Keep Up With the Times
Practices in automotive repair have drastically changed over the years. Digitization efforts have played a massive role in this, and shops need to keep up in order to remain relevant.
Ratchet+Wrench All-Star Awards nominee Steve Wyatt is no stranger to this notion. He has been at Joey’s Truck Repair, a shop that services all makes and models, in Charlotte, N.C., for 19 years and serves as both shop foreman and technician. He’s been in the repair business since he was 15, and has witnessed the industry change before his eyes.
“When I started, you used your back and arms,” Wyatt says. “Now, it’s more about using your head.”
Wyatt uses digitization to his advantage, improving customer relations as well as educating others. He’s gone from being an “old school mechanic” to a “modern day technician,” according to his nomination. He’s proof that even those who have been in auto repair for decades can—and should—make the effort to learn and prosper from new advancements.
Grow with customers.
“When I started, nothing was computer controlled,” Wyatt says. “Now, cars have computers in them.”
Wyatt implements practices that include an AutoVitals digital inspection program for the vehicles Joey’s works on. These DVI methods educate customers on exactly what repairs were made and why. This lets customers look into modern methods that the shop uses.
This is important for Wyatt when it comes to retention because customers that have driven one type of car for years may decide to buy a brand new vehicle.
“If they get new vehicles you don’t want to say, ‘We can’t do this new one, you’ve got to take it back to the dealer,’” Wyatt explains.
You want your customers to think of your shop as one that can grow with them. In order to do that, methodology needs to reflect the new way that cars operate. If cars are changing, you need to as well.
Wyatt likes to think of Joey’s approach as one that can take on any type of repair, and he believes that’s one of the things that makes it stand out.
“We pride ourselves in customer satisfaction,” he says. “Anything the customer needs, that’s what we do.”
After you’ve taken the time to get to know what works for you and your shop, communicate to your customers that you are able to work on newer vehicles as well as older ones. This instills customer retention and allows word to spread that your shop is advanced enough that people can come to you instead of a different shop for assistance.
Serve as an example of excellence.
“Excellence” is a word that gets thrown around a lot in the repair industry, and for good reason. In terms of modernization, it cements an identity for your shop that can turn you into an example for which other shops can strive.
In Wyatt’s case, he’s taken some of his expertise to other shops in the area.
“A lot of shops don’t have the technology that we have,” Wyatt says.“They’ll call us and either bring us a vehicle to work on or we’ll go to their shop and help them diagnose it.”
It may seem inherent to shy away from helping out competition, but Wyatt looks at it as a chance for education and an opportunity to better the repair industry overall.
This puts Joey’s in a unique position of having technology and education at its disposal. It automatically brings the shop to a higher caliber. Creating an identity like this can take time, but can result in your shop leading by example, Wyatt explains.
Seek out new learning opportunities.
Change can be daunting. The first step is knowing what you know and about what you need to learn more. Maybe you already implement digital practices in your shop, but there is always more on which to stay up to date.
“If you are in this industry now and you want to stay in this industry, you need to get educated,” Wyatt says.
Wyatt recommends being on the lookout for refresher courses supplied through industry leaders or online, perhaps through an ASE training. If a company in the industry decides to put out a new product or software system and they provide any information or training on it for shops, then take advantage of it by learning everything you can about it. From there, you can determine if it is fit for your shop or not. Either way, you gain more insight on advancements in auto repair, which allows you to adapt in the future when more changes come along.
“The industry has changed big time,” Wyatt says. “It is a lot different than it was even five years ago.”
When it comes down to it, the ability to either grow or shrink with change can make or break the reputation of a shop, and you definitely want to grow.