Openbay vs. RepairPal

Jan. 1, 2018

An insider’s look at the customer acquisition benefits of two of the country’s fast-rising certification programs.  

Openbay and RepairPal have been forces in the mechanical repair industry for years now. Forbes compares the services to Expedia or TripAdvisor for vehicle service saying it’s “digitally connecting consumers with garages on the basis of locations, needs and estimated quotes.”

With the rise of the consumer's need for fast, reliable and easy service, programs like Openbay and RepairPal offer convenience to the customer.

But while it may appeal easily to customers, what do these programs look like from a shop’s point of view?

Ratchet+Wrench spoke to one RepairPal-certified shop (Bill Nalu of Interstate Auto Care in Madison Heights, Mich.) and one Openbay-certified shop (Barry Steinberg, president and CEO of five-location Direct Tire & Auto Service in the Boston market) to see why they chose the respective programs and their experiences thus far.

SHOP STATS: DIRECT TIRE & Auto Service   Location: FIVE LOCATIONS IN BOSTON MASS METRO MARKET.  Operator: Barry Steinberg  Average Monthly Car Count: 3,200(combined)  Staff Size: 70  Annual Revenue;$14 Million  

The Decision: Openbay

Steinberg heavily considered the program back in 2011.  Typically exit polling his customers as a best practice, he found that customers who came from Openbay were in the millennial age range of 25–35 years old.

Every person using the app raved about its seamlessness and found that Openbay offered the better and more sophisticated shops because the people coming in were typically higher income, he says—working in Stenberg’s favor as he caters to multiple makes, such as Audi and BMW.

Steinberg bought into the fact that the technology will allow people to find an easier way to get their cars fixed.  

The Solution

After his test run went well, he became officially Openbay certified in 2014.

The process for becoming certified was not difficult in that it was basically a question and answer session addressing questions such as how many techs he has, other certifications, what they typically do and don’t work on, etc.

Once he was signed up, referrals started coming in. Steinberg just pays a monthly fee for each of his locations for the service.


Steinberg is ecstatic with the service and says that it’s getting him the clients that his shops had a 50–50 chance of getting in the first place.

“It gives us an opportunity to give us a new client in the higher income level that we probably wouldn't have gotten,” he says.

The best part is that he has done no advertising to get these customers. He says they get 2–3 new people per day among his locations from Openbay alone, equating to about 18 new customers per week.  

He says that about 75 percent of the Openbay referrals may know their brand, but may not have done business with them and Openbay changes that.

Direct Tire’s ARO is $283, where the average ARO from an Openbay customer is $335.

SHOP STATS: INTERSTATE AUTO CARE  Location: MADISON HEIGHTS, MI.  Operator: Bill Nalu  Average Monthly Car Count: 180  Staff Size: 7  Shop Size: 7,000 sq ft; Annual Revenue;$1.2 Million  

The Decision: RepairPal

For Nalu, he wanted a way to chase the car and not the customer. He says that as times are changing, each family member that owns a car is becoming solely responsible for bringing it in for repairs whereas it used to be the head of the family managing the vehicles.

After hearing of RepairPal in 2016, he realized it was something that he needed to keep his eye on, especially when it came to new customer acquisition benefits and increasing car count.

The Solution

Nalu wasn’t initially fond of RepairPal’s messaging, marketing the stereotype that repair shops always overcharge for their services. After expressing his concern with the right people at RepairPal and seeing a slight adjustment with the way the product was marketed, Nalu was interested in joining.

He says he has had great success in converting the mindset of customers from asking how much to asking why it’s that much.

The process for signing up for RepairPal was quite lengthy, he says. The form was very detailed and asked everything from the type of equipment the shop has to the experience of each tech and much more.

Nalu became certified in 2016 and pays a monthly fee for the service.


Nalu says that it took some getting used to having a customer come in and know just enough to be dangerous—meaning instead of someone asking how fast they can get their car done, they’re asking how much will it be to get their brakes done, for example.

If car count is an issue for your shop, RepairPal will bring in the customers you need, he says. Prior to joining RepairPal, Nalu’s car count was 37 cars per week. Now it has jumped to 45 cars.

While RepairPal might refer the people, Nalu says, it is up to you and your staff to convert them into customers.

Nalu receives upward of several to a dozen calls or emails per week from RepairPal customers. From those calls and emails, he converts 30–50 percent. Of those, he converts 80–90 percent of those users.

“It’s absolutely working,” he says.

RepairPal allows for a one-to-one relationship allowing Nalu to chase the cars individually.

He’s found an ROI that’s 4–5 times more than traditional marketing, resulting in making back more than what his monthly fees cost him. While he really does enjoy the benefits of RepairPal, he warns fellow shop owners:

“This is not a silver bullet. RepairPal cannot fix what you need to fix internally,” he says.

The Takeaway

For both shop owners, they have found that their investment in each of the programs has indeed proven useful for customer acquisition in the long run.

“Openbay gave us an opportunity to get a customer that we never would have gotten,” Steinberg says. “It’s brought us clients that used to go to the car dealer but now come to us.”

And for Nalu, the same sentiment is echoed with his choice of RepairPal.

“RepairPal is the best referring mechanism in our business right now,” Nalu says.

Expert Advice

At first, it was tough for Ed Kushman to get on board with services such as RepairPal and Openbay.

As the chairman elect of the Automotive Service Association (ASA) and vice president of C&H Foreign Auto Repair in Spokane, Wash., he’s somewhat come around to understanding why shops would want to utilize these services, especially since his shop recently joined RepairPal.

It was largely the perception of the automotive industry that these services gave to consumers that was an issue for Kushman, giving “preconceived information about what a repair should cost in a geographical area.”

It's up to the shop owner, to educate the customers, Kushman says. Especially since you will have customers calling you with an idea of how much their repair should cost.

It’s also a customer relationship management (CRM) tool.

RepairPal records every conversation between customers and service advisors, and as a real “stickler” for customer service, this feature is what actually keeps Kushman as a member.

It’s a very inexpensive and effective way for him to monitor phone and sales skills and even enables him to know where he needs to put emphasis on training for staff.

To run a phone recording system would cost Kushman way more than what his monthly fee to RepairPal is, he says.

Despite some slipups in pricing, RepairPal has been accommodating, he says. It has happened twice where the service gave an unrealistic price. Kushman charged the customer the posted rate and RepairPal paid the difference.


What to Consider

If you’re considering either of these services, you need to first evaluate your marketing plan and see if you’re meeting your goals as far as customer acquisition and retention.

Assuming that you still feel you need one of these services, ask yourself the following:

1.Do you have open bay or unsold time?

2.Who are the other [RepairPal or Openbay] certified shops in your area?

3.What financial benefit will you derive from it?

4.Will it fit into your overall business plan as far as KPIs and gross profit?

Sponsored Recommendations

Free Resources for Shops Like Yours

View insights, research and solutions curated specifically for shops like yours.

Restore & Protect: The Powerful Revenue and Profit Accelerator for Your Business

Restore & Protect is a major business opportunity for Valvoline installers with positive impact on profit growth as well as customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Deliver a First-Class Guest Experience

Our dedicated Valvoline Trusted Advisor Sales and Support Team provides hands-on classroom and targeted in-store coaching to help your employees become more skilled at selling...

Promote Growth on Two Fronts: Existing and New Customers

Increase Sales and Customer Traffic To Your Store(s).