Create a Welcoming Vibe
SHOP STATS: Denver's Quality Automotive Location: WHEAT RIDGE, COLO. Operator: Tom Schmuke Average Monthly Car Count: 380 Staff Size: 12 Shop Size: 1,600 sq ft; Annual Revenue: $1.7
Tom Schmuke joined the automotive industry in 2011 when he bought a 30-year-old existing business. Schmuke was looking into purchasing other businesses at the time, but felt a pull to the repair shop. The business had a good brand, he says.
The automotive industry was one that he was familiar with, as he grew up handing his father a wrench, he says. Regardless, one element of the industry surprised him upon starting.
“It’s such a cut-throat industry,” Schmuke says.
Following the shop’s relocation and rebrand from“Quality Care” to “Denver’s Quality Care,” the business has continued to see growth over the years. Over the last eight-and-a-half years, Schmuke has worked to develop a culture at the business that offers a customer-first service and squashes nearby competition.
Today, the shop focuses on three C’s of the business: care, confidence, and convenience. According to the shop’s website, the business has three goals: “to provide [customers] with the best quality car maintenance and repair service experience in the Wheat Ridge area,” “to provide [customers] with a good value for the services we perform and to respect your budget,” and “to be an active member in the Wheat Ridge community.”
“We want to be the obvious choice in our area,” Schmuke says.
As told to Kiley Wellendorf
When I come into the shop, the very first thing I do is check out what the vibe is like for the day. I say “hello” to every employee each morning and I want to know what my employees’ moods are when they come in—customers can pick up on when someone is having an off day. I’ll check to see if everyone has had their coffee, and are ready to get going for the morning.
After I greet and check in with everyone, I’ll check on the status of the vehicles. There are three flows that come with customer’s vehicles: the people flow, the car flow, and the paperwork flow. It’s my job to make sure that everything is on track and the paperwork is good for customers.
By 9 a.m., we have a short morning huddle with the technicians to go over where they’re at with their hours and other business matters for the day. We have quick morning meetings like that every day and then we have an all-staff meeting every Friday. During Friday meetings, we review how things in the business are going as far as equipment working properly and how procedures are going, on the shop floor.
I try to make myself as available as possible for the employees and the customers. I’m generally out in front of the shop throughout the day; otherwise, if I’m not in the shop, then I’m out in the community trying to market the business.
I think it’s really important to be active in the community, and I try to be a face for the business. I want everyone to know who Tom is and know that if he or she has an issue with their vehicle, that my shop is the one to go to.
Since this industry is so competitive, you really have to stay consistent about how to be loyal with your customers, how to be loyal to your brand, and think about the way you communicate your message to your customers. Customers today are price-shopping more than they ever have before, so when a customer comes into the business, it’s our goal to make sure he or she has an outstanding experience.
I would say that I have as good of a relationship with my team as any shop owner. I’m someone who wants to continually better myself and our shop, and I don’t think that’s a good or bad thing. I want our shop to be known as the best and an obvious choice for auto repair in our area, so there are a few factors that I focus on to get us there.
I want my technicians to be efficient in customer service, so we focus on customer service training frequently at the shop. All of my staff members are trained as if they were service writers. I don’t train them to become a service writer—I focus on how they can better improve their customer service skills. I want my customers to be interacted with and I also want the staff to feel comfortable when they’re talking with them.
In some of the training that we have, I’ve trained them on cleanliness and how to keep the shop looking nice, as well as how to speak with customers regarding repairs. For example, things like hyphenated words regarding car parts or repairs can be confusing for customers, and, as someone who hasn’t worked in the industry prior, I try to be a customer advocate for my employees during the training. I don’t want my employees to fear the customer because I’m ultimately trying to train them for situations where a customer comes into the garage and asks to speak with a technician. If customers ask to speak with a technician over the phone then the technician should be trained to properly communicate with that customer over the phone.
I want my technicians to be comfortable and I want my customers to walk away with a positive experience.
We want to provide convenience for our customers when they come into the shop. One thing that we try to make easy for our customers is provide rides or a ride service to them when their car is being worked on. We’ve utilized Uber for about three years now and we started because we were looking at ways to become more efficient and expand our horizons.
In order to become more convenient for customers, we have an account linked up to Uber where we can order customers a ride if we’re unable to do so ourselves. Although this doesn’t happen often, if we’re in the middle of something or we are short on time, we have a shop cell phone that is linked up to Uber and we provide them with a ride.
It’s my goal to be the No. 1 choice in our area for repair services and I want people to really believe in our business above others. If you think about how In-N-Out is a burger chain commonly associated with California—that’s how we want to be associated with Colorado.
At the end of the day, I just want people to feel good about coming into our shop and doing business with us.