Osborn’s Automotive uses data to validate repair and service recommendations

Redondo Beach, Calif.—Annual sales of $1.25 million and ROs averaging $640 are normal figures at Osborn’s Automotive, Owner Scott “Oz” Osborn said.

And considering the shop has only three-bays in its 1,000-square-foot facility, with only three technicians and one service manager, those are impressive numbers.

“If you’re doing this right, each technician really shouldn’t be working on more than three to four cars a day,” Osborn said, adding that if the shop averages 10 cars per day it’s producing optimum volume.

“We’ve made some changes recently to help shop flow. We switched from Mitchell 1 and started using RO Writer last year because of its Smart E-Cat system, which displays all of my parts suppliers’ inventories on one screen, what brands they have in stock, and how many,” Osborn said.

RO Writer’s Smart E-Cat system also provides ordering and delivery speed, which Osborn said he values more than price when sourcing a part.

“Our local supplier is Completes Plus. They’re always my first call because they integrate well with RO Writer, they have good availability and they deliver fast, but they’re also very involved with my company. Without even asking, they offer to back us up when and if something goes wrong. For me, pricing is always secondary when it comes to parts,” he said.

Osborn’s has also brought its marketing efforts in-house within the last three months, which has helped increase RO totals, Osborn said. After using industry-standard services, such as DemandForce and Customerlink, Osborn chose to bring marketing in-house, mainly because Osborn’s Automotive is located in a beach community with a high number of new movers every month and repeat customers with lower vehicle miles driven (VMD) per month than the national average.

“Every four weeks I pull a list from a database of new movers and market to them with direct mail fairly aggressively; and for my repeat customers, I know more than anybody how many miles per month they’re driving, so I know when I need to remind them for service and when I don’t. It’s been very effective for us and we’re maintaining an 80-percent customer retention rate,” Osborn said.

Osborn’s is also a Bosch Service Center and AAA certified repair shop, as well as a AASCA member, which Osborn said gives his shop customer recognition and a local clout.  

It’s evident too that Osborn’s customers aren’t just coming back, they’re spreading the word, and Osborn’s Automotive has won South Bay’s Best Repair Shop award in the Daily Breeze newspaper five years in a row. It’s also won the AAA Achievement Award in 2005-2007 and 2007-2009, and was awarded ATI’s Shop of Year award in 2006.

But awards don’t keep the lights on, and Osborn, a self-professed “data junkie,” said he is constantly pulling reports to find areas where he can coach his technicians to improve the shops performance.

It’s a dirty little secret in this industry that during an inspection, each technician recommends the same thing every time. They develop bad habits and bias toward certain maintenances or repairs, so training and coaching are essential, he said.

That reality lead Osborn, an ASE Master L1 tech, to start dreaming up a way to break the ‘repeat recommendation’ cycle, and in 2012 he started a second company called Repair Shop Solutions (RSS) to more effectively handle vehicle inspections and produce higher ROs.

“I can remember sitting in a training course at Automotive Training Institute (ATI) in Baltimore, and listening to the speaker tell the crowd, ‘You should be able to run your shop from an island.’ Then, moments later, he said, ‘You need to be double-checking your technicians’ inspections before it leaves the shop.’ Well, the two concepts were self-defeating. How could I do both?” he said.

At the time he couldn’t. So he started collecting data to find out why and began realizing that his technicians had habits of recommending the same repairs on every ticket, regardless of a customer’s mileage. It was then the lightbulb went off and Osborn decided to develop software that could effectively show him his technicians’ bias, and also show his technicians their own bad habits, in order to coach them out of them.

“The most effective part of the RSS reports are they help provide tangible data to counsel technicians into doing their jobs correctly,” he said.

In January 2013, Osborn started using the software at his shop and recommendations per RO went up from three to seven, he said, adding that he now feels confident handing any technician in his shop any ticket because he knows they will do their job correctly.

Osborn said he also relies on his Service Manager Jamie Sanders more than ever, as well as his 90 Group through Elite WorldWide Inc.

“As operators, we always think our way is right. It’s hard to get beyond ourselves, especially the longer we stay in business. My management style now, more than ever, is to act as a resource for my employees, but respect their management techniques, and especially with Jamie, let her delegate. I’ve had her come and tell me, ‘Oz, you need to go home. You’re slowing progress and you’re getting in my way.’ And I was. I think we operators forget a lot of times that we can be our own worst enemy when we try to overcoach our reliable people.”

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.