The auto industry isn’t always painted in the best light. Many customers have a preconceived notion of a dirty shop with rude employees when they think of an auto repair shop. For some shops, unfortunately, this is true, but The Auto Angel in Santa Fe, N.M., is working to change this perception and it starts as soon as customers walk in the door with maintenance worker Emilio Benitez. Seven-and-a-half years ago, Benitez walked into The Auto Angel and asked for a job. Since then, he’s played a big role in The Auto Angel establishing a positive perception within the community.
“Our industry is often categorized as dishonest,” says Gabriel Garcia, president at The Auto Angel, in his Ratchet+Wrench All-Star Award nomination of Benitez. “People like Emilio are helping out the entire industry by restoring faith one customer at a time.”
Benitez does this by keeping up the shop’s appearance and bonding with customers while he drives the shuttle. He even helps out by performing some of the smaller repairs or vehicle maintenance when needed to ensure customers get their vehicles as soon as possible.
“The way that he takes care of the shop shows the pride that he has in his work,” Garcia says. “It’s clear that his heart is in it. I never have to tell him to clean the windows; he’s always all over it.”
Benitez says that keeping the shop clean and having a positive attitude benefits everyone involved in the process. Customers are happier and the staff benefits from a positive reputation.
Looks Do Matter.
Benitez’s main responsibility at the shop is keeping it looking its best. In Garcia’s nomination, he points out that Benitez makes sure everything—from soda cans to tires to scrap metal—is recycled and he even goes so far as to repurpose towels.
Benitez says it’s important for him to keep the shop clean because it’s the very first thing that customers will notice about the shop.
“If a customer sees something is dirty, they’re going to remember that and chances are, they’ll say something about it,” Benitez says. “It’s important to keep it looking the best it can.”
Benitez adds that not only is it good for customer perception to keep the shop clean, it also benefits the staff and helps keep them sane. According to Benitez, technicians often don’t have time to put everything away in the correct place. He takes it upon himself to encourage the staff to make sure nothing is lying on the floor and that everything is put back where it belongs.
Before a car is returned to its owner, Benitez also makes sure to clean the car out and makes it presentable. The process includes leaving an Auto Angel–branded trash bag and three suckers in the air vent, a practice that puts a smile on the customer’s face.
Drive and Connect.
Being sincere is key, and Garcia says that Benitez always comes off that way when he’s interacting with customers.
“One-on-one interaction with a customer is so important, and when he’s with a customer, he doesn’t come off rehearsed,” Garcia says. “That really pays off.”
When a customer boards the shuttle, Benitez says he makes sure to be friendly and take the time to connect. Benitez adds that if you’re too quiet or don’t engage with the customer, they may feel like you’re ignoring them or that you’re not very nice, so he always makes an effort to get to know them.
Go the Extra Mile.
Benitez has been tinkering with cars since he was 14, so when it’s needed, he’s able to help out with certain repairs in the shop.
“Sometimes, people in the shop are too busy,” Benitez says. “If I’m not doing anything at that time, I can change a tire or do an oil change. Anything that I can do to help out, I will.”
Customers really appreciate this because when everyone helps out, they get their cars back sooner.
Not only does Benitez help out during shop hours, he also volunteers for anything that the shop is involved in within the community, including the food drive and Family Service Days. During the last Family Service Day, Benitez brought a few of his children to help out to show the importance of giving back.
“We all need to participate and help each other out,” Benitez says. “We don’t want anything in return, we just want to help people.”