Properly diagnosing vehicles and educating customers on repairs builds clientele
Overland Park, Kan.—High goals and high standards set Paul Eilenberger apart. While in school, Eilenberger set the ambitious goal to own his own shop by the age of 30. He accomplished that goal at 27, with Eilenberger’s Automotive, in Overland Park, Kan., in 1996.
“I had a lot help from my parents, who encouraged me to go out on my own,” Eilenberger said. Larry Eilenberger, a retired engineer, still helps out around the shop, from sweeping the floor to stepping in as a porter if necessary. “It’s great to have the old man here,” he said.
With 10 bays and nine two-post Rotary Lifts, the shop is consistently full. The one bay without a lift has a new Hunter alignment rack, which the techs use frequently, offering complimentary alignment checks with every service. Eilenberger and his staff focus on preventative maintenance and educating their customers on its value.
“We want the car coming in the shop before it breaks, not after,” Eilenberger said. That goal is accomplished by thoroughly inspecting a car when it comes in, properly diagnosing the entire car and educating the customer. When a customer leaves, Eilenberger provides them a small packet that includes information about the their car, a maintenance schedule, and the vehicle’s next appointment.
“The more educated the customer is, the better,” he said, adding enlightened customers are the best sales tools, as well. The time Eilenberger and his staff take to educate their customers is paying off. “We’re adding around 10 new customers a week,” he said. The shop typically repairs 55 cars a week and tries to deliver same-day service. Word of mouth is the biggest source of new clients, but Eilenberger also uses direct mail and always asks his customers for a referral before they leave. The shop also uses text blast and their presence on social media to keep in touch with customers.
Eilenberger and crew diagnose everything in-house and use a Snap-on Vantage and Verus to get the job done, which he said are user-friendly and offer good support.
As more European cars roll through the shop, however, the shop relies on dealerships for reflashing about four or five times a month. “The goal is to get the customers car repaired right the first time and back on the road as quickly as possible,” he said.
The shop charges for diagnosing and customers are taught what may have tripped a code, what it means, and all possible solutions. “We take the time to teach,” Eilenberger said, adding that emissions are the most common diagnostic issue with repairs coming from the EVAP system, including the purge control and vent solenoids.
“A code could have been tripped because of a vacuum issue, or a multitude of other issues,” he said, adding that the most common false code is for a clogged converter.
“Emissions and computer-related issues will only grow in the future,” Eilenberger said. “As computers become more prevalent in cars, repairs will center around the electrical system. That’s why I require all my techs be able to read a wiring diagram.”
Eilenberger also sees more hybrids on the horizon. “The average hybrid owner still goes to the dealership,” he said, and while some shops might shy away from the few hybrids that come in for a quote, Eilenberger welcomes them. “We know how to diagnose and repair hybrids, and we’ve taken training classes specifically for hybrid technology and diagnosis.”
Eilenberger wants his staff to be well educated, too. “The more training, the better,” Eilenberger said. There are three tech’s in the shop, all ASE certified and each has worked for Eilenberger for at least three years. Techs participate in continuing education through Factory Motor Parts and ASA Midwest. “We all go to the Vision show here in Kansas City every year for training, too.”
For its parts needs, Eilenberger Automotive relies on WORLDPAC and Factory Motor Parts. “We prefer to use OEM parts when we repair a car,” Eilenberger said, adding that a three-year/36,000-mile warranty gives customers peace of mind, too.
With the business growing, Eilenberger is looking to add one more tech to the shop. “I’ll look for someone with experience, who knows his way around a computer, and makes himself presentable to the customers,” he said.
The staff at Eilenberger Automotive is treated like family, with paid time off and provided benefits, including a healthcare plan the company pays 50 percent for and matches 3 percent in IRAs. “I try to give my techs everything they need to be successful,” Eilenberger said, adding “if there’s something the shop needs, I get it.”