‘You’re only as good as your reviews’

It takes a ‘village’ of industry partnerships to raise a shop’s profits and performance

Walnut Creek, Calif.—Just as it takes proper diagnostics to keep customers’ vehicles performing, it takes regular business diagnostics to keep a repair shop moving forward, said Dave Frank, owner of Frank’s Auto Service, who uses third-party resources to monitor customer feedback, while RepairPal and Diamond Certified monitor business performance and supply regular customer referrals.

“You’re only as good as your reviews,” Frank said. “RepairPal and Diamond do a great job monitoring them to ensure the quality of our work and customer service. Because of our reviews, we get a great number of referrals from its website as well as tow companies that use RepairPal as a resource.”

RepairPal also runs promotions, including most recently with AARP, he said. “With several retirement communities close by, the promo works very well. The retired tend to take excellent care of their cars, and having pickup and delivery as well as a shuttle service are key benefits when dealing with the elderly.”

As the business grows its customer base, retention is also important, Frank said. “We use DemandForce for our customer reminders, mailings, and specials, and it’s been very effective for us. An ongoing communication with customers is key.”

Frank’s uses SF Gate, a search engine optimization company (SEO), to help them stay at the top of Internet searches. “We used to see cars three times a year — now we see them once a year. You have to be proactive to fill the shortfall. Every repair is under the microscope, and customer service and customer reviews are more important than ever,” he said.

Frank’s is close to $1 million in gross sales, for which he credits his staff, and will add a second service writer to meet his goal of semi-retirement this year, he said.

“It will get me out of the front office and into the back office to focus on marketing,” Frank said. “My father started this business in 1958 when he bought a Mobil gas station for a buck. With my son, DJ, doing the service writing, we’re moving into our third generation — I don’t want it to end there.”

Any successful marketing program rides the back of quality products and services, he said. To reach his goals, Frank relies on longtime technicians, including 21-year veteran and Master Technician Darryl Haynes, Jonnie Singh (22 years), and Robert Gardner (18 years). “I’ve had excellent technicians for a really long time and that has been huge.”

Haynes is Frank’s diagnostic specialist. “He thrives on the challenge, and uses a simple strategy of pulling codes, referencing Identifix, AllData, and Mitchell ProDemand for TSBs and fixes, pinpointing the component, and verifying the problem,” Frank said, adding that most diagnostic challenges should be met within an hour, or a half-hour with a tech who is on top of their game. Haynes’ tools of choice are the Snap-on Solus and the Vetronix MTS 5100 Scope.

Frank’s can guarantee repairs and service with its two-year/24,000-mile nationwide warranty as an ACDelco Professional Service Center. “It’s great for the customer to know they have protection nationally. On our end, the program gives us access to their support program, TechConnect, that works very well. If one of our guys can’t find a solution, we can use TechConnect and talk directly to an ACDelco agent, who specializes in the particular make you’re having trouble with.”

Frank’s became a California Smog Repair Only station a year ago to drive in more business, he said. “Having a smog diagnostic specialty fit our business model. We wanted to take care of our customers when they failed a smog test. It’s benefited our customers and we’ve picked up referrals from local smog check stations.”

For parts and training, Frank said he uses Allied, WORLDPAC, Superior, and NAPA. “Our Allied rep, Larry Nelson, and WORLDPAC Account Manager Sandra Marder have done a great job for us. Across the board, they’re both great organizations. I’ve attended WORLDPAC’s management training and have been a member of its local Smart Group and they were both beneficial.”

Joining ASCCA five years ago was one of the best things Frank has done for his business, he said. “I really enjoy the meetings and we’ve taken advantage of several of the programs they offer. We use ASCCA’s legal counsel, Armstrong Insurance, G&K Uniforms, as well as card processing through Digital Financial Services,” Frank said. “The more shops involved with ASCCA the better it is for all of us.”

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.