Superior service with superior warranty
San Jose, Calif.—GIC Car Clinic offers a three-year/36,000 warranty on all of its work, even though its Owner Alan Yu says it might cost him a little down the road. With many other warranties on the market at one year/12,000 miles or less, he knows that he has to do repairs that will last.
After becoming a shop owner, Yu realized that he knew a lot about the technical side of the business, but needed to learn more about things such as marketing and customer retention. So, he began working with a series of business consultants, a move he credits for much of his success.
“I knew that if I was going to be competitive, I would need to know every aspect of this business, so I contracted some great consultants, including Cecil Bullard at the Institute of Automotive Automotive Business Excellence and Ray Kunz and Rena Rennebohm at the Coaching and Training Group (ACT), Jonnie Wright at Buyosphere, Maylan Newton at ESI and everyone at ASCCA. They’re worth every penny and I can strongly recommend them, because they have helped me to become a better business.”
One of the most valuable lessons was that if he could bring added value to the entire customer experience, Yu wouldn’t have to get caught up in the discount game. “They taught me how to build relationships with my customers without offering discount coupons or free deals,” Yu said. “These coaches helped me to change from a discount shop — today we retain more customers than before.
“To be able to hire and retain top talent and do quality work while offering the warranties that we do, we need to cater to people who see the value in what we’re doing rather than chasing the lowest price.”
Path to shop ownership and customer retention
Yu and his wife, Helen, have owned and operated the full-service shop with six bays since 2005 and he has been a technician for 25 years. Originally, he wanted to be a mechanical engineer, but after a short time in college he decided to choose another path.
“I’ve always been good at fixing things from an early age and I realized that being an engineer wasn’t going to allow me to do that. I wanted to go into automotive repair, but I didn’t want to be stuck changing tires and oil changes,” Yu said. “So, I started attending automotive tech classes at Skyline College and I began liking it right away. It’s one of the best programs in the country and my instructor, Richard Escalmabre, really helped me to understand diagnostics and how to think on my feet.”
GIC Car Clinic offers two loaner cars, free car washes and handwritten thank you notes after every repair. “We write them all and then follow up to make sure that we did a good job,” Yu said. “It really goes a long way with the customers, plus when we have them on the phone, it’s an ideal time to get their feedback and that’s what we want.”
Yu knows that his customers often feel displaced when they have to bring their vehicles to him, so he does everything he can to get them back on the road quickly. “I realize that it’s a major inconvenience when they lose their car,” he said. “Many people equate getting their car fixed with going to the dentist, so we try to take a little of the hurt away. When they take their vehicle to us, they’re giving up that freedom, so I want to get them back in their vehicle as fast as we possibly can.”
By building strong relationships with his aftermarket sources, Yu is able to find the right parts without sacrificing quality and, so far, they haven’t failed him. “We work with NAPA, WORLDPAC, Allied, Fast Undercar and Winchester Auto Parts and their delivery schedules are excellent. In many cases, I can get my parts within an hour, depending on the time of day and the type of part.”