being a small shop, it’s easy for me to see the things that are working. For example, on slow days, I can send an email out to our customers and get the bays filled quickly.
I’m always looking for new marketing ideas. I stay in touch with shop owners in the area and across the U.S. to see what’s working for them and what isn’t. I stay active on social media to watch for new trends.
Throughout the day, I’m making a mental list of what I’m going to need to do for the next day. I’m great at multitasking. We don’t typically have to take customers home anymore because of our fleet, but if we do, I’ll take care of that. I usually leave the office around 3, unless my barista isn’t here and then I stay until the shop closes at 5 p.m..
Being a smaller shop, it’s so important to be innovative and keep up with trends. If we don’t, we’ll die out.
SHOP STATS: DuFresne's Auto Service Location: Portland Operator: Nancy DuFresne Scheewe Average Monthly Car Count: 266 Staff Size: 8 Shop Size: 2,100 sq ft; Annual Revenue: $1 million