Building customer rapport
Vinita Park, Mo.— Mike Neukomm started doing digital inspections in 2013 when he saw the trend taking root, then switched to Autovitals SmartFlow two years ago and hasn’t looked back.
Neukomm, owner of Azar Automotive, participates in training and coaching through ATI (Automotive Training Institute) and it was at one of its events that he was introduced to Autovitals.
“I watched the demonstration and sat back and thought, ‘Why isn’t everyone doing it this way? This is exactly what we need to help ensure that customers are educated and informed and more importantly, kept safe on the road.”
Neukomm performs a no-charge digital inspection for every vehicle that comes through the door for a service or repair.
“We found that if you asked people if they wanted you to do it, they would say no or that they didn’t have time, so we made it a standard operating procedure. The story changes when you tell a customer that you are doing something and then back it up with results and an opportunity to educate them on their vehicle.”
Every vehicle receives a report card, complete with photos and videos showing not only the issues, but also highlighting the positive findings during an inspection.
“I think it’s important to tell them something good. Showing a customer that their tire tread depth is really good or their fluids are all clean, comparing it to samples of what fluids should look like, over just focusing on the issues is really important to us here and they really appreciate it,” Neukomm said.
When there are concerns or items that need repair, Neukomm says customers are more likely to accept, rather than decline, services when there’s transparency on both sides of the coin. “You can’t just always tell someone that they need to spend money and expect them to be happy about it. When they see you are willing to share the good with the bad, it helps to keep them coming back.”
Service Manager Jason Marsh added, “We installed a dual screen on our computer monitors up front so that we could show the customers both good and bad by letting them see the photos and videos. Seeing is believing and it really helps.”
Photos, videos, and detailed, hand-typed reports are shown to every customer before they leave the shop. The reports can also be emailed or texted right to the customer for reference and can be used to schedule future services as well.
“Another cool feature of SmartFlow is the way it helps with retention marketing,” Neukomm said. “If a customer declines services, they will receive an email with the photos of the issue, reminding them that it will need to be serviced soon.”
Neukomm acquired the shop from previous owner Tony Azar in 2006. “I was already doing well for myself as an established technician and had briefly entertained the idea of becoming a shop owner when my tool rep told me that this shop may be for sale. Tony, his wife, and I had some discussions and decided to pull the trigger.”
Neukomm has adopted a work-hard, play-hard ideology and doesn’t expect his employees to work on weekends. “If I’m not willing to do something, than I am not going to expect my guys to do it either. I come in early, go home late and expect the same out of them. When I’m home on the weekends I spend some much needed time with my wife and two kids.”
As well as building solid customer relationships, Neukomm also relies on previously built business relationships when it comes to sourcing parts. “We do a lot of GM and Ford vehicles, so my go-to’s are Pundmann Ford and Weber Chevrolet. They both go above and beyond to make sure we are taken care of,” he said, adding that when aftermarket parts are needed he calls on NAPA, Al’s Automotive, and Advance Auto Parts.
Future plans involve acquiring an adjacent property and expanding the shop area, adding a new PicoScope, and updating scan tools.
He’s also interested in creating an in-house training program for his three technicians and two service advisors.
“I was a teaching assistant at Forest Park Community College and I think we all need to stay up to date on new technology, so it’s important to me to be a part of making sure that happens.”
He added that he is currently looking for technicians. “I can’t find anybody. I know it is an industry-wide shortage, but I can’t even get guys to show up for interviews. All I need is someone with a mechanical aptitude who is willing to learn the ropes. We can take care of the rest by training here. I offer a signing bonus and a very good rate of pay. I just need someone that has a positive work ethic.”