The automotive industry in the US is ever-evolving and highly competitive. With vehicle owners always on the lookout for convenient repair and maintenance options, auto shops need to have a solid understanding of customer needs, technology, and pricing in order to be successful.
The sheer number of parts that an average vehicle has indicates the breadth of services you may have to offer — each requiring a certain amount of skill and expertise.
However, besides hiring the right talent, there are a number of factors you need to get right to ensure the success of your automotive maintenance or tire dealership business. In this article, we’ll take a look at six major areas that you must focus on.
Let’s get started.
1. Parking and store exterior
Parking is one of the most important areas that auto maintenance businesses must focus on. Research shows that 63% of motorists in the biggest American cities have avoided driving to their destinations due to parking issues.
It’s quite obvious that unless customers can park their vehicles on your premises, you won’t see much traffic at your dealership or service center. Having ample parking, on the other hand, can help you attract plenty of customers and elevate the customer experience significantly. As such, parking is one of the first touchpoints your customers have with your business. See to it that it’s:
- Clearly visible. Install appropriate directional signage so that customers know where to enter and where to park/drop off their vehicles.
- Accessible to all. Ensure that disability parking spaces are located at the front and have the necessary accommodations.
- Convenient. Entering, navigating, and exiting the space needs to be hassle-free.
Likewise, your store exterior decides the first impression of your services. A clean, well-maintained, and professional-looking storefront can instill trust. Consider power washing your parking areas and building exterior to make them spick-and-span. Also, conduct regular inspections to repair any cracks or potholes, and during winter, ensure that de-icing and snow removal protocols are in place.
2. Customer washrooms
When customers walk into your auto repair shop, give them the confidence that their vehicles are being treated with the same care as them. To that end, ensure that washrooms — whether shared or customer-only — are clean, sanitized, well-maintained, and functional. This shows your dedication to their comfort and welfare.
Dirty bathrooms are extremely off-putting and make people feel unsafe. So, see to it that washrooms are spotless and pristine all day. All surfaces must be sanitized at least once a day, and there should be a continuous supply of water, toilet paper, soap, paper towels, etc. Well-lit and ventilated washrooms will give off a fresh vibe and boost your customers’ perception of your brand significantly.
3. Loss prevention
Auto body/repair shops are often more prone to theft and robbery than the average business because they are known to keep high-value items like customer vehicles, spare parts, tools, and equipment on-site. Such incidents can not only result in significant financial losses but also damage your business’s reputation.
Therefore, it is essential to insure your facility against theft. In addition, make sure you have ample safety measures in place to avoid such incidents in the first place. Let’s look at some of the things you need to be mindful of:
- Install security cameras throughout your property (particularly in the parking area) to keep an eye on possible theft and vandalism. Inspect them periodically to make sure they are in proper working condition.
- Use a protective safe to store all cash and cheques until you’re ready to deposit them. Stagger your deposits so as not to allow burglars to detect your schedule or pattern.
- Use a locked closet or cabinet to store all equipment, tools, and machinery that aren’t in use.
- Protect customers’ keys by placing them in a secure area or in a safe, especially during non-working hours.
- Keep all shop doors and windows locked during non-working hours. Install adequate outdoor lighting, fencing, and “No Trespassing” signs around the property.
Inventory management is of utmost importance in an auto maintenance business, given the expensive spare parts and equipment you’ll be dealing in. Start by organizing your inventory carefully to avoid overstocking or understocking.
Classify them into categories such as oils and lubricants, dry goods, tools, paint products, etc. Store them in separate locations while ensuring that the fastest-moving products are close at hand. Keep count of all your items and maintain proper records. This will allow you to have an idea of how much you have and how much you need to order.
Consider investing in quality software to manage your inventory to eliminate rigorous manual procedures, errors, and inefficiencies. This will also enable you to maintain a computerized record of your stock, track your orders, and streamline your overall inventory management process.
Finally, establish a clear rule-based inventory management process. Record every removal or addition of an item into the system for accuracy and integrity.
Merchandising, alongside servicing vehicles, can be a great source of additional revenue for your auto repair/maintenance business. It’s always a good idea to have a small retail section in your facility — even if you have limited space.
For example, you could place a small spinner rack next to the cash register to display car air fresheners. These are typically great impulse buys for customers.
If you have a waiting area or lobby for customers at your store, consider mounting a shelving system on one of the walls and displaying emergency repair kits. These could include tire patch kits, roadside flares, door lock de-icers, or windshield crack repair kits. This is a great way to show your commitment to customer safety as well.
You could also display car wash accessories like dashboard cleaners, microfiber cloths, car wax, and spray nozzle attachments. Think about the kind of cars you typically service or the kind of repair jobs you generally undertake, and then select your merchandise. With proper assessment and planning, you can generate significant add-on revenue while offering greater convenience to customers.
6. Customer service
Above all else, make sure your staff is well-trained to provide excellent customer service. Often, this is what helps your business stand out among the rest. To that end, hire skilled and knowledgeable technicians, and give them the appropriate tools and training they need to excel at their jobs.
Customer service also involves answering phone calls, managing appointments, and handling walk-ins. How your staff communicates with customers says a lot about your culture and your brand. See to it that they are courteous, helpful, and efficient in their customer interactions.
It’s also a good idea to send texts for status updates or approvals instead of calling customers in the middle of a busy workday. Also, consider pre-booking appointments to avoid long lines or overcrowding at the facility.
Make sure you always prioritize customer convenience. One way to do that is to set up a waiting area with comfortable seating and a coffee machine. You may even add a TV here, but if you do, it’s best to stick with a news channel while keeping the volume low and turning on closed captions.
Managing a successful automotive maintenance or tire dealership business comes with a host of challenges, but it also presents some very lucrative opportunities. Bindy makes it really easy for you to execute your operations, merchandising, safety, and loss prevention standards through the use of customizable forms and checklists.
With its automated inspections and follow-ups, you can identify potential issues and fix them before they escalate and hurt your bottom line. Contact us today to learn how you can maintain your brand standards effectively and build a strong brand in automotive servicing.
OTHER AUTOMOTIVE AND PARKING RESOURCES
Refer to the Automotive and Parking category for checklists, how-tos and best practices for the automotive and parking industries.
About the author:
Francesca Nicasio is retail expert, B2B content strategist, and LinkedIn TopVoice. She writes about trends, tips, and best practices that enable retailers to increase sales and serve customers better. She’s also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores.