Using the technology advantage
Kennewick, Wash.—Second-generation shop owner Ryan Mathews has increased use of technology in the five years since he bought Mathews Auto Body from his father.
“Every tech now has CCC ONE right in front of them on a large computer screen,” he said. “Every vehicle has a sheet of paper on the window with a QR code. Techs can open up the CCC app on their phone, scan the QR code, and up pops that car, and they can indicate a change in the phase of that job, like the car moving to paint. So if someone calls in, anyone can quickly see at a glance where that car is in the process.”
The shop’s 27 employees also can communicate with one another by text with text threads set up for each production team and the office staff.
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At a glance
• Stores: 7
• Employees: 80-plus
• Active partners: 3
• Warehouse size: 19,000 square feet
• Number of NAPA Auto/Truck centers serviced: 30-plus
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Many of those employees have joined the company since Mathews bought the business, and the shop has seen its sales double in that time. Mathews hasn’t found the industry’s technician shortage to be an issue.
“Some people will say I’m an idiot, but I pay higher than anybody in the Tri-Cities, so a lot of people want to come here,” he said, adding that the company has switched to a flat-rate pay plan from hourly. “We pride ourselves on treating our employees as we would want to be treated. Before, whatever they produced didn’t matter. They’d make the same paycheck. Now they are really working to turn cars. I have a fantastic crew. There’s not one guy here I have complaints about. They all work hard and put in the hours when needed. They make it all happen.”
Mathews said he never knows where he’s going to find his next potential employee. He was at a Walmart late one evening and heard someone behind him complaining to someone else about an employer who hadn’t paid him for a 12-hour day.
“I recognized him as a customer of ours, and I knew he liked cars because when we worked on his car, he wanted to watch everything,” Mathews said. “This was 12 or 13 years ago when I was moving from painting to work in the office, so I knew we were going to have an opening in the paint shop. We taught him how to paint, and he’s still here. He’s awesome.”
The company does both direct repair and fleet work, but Mathews said the company’s online reviews – there are more than 160 of them, which Mathews believes is the most of any shop in the Tri-Cities – also bring in a lot of work.
“That’s huge. People come in all the time and say, ‘I didn’t know where to go and you guys have the best reviews, so I’m here,’” he said.
Mathews said he’s cultivated those reviews by following the lead of retail businesses in other industries.
“I’ve gone to Red Robin or The Gap, and on the receipt it says if you do a review, you will get a discount on your next purchase,” he said. “Every time I go to Costa Vida, the receipt says, ‘Leave us a review and the chips are on us next time.’ When I refer someone to my dentist, I get a $50 gift card. I thought: Why can’t we do the same thing?”
So the shop offers any customer who posts a review – good or bad – a $25 Visa gift card to thank them for taking the time to do so.
“People jump all over that,” Mathews said. “It’s human nature that if they are royally ticked off, they will go online to say Mathews stinks. But if we give them fantastic service, most of the time they will pick up their car and it’s done. So this encourages them to write a review. And they’re still legit reviews, not made up. There was a time this past winter when we had 105 cars on-site. Trying to keep 105 people updated and satisfied is tricky, so people left reviews saying our communication needed to improve. I just respond to every single review, good or bad, and offer a thank-you gift card for them spending the time.”
The shop has been a long-time user of PPG paint, and Mathews said Toyota of Tri-Cities and the McCurley Integrity Dealership are key parts suppliers.
“Toyota of Tri-Cities’ parts department, in particular, bends over backwards for us,” he said.
The shop uses the asTech remote scanning service for 2019 model year vehicles, but otherwise does scanning in-house.
“Our MODIS Edge scanner from Snap-on is now doing most 2018 vehicles, so it’s only the very newest cars we need to do through asTech,” Mathews said.
As he looks to the future, particularly as the largest national collision repair chains enter the Tri-Cities market, Mathews has given some thought to moving to a larger facility – the company is now spread out in four nearby buildings – with more parking.
“But even though this is a older facility, it still works,” he said.