Wichita dealership-alternative shop is diagnostic specialist
Wichita, Kan.—Most people don’t look forward to getting their vehicle serviced or repaired. But a welcoming environment, including hand-picked calming scents, paintings, and creature comforts such as Wi-Fi and beverages, helps soothe sometimes anxious customers at After Hours Auto Repair, said Summer Guerrero, who with her husband, Mark, owns the business, which they position as an all-makes dealership alternative.
“People don’t like their cars breaking down, and they don’t like being without their car very long,” she said. “So their stress and anxiety levels are high. You have to calm them down when they come in, talk to them about their life, and let them know we are listening to them.”
The shop is known even among its peers for its diagnostic abilities, Guerrero said, and they use those test results to help reinforce the value of a proper diagnosis, but without high-pressure sales techniques.
“We confirm the customer’s precise concern and let them know, ‘I am going to correct this with this fix,’” she said. “‘OK, this is your main concern: you’re sputtering up a hill at this MPH, and yes, there’s no check engine light, but you know there’s something wrong. You know your vehicle. So we want to resolve that, and we have the equipment to be able to get you that accurate information.’”
Guerrero said after verifying the customer’s service concern, Customer Service Advisor Allison Greger takes the time to understand the technician’s diagnosis and his recommended service or repair, which is important so that she is prepared for any questions the customer may have before authorizing the repair.
“She has all of her information right there, and she is confident in what she’s telling them. We don’t play the guessing game,” Guerrero said. “We don’t put parts on that we’re not sure are going to fix it and have the customer pay for it. If that happens, it was us, not them, and that really comes down to integrity: what is right, and what is wrong.”
ASE Master Technician Mark Guerrero was a technician in local new-car dealerships and worked evenings and weekends to get his business started, hence the “After Hours” name. He serves as shop foreman and lead technician to the shop’s two technicians and said some skeptical customers are made believers when they are shown the shop’s test results, often emailed to them before they arrive to pick up the vehicle.
“We’ll take pictures, we will take video, and we can print off scanner information,” he said. “I was doing diagnostics on a customer’s car, and he didn’t believe what I was telling him. So I was able to print the cylinder balance test and show him which two cylinders were missing.”
For domestic vehicles, Guerrero said he uses aftermarket and OEM scan tools, and his Autologic scan tool has complete European-make capabilities, which he also praised for the company’s technical support.
“If you run into a scanner function that you haven’t seen before, you can call them up and they’ll walk you through it. It saves so much time,” he said.
Guerrero values “second opinions” from both scan tools and service information, and said he takes time to thoroughly research a problem before digging in.
Some aftermarket scan tools can lead a technician down the wrong path, he said, by, as one example, incorrectly translating the BMW terminology into the global P0 code. And in resetting a BMW steering angle sensor when performing an alignment, some aftermarket scan tools will lock up and not perform the test properly, he said. He did praise his Autel MaxiSys as an accurate aftermarket scan tool for most situations.
“I don’t like to be limited on anything,” he said. “I’ve used them enough to know which one to grab right off the bat and which one’s going to tell me the right information.”
For service information and diagnostic aids, he uses AllData, Identifix, iATN, and www.OEM1stop.com. Sometimes, part of the diagnostic procedure is missing from one information source, he said, or part of a wiring diagram is incomplete or inaccurately drawn.
“I skim through the whole process before I even touch the car,” he said. “And if something doesn’t make sense, I will go another direction and skim that. Between the two, I get the information I need to proceed.”
To complete the sales cycle, Summer Guerrero said for some customers it’s a benefit for the service advisor to go on a post-repair test drive to demonstrate the repair fixed their concern and to add value to the repair.
After Hours is a AAA-Approved Auto Repair facility, and as a Bumper to Bumper Certified Service Center through Garnett Auto Supply, offers a nationwide 24-month, 24,000-mile warranty. It has grown over the past eight years from a fledgling two-bay shop to its current six-bay shop, motivated by the couple’s dreams of business ownership.
“We didn’t grow up in a business knowing how to run one,” Summer Guerrero said, noting the couple found a wealth of assistance through the Kansas Small Business Development Center. As a firefighter at the time, Guerrero said she worked shifts of 24 hours on, 48 hours off, which gave her some time to take business classes through the Center at low or no cost.
The Center’s assistant director, Alan Badgley, presented the couple with the 2014 Emerging Business of the Year award for their efforts and success. He still assists the shop as operational questions arise, and the Guerreros now also use consulting and training company Management Success to take the business to the next level, including assisting with personnel issues or questions about finance.
Over the past two years, the two have been active in growing the Wichita chapter of the Automotive Service Association (ASA) of the Midwest, for which Mark Guerrero serves as Wichita chapter president. The shop has also taken home an award in the past two years of ASA-Midwest’s Vision Hi-Tech Training & Expo, Facility of the Year in 2015, Website of the Year in 2016.
“Being in ASA has helped us because now we’re sharing information with people who have been in the business a long time,” Summer Guerrero said. “All of us have something to learn from each other.”