Saeli: Does You Shop Playbook Reflect Your Shop Culture? 

June 7, 2024
Why developing good, clear processes can create the discipline needed to build a good shop culture.

Whether you think about this every day or not, your auto repair shop is an essential service in your community. To one customer that could mean a lifeline to get to a doctor’s appointment. To another it could mean a reliable vehicle to get to their job every day. What you do is vital for your neighbors and community. And how you service their cars and the message you communicate to them is key for a successful business. Bottom line is that if you’re not successful you won’t be there to help your customers.  

The policies and procedures you have in place—more and more referred to as your playbook—need to reflect your shop culture.  

The culture within a repair shop is shaped by its playbook, which influences customer satisfaction, employee morale, and overall business success.  


Core Values and Shop Culture 

As I’ve talked about in my previous columns the culture of a repair shop is built on core values such as honesty, reliability, and customer satisfaction. These values guide interactions between employees and customers and form the foundation of daily operations—values that are reflected in your shop culture. A positive shop culture fosters a sense of trust and dependability, essential for maintaining a loyal customer base. 


Customer Service Policies and Shop Culture 

Transparency: Clearly communicate repair costs, timelines, and procedures to customers. This involves providing detailed estimates before beginning any work and updating customers regularly on progress. 

Warranty and Guarantee: Offer warranties on parts and labor to ensure customers feel secure about the quality of service. A clear policy—that should be included in your playbook—on what is covered under warranty can prevent misunderstandings. And don’t forget to promote to customers that you offer warranties. This is a perfect example of how a policy should reflect your shop culture. And don’t forget to include this in promotions … talk about your warranty policy. Both new and returning customers will appreciate that you stand behind your shops’ work.  

Feedback Mechanisms: Implement systems for collecting and addressing customer feedback. This can include follow-up calls, surveys, or a comment section on the company website. And be sure your playbook also includes a policy on how best to handle customers' online reviews … both the good and the not-so-great. Knowing how to confidently handle both situations is key for a successful business. 


Employee Policies 

Training and Development: Continuous training programs for employees to stay updated on the latest repair techniques and technologies. This can include association certifications and safety training. Plus, your front desk personnel should be well-versed on the policies of their job. From how to answer the phone, what to say to potential customers who call in wanting a price quote to how to properly conduct follow-up calls. Included is your own management training so you continue to run a successful business. All of these training points need to be covered in your Playbook. 

Code of Conduct: Establish a code of conduct that outlines expectations for professionalism, punctuality, and workplace behavior. This promotes a respectful and productive work environment. 


Operational Policies 

Quality Control: Implement a quality control process to ensure all repairs meet a high standard before vehicles are returned to customers. This may involve multiple checks within the shop. 

Inventory Management: Maintain an organized inventory system for parts and tools to ensure efficiency and reduce downtime. This can include digital tracking systems to monitor stock levels and reorder supplies as needed. 

Environmental Policies: Adopt environmentally friendly practices, such as recycling old parts and properly disposing of hazardous materials. This demonstrates a commitment to sustainability. This is a great promotional opportunity. Any green business should let its customers know what the shop does to sustain an environmentally friendly establishment. 



Repair Process: Clearly outline to your customer the steps involved in the repair process, including any necessary diagnostics, part replacements, and testing. Ensure customers are informed of any changes or additional work needed. This needs to be communicated in a way that anyone can understand. Transparency is key here. Your playbook needs to outline how best to communicate with customers. Include examples of what to say and how to position any needed repair work. 

Completion and Delivery: Upon completion, review the work done with the customer, explain the repairs, and provide any necessary documentation. Ensure the customer is satisfied before finalizing the transaction. 



Your playbook needs to include a structured daily workflow for technicians, including scheduled tasks, checklists, and deadlines. This helps manage time effectively and maintain consistency in service. 

Inspection Checklist: Use comprehensive checklists for final inspections to verify that all aspects of the repair meet the shop's standards. This should include the personnel who are responsible for that inspection. 

Customer Sign-Off: Have customers sign off on the completed work after a thorough review. This formalizes the end of the repair process and ensures all parties agree on the service provided. 


The Impact of Policies and Procedures on Culture 

The implementation of well-defined policies and procedures significantly impacts the culture of a repair shop. These elements create a structured and professional environment that fosters trust and reliability. For example, transparency in customer service policies builds customer confidence, while robust training programs enhance employee expertise and morale. 


Customer Trust and Satisfaction 

Policies and procedures prioritizing clear communication and quality control ensure customers feel valued and respected. This, in turn, leads to repeat business and positive word-of-mouth referrals. 

Warranty and feedback mechanisms demonstrate a commitment to standing behind the work, further enhancing customer trust. 


Employee Morale and Productivity 

Training policies show that the shop invests in its employees, which can boost morale and job satisfaction. Employees who feel valued are more likely to be motivated and productive. Your training policies and programs should also be part of your recruiting campaigns. Good people want to work for successful shops where they are continually trained to improve their skills. 


Employee Buy-In 

Involve employees in the development of policies and procedures to ensure they are practical and address real-world scenarios. This can increase acceptance and adherence. Offer incentives for crew members who hit targets.  

The culture of a repair shop is a critical component of its success, shaped by the playbook for the business. 

By focusing on customer service, employee welfare, and operational efficiency, repair shops can create a positive environment that benefits both customers and employees. Addressing challenges through strategic adaptations ensures that the shop remains competitive and capable of providing high-quality service. Ultimately, a well-managed repair shop that adheres to strong policies and procedures is well-positioned for sustained success and growth in the community. 

Make sure your playbook is up to date and properly reflects who you are as an owner. 

About the Author

Jim Saeli

Jim Saeli is a senior speaker, workshop instructor, and shop inspector manager for DRIVE. With more than 40 years of industry experience under his belt, including owning his own shop, Jim is dedicated to helping every shop owner grow their business and improve their lives. He’s an expert in management, marketing, and employee relations.

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