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SHOP STATS: Casey's Automotive   Location: 2 (Sterling, Va., and Chantilly, Va.)  Operator: Bryan Jewett  Average Monthly Car Count: 830 (combined)  Total Staff Size: 22  Shop Size: 7,2000 square feet (Chantilly), 6,800 square feet (Sterling)  Annual Revenue: $4 million  (combined)

It’s something most shop owners realize: No one enjoys paying for auto repair, and the fact that a customer is forced to sit for hours at a time, waiting for the repairs to be done, doesn’t help the issue. What makes it more difficult? When kids tag along, keeping them entertained is a battle in itself. That’s why making the experience enjoyable for not only your customer, but their kids, too, is important in order to win them over. 

Bryan Jewett gets it. As a dad of four, he understands how difficult it can be. That’s why when he took over Casey’s Automotive in Chantilly, Va., two years ago, he wanted to put the focus on customer service and making the shop a more family-friendly experience. It made a huge difference. Before he took over, revenue was roughly $1 million. Now, the original Chantilly shop is at $3 million and a new location, which he’s since added in Sterling, is at $1 million. 

Here’s what Jewett has done in his shop to get parents and their kids on the shop’s side.

As told to Abby Patterson

In today’s market, you have to make it convenient for everyone; convenience is No. 1. Where we live, we have a lot of families in the community and know a lot of our customers have children; I myself have four kids of my own. When you’re a parent and you show up somewhere with children, it can be a difficult situation bringing them along. Those families don’t have time to hang around in an auto repair shop with two, three, or four kids. 

So, the best tip I can give is that shop owners have to realize that children tagging along can be very inconvenient, and if you make it easier for parents, they will want to come to your shop. If you don’t make it convenient, your customers will find somewhere else to go. We wanted to make our shop and our waiting room more convenient and comfortable for families.

If you walk into our waiting room, you wouldn’t know it’s an auto repair shop. We have a separate kids area in the corner of the waiting room. It has a TV with an Xbox for the older kids and a DVD player with lots of movies kids can watch. We also have coloring books with markers and crayons for kids to color, and board games and toys for them to play with, too. We even stock up on wipes, diapers, etc., for the bathrooms. We try to provide pretty much anything you can do to entertain customers’ kids and make waiting with them a little bit easier. 

We even have a loaner vehicle for families to use if they need it. Yes, we have other loaner cars, but this one is specific for families. If a customer brings their kids with and needs a car for the day, we can reserve our Honda Pilot for them; they just have to bring their own car seats.

Of course, we interact with the parent, but we interact with the child as well. We involve the kids in the conversation and make them feel like a customer, too; we don’t treat them like they aren’t there. It makes it easier to build a strong relationship with the parent and makes kids feel welcomed.

When kids come in, we pull them and their parents aside and ask if they want to see their car on the lift—with the parent’s permission, of course. They always get a kick out of that. We take them around and show them what their cars look like when it’s being worked on, and we show them inside of the shop. It’s a quick little show and tell.

And, we always have Matchbox cars for the kids to play with. I swear we have about 500 of those cars hanging around. We just go to Walmart and buy all of them out when we can. Before the kids leave the shop after a service is done, we let them pick out their own Matchbox car to take home.

I think how we treat customers and that mindset is one of the best ways we’ve been able to grow. Instead of focusing on car count or selling to customers, we focus on the customer service aspect—keeping our customers happy. It gives us an opportunity as an auto repair shop to get customers that actually want to wait for their car. 

Appealing to families is honestly how we’ve made the biggest change in our sales. I look at it this way: nobody wants to buy auto repair. If you are selling auto repair, you have to make it a good experience for them. Focusing on your customer’s needs—whether it’s providing a place to work on their laptop or a place to entertain their kids—it’s a great way to grow your business.

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