How to Run a Modern Successful Auto Repair Shop with 15,000 Clients
Congratulations to Gustafson Brothers Automotive, for hitting a new record in sales from their shop in Huntington Beach, California. They know how to run a successful auto repair shop; they have a remarkable 15,000 active customers in the database of their auto shop software, Shop-Ware.
“We just broke the record for largest three-month close in shop history,” says service advisor Eric Gurley. “We’re trying to better ourselves all the time.”
With 25-30 cars daily on the mechanical side alone, they sell $215,000 in services on average every two weeks. They grossed $4.95 million last year and aim to surpass that number in 2022.
“Our first 12 months on Shop-Ware, we had the most successful year in mechanical shop history,” Eric says. “Shop-Ware had a hand in that, in how repair orders are written up and sold from front to back.”
“It’s amazing. Customers really enjoy the technology behind it.”
Gustafson Brothers’ General Manager Monte Gaustad, Mechanical Shop Manager Kevin Halverson, owner John Gustafson and Dave Baylor, Production Manager for the body shop
A focus on customer service from Day One
John and Frank Gustafson opened their one bay shop in 1971, right after leaving high school. They quickly learned how to run a successful auto repair shop, fixing Volkswagens during the day and surfing after work.
John certified as an ASE Master Technician and remains as the company president today. The shop moved to a larger location in 1982 and offers mechanical and body shop services.
The 25,000-square-foot shop occupies three acres and has grown to include:
- 21 double mechanical bays
- 16 mechanical racks inside
- 5 racks outside under covered solar panels
- An alignment rack
- 3 paint booths
- 16 body shop lifts
- 65 staff members
- A state-of-the-art training room that seats 75 people
- Parking for 150 vehicles
With such a large shop, they run it dealership style, with a parts department and full-time outdoor greeter assigned just to sign in customers. Every day, customers drive in where staff check them in I-pad then connect them with a service advisor within three minutes.
“John is adamant about ‘WORLD CLASS’ service right when they drive in,” Eric notes. “Shop-Ware definitely helped us modernize our processes with technology. The guests are impressed.”
The shop’s service advisors join the guest at their vehicle, then fill in the repair order line by line on a tablet. Once the customer signs the tablet, an electronic estimate copy is emailed to the guest via the Shop-ware platform.
Then, the vehicle heads to the shop.
How to run a successful auto repair shop with Shop-Ware
For years, John and his team modeled a software that they piloted in 1999. However, the programs didn’t evolve to keep up with industry changes, so John went shopping for new automotive shop software.
“We were set in our ways but we had such a large shop with so many moving parts we had to do something,” Eric recalls. “Finally, John gave us the ultimatum that we were switching so we had to figure it out.”
In particular, he had these items on his wish list:
- Cloud-based, searchable system
- Strong analytics to pull labor hours and export to excel for payroll
- A strong suite of canned jobs
- Past services database
- Texting with photos
- Parts ordering within the parts screen
- Digital vehicle inspections
- Customer retention features
After looking at another popular system, he chose Shop-Ware. Next, his team went live with the new software on Jan. 2, 2021.
“It was pretty straightforward,” Eric recalls. “The hardest part was not hand-writing tickets and teaching the techs to follow the procedures on the digital platform. It has definitely streamlined our shop processes.”
Eric has created an extensive database of canned jobs to help the service advisors manage 15,000 active customers.
Since switching, the shop has seen increases in its:
- Gross Profit
- Parts Gross Profit
- Net profit
And that makes Eric smile.
Marketing based on customer loyalty
Gustafson Brothers trimmed back on their marketing expenses by using the Pit Crew Marketing integration within Shop-Ware’s automotive repair software. They have replaced direct email with email and loyalty programs that pull data from their auto repair analytics.
For example, to stir up business in October – their slowest month – they ran a Friends and Family referral promotion. The shop offered 15% off parts and labor with no limit. While some discounts ran up to $500, it drew in massive repair orders that made it worthwhile.
From here, they are creating a monthly themed loyalty program that they will repeat each year. The program will offer discounts on air conditioning, road trip tuneups, air filters, etc.
During COVID lockdowns, the shop offered free services to first responders and healthcare workers, which has paid off tenfold. We cannot wait to see what record they break next!
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