Skilled service, done with care
Merriam, Kan.—David Roman positions his shop, Done With Care Auto Repair, as “Your Honest Alternative to the Dealer,” because he said he selects the highest quality parts, provides training to his technicians, and can diagnose and repair the latest makes and models.
Roman, who was first trained as a technician, managed parts stores for 14 years in the St. Louis and Kansas City markets before opening his shop in 2012. It has become more important to carefully vet parts quality in the aftermarket over the years, but the biggest challenge he sees facing the industry is to employ good technicians, and shops failing to see the importance of keeping current with training will be relegated to low-skilled “parts-changing,” he said.
“I think down the road, that is going to be a massive problem. It’s a little scary,” he said. “It begins with the shop owner and the shop itself. You have to be able to foster desire from individuals who are willing to put in the time to train themselves to get to that skill level. If you’re not paying well enough, you’re not providing the right incentives, or if your environment is not conducive to attracting that kind of intellect, that’s where you’re going to have a problem.”
Roman employs three technicians, and each is required to complete 40 hours of training per year to keep up with the latest in technology. He pays for all of the training and ASE certifications. He said he looks for his suppliers to be partners in the service they provide him, and he gets Webinar and live training through Factory Motor Parts (its current neighbor), ACDelco, Motorcraft, O’Reilly Auto Parts, and WORLDPAC. He shuts down the shop for all to attend the ASA-Midwest’s Vision Hi-Tech Training & Expo event.
The shop is currently fully staffed, but “recruiting is a 24/7 process,” he said, because he doesn’t believe in looking for a technician only when he needs one. At press time, Roman expected to be in a new, larger location about a mile away, 5810 Merriam Drive, the former home of Executive Performance. He expects to keep the same number of technicians but add a general service/porter position to increase his service level.
“I’d like to do car cleanup for my customers coming in for service. Wipe down the dash, vacuum, clean up the tires, maybe, rather than a full detail, so the car is cleaner than when they left it.”
He and Service Writer Bell Riddell trys to make automotive service as convenient as possible, offering pickup and drop-off, loaner cars, or Uber service.
Digital vehicle inspections from AutoVitals, which Roman added last January, allow technicians to use electronic tablets for inspections to provide transparency and increase customer confidence.
“If we tell you something is leaking, we have a picture of it or we can even shoot a 15-second video. Or when I tell you that ball joint’s loose, I will shoot a video of it, and you can see for yourself.”
Parts quality over the years has become more difficult to predict in the aftermarket, Roman said, although when possible he selects OEM or original equipment supplier (OES) parts
“We are very stringent on the part line we use, and it’s specific to the car, and it’s specific to the system, so that when we install it, it’s the best part possible for that car,” he said. “If a Toyota comes in and it needs lower ball joints, we’re going to use Sankei 555 ball joints almost every single time. They look the same, they function the same, and they last. For the most part, we’ve moved away from having only one supplier.”
That said, he’s willing to consider a “new and improved” part, such as the latest Moog ball joint, which includes an integrated boot. He installed it as a trial on his own vehicle.
The new location will expand the shop’s size from about 3,800 square feet to approximately 5,800 square feet, and add an alignment machine and more lifts so each technician has two, minimizing downtime while awaiting customer approval or parts. Riddell, who will manage the new location, joined Roman in July after having spent the bulk of her 22 years in the automotive industry as a service writer and manager. She soon recognized that he would need a more visible location to grow at the rate he sought.
“His reviews and his referrals are better than anything I’ve seen in 22 years,” she said. “The customer service he provides and seeing how people should be treated, he has a very strong foundation. So now, I think taking the next step is the best thing we can do. And he’s already thinking of location number two.”