Bunch: Focus on Controlling What You Can

April 15, 2022

The industry is on a wild ride, but shop owners can navigate the ups and downs by doing the basics well.

I just got back from Vision 2022 and Worldpac STX 2022, the two largest industry training events. It was great catching up with old friends and meeting new people. On the last night in Orlando, they sectioned off part of Universal Studios for all the STX attendees. It reminded me that we are on a WILD ride in the auto repair industry right now!

As a kid, I loved the thrill of adventure and the excitement of doing dangerous activities with unknown outcomes. Rollercoasters and anything else that went fast and subjected my body to G-forces thrilled me!  But as I walked through the park with a fellow friend and long-time shop owner, we saw the massive Incredible Hulk Roller Coaster overhead in all its glory. I looked at the roller coaster and said to my friend, “No more; that stage of my life is over!”  I’ll still enjoy my Polaris RZR and Porsche 911 this summer, but I’ll be driving them!

Photo: Universal Studios

Warning! Wild Ride Ahead, only the brave should proceed!

We agreed that the industry has been on a rollercoaster ride since early 2020. The ride will continue as we see major events happening in the world, i.e., COVID-19, the Ukraine war, energy prices, inflation, and, of course, the chip shortage that manufacturers are facing right now. We realized that, as long as we’re in business, we’ll continue to experience roller coaster ups and downs and that we can still enjoy the thrill of the ride.

We can’t control how wild the ride gets, so, to some degree, we have to just strap in and hope we don’t get tossed off in a corner or as we go upside down on the roller coaster of business. As I talked to many shop owners at both events, the question I was asked over and over in my classes was, “How do we prepare for the future?”

We all need to ask ourselves, “What can we control and focus on in our businesses now and in the future?” I teach CEOs that it’s our job to understand the future of our business and what trends will affect it in the short and long term. I also teach that our sights need to be on the aspects that we can control. 

It's great when we can look at the data for short-term and long-term trends in our business and our industry, but is there a way to know what is going on month by month? Yes! There is an area that I’ll challenge shop owners to look at that could have a dramatic effect on their current business and help smooth out the rollercoaster-like days or weeks of being overbooked to having empty bays; something that is in our control!

We listened to 50 inbound calls a month coming into our shops and shared that feedback with our team so they could make the necessary adjustments and corrections on how our service advisors are doing on the telephone.

A critical data point we accidentally discovered.

In January, we discovered that people calling in were primarily concerned about how quickly they could get their vehicle in for service. We heard that they were calling us because the local dealers were booked out for a month! The number of people asking for a price was at a minimum. However, as we moved into February, we learned that the number of people calling in and asking for prices quadrupled! Because there had been such a boom in business, we found that service advisors were not as empathetic as they should have been with our clients who couldn’t schedule immediately or who asked for a price before a needed service or repair. We also saw a temporary drop in their phone call-to-scheduled appointment ratios.

I believe one of the best ways to level out the roller coaster ride in your business is to make sure your staff is doing a fantastic job providing excellent customer service on the phone and in person, no matter how busy or slow your shop is. We will all need to continue to invest in tools and equipment to do the job of fixing vehicles correctly, but don’t neglect the most critical tool in your shop … the telephone, and the team members who answer it!  

We went through this monitoring, scoring, and coaching process with my stores to evaluate how we are performing, and what large and small trends we could uncover when it comes to the phone conversations happening every day. We are learning a lot through this process!  It’s time-consuming, but if you want to know what’s happening at your shop’s first point of contact, there is no better tool than listening to your calls.

We have a great future ahead of us in the automotive repair industry. Let’s band together and commit to being the best we can be for ourselves, our businesses, our team members, our customers, and our industry.

About the Author

Greg Bunch

Greg Bunch is the founder/CEO of Aspen Auto Clinic, a six-shop operation in Colorado, and the founder/CEO of Transformers Institute, a training, coaching, and consulting company for the auto repair industry.

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