Others adapt to new tech, All American creates it
San Francisco, Calif.— By using a wide range of time-saving devices in its daily operation, All American Automotive in San Francisco almost runs like an autonomous car, according to its forward-thinking Owner Pat Banta, who started his career in automotive repair as a technician before opening All American 25 years ago.
By continually looking for a more efficient way to repair 160 cars monthly with three technicians and one service writer, Banta has been developing an application called Ryde for the past two years. It’s a conversation platform that streamlines communication between shops, customers, vendors and partners, and Banta has been working with major Silicon Valley innovators to get it into 100 mechanical repair shops throughout California, he said.
Banta is excited about the application, because he can already see that it is working well in his own shop. “Ryde is a new way to run your business around conversations with your customers,” he said. “It complements the systems you already use for management, marketing and accounting, but it also opens a new, quicker channel of communication with customers. With the conversation platform, you can message your customers and suppliers, share any document with them and securely collect and make payments. It’s simple to start with messaging then provide faster service and show more love to your customers as you build your business around conversations.”
The phones in his shop rarely ring anymore. “The phone is the bane of our existence and a complete waste of time in most cases,” Banta said. “At some shops, the phone is ringing constantly with multiple calls on hold, but here it’s quiet, because we have trained our customers to communicate with us without using the phone. We have them communicating through Ryde, either on the cell phone or on the desktop and it’s really helping us with our production overall.”
When he isn’t developing technology to help his shop and the industry, Banta focuses on being able to fix the types of vehicles people drive in San Francisco. “We specialize in Audi, VW, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Volvo, but we also work on domestics and Asian brands, too,” Banta said. “It probably breaks down to 75 percent foreign and 25 percent domestic, with Mercedes number one and Volkswagen number two. People here are very savvy about their vehicles, so we have to know how to perform diagnostics correctly. Once we gain their confidence, it’s much easier, but we have to continually prove ourselves to stay there.”
Banta leans heavily on his lead technician, Bela Hegedus. “I can honestly say Bela is the best technician I’ve ever seen and I’ve worked with hundreds,” he said. “He is very knowledgeable and he always wants to be better. Every shop needs someone like Bela and that’s why I pay him well.”
With an average ROI of approximately $925, the numbers at All American are a little higher than the average shop in California, but that means the stakes are higher as well. “We go out of our way to get a customer for life — that’s our goal,” Banta said. “I have one customer who has spent more than $120,000 over the years with us, so retaining a customer like that is imperative. We have learned that if we do a good job, people will be loyal to us and it often leads to other work through referrals.”
Owning a shop in San Francisco can often come with unique problems, such as a lack of parking and expensive rent, but Banta has neither of those problems, he said. “We have 4,000 square feet inside and another 4,000 outside, so we don’t have to spend a lot of time moving cars around. We work closely with our landlords to make them happy and that’s why we’re able to be here. Rents in San Francisco are insane, so we know we’re lucky to be in the situation we are, but we also work hard to be great tenants and luckily we have great customers.”
One of those customers is former NFL quarterback Joe Montana, but undoubtedly All American’s most famous client is President Barack Obama [even though past presidents are no longer in office, they’re still referred to as “President.”] “We worked on his custom-built Cadillac limo and it was all coordinated through the Secret Service,” Banta said. “I guess that’s the pinnacle for any shop in this industry. I mean, how much bigger can it get than that?”