Customer education ‘lifts veil’
St. Louis—What began as an automotive class for women in 1998, has evolved immensely over the last 20 years at Advanced Auto Service. This month will mark the 61st anniversary of the shop’s opening and, on April 19, the shop will celebrate the 20th year of its bi-annual Basic Car Maintenance Class, which is held in the spring and in the fall to coincide with National Car Care Month(s).
Owners Mike and Linda Silva said they are very proud of how the event has grown and flourished throughout the years.
Linda said, “We started this as a class for women but quickly realized that there was a desire for men and young drivers to be educated as well. The response from the community has been very positive and we love doing these classes. It is rewarding for all involved. We leave here after each class with a strong sense of satisfaction after sharing knowledge and helping those who attend.”
The class, which is performed in a three-hour, one-night session, is set up to handle a maximum of 15 participants.
“St. Louis Community College-Forest Park has partnered with us on this from the beginning. They handle all the registration and advertising through their Continuing Education program. The class is only $29, and it is worth every penny”, she said.
Mike Silva handles the main classroom teaching duties, as he is also an instructor with the college. “We start out the night discussing today’s shops, ASE and other credentials, as well as a hands-on look at some used and worn out parts. I lay out around one hundred different items that are passed around so that things that someone may have heard of but didn’t know what they looked like becomes more visual for them.”
He added that AAA also provides a brief video overview to go along with the classroom portion. Advanced Auto Service has been a AAA affiliated shop since 1986.
“After the classroom portion is complete we head out to the shop where our technicians take over, showing each participant how to perform routine tasks on their own vehicles. We feel like this is very important so that they aren’t just seeing a demo vehicle, which may not be similar at all to what they have,” he said. “We also pop open the hoods and help each participant identify fluid types. We then show them how to check and replace wiper blades, test batteries, and check tire pressure.”
The most asked-about tasks are how to change a tire and oil.
ASE Certified Master Technician Josh Pesek said, “Having a better educated customer at the end of the night is our goal.”
Technician Dan Eschmann added, “We are prepared to let people see us in our environment and show them that we are here to treat them and their vehicle with respect. It’s good for them to see that we aren’t out to take advantage of them.”
Linda Silva said that it’s better to hold the event at the shop as opposed to in a school’s AT shop.
“The veil is lifted. These participants get to go behind the scenes and get a real-world perspective of how we operate on a daily basis. It really helps to kill the stigma that repair shops are out to get them.”
At the end of each class, participants receive a “goody bag” which includes a variety of maintenance brochures, gloves, tire pressure gauges, and other items, which are donated to the shop throughout the year from vendors.
The Silva’s both said the events are their No. 1 way to be involved in their community.
The shop has made many investments over the years to stay up with current technologies. Some of the recent purchases that have provided the shop’s best return on investment have been the Pico Oscilloscope, K-Tool digital tire inflator, Snap-on Solus, and digital inspection software from Auto Vitals.
“Digital inspections are really the way to go. Customer’s can stay up to date with where we are in the process and it helps them get a visual understanding of the issues instead of taking someone’s word for it,” Mike Silva said.
The shop sources parts from NAPA, as it has been a NAPA AutoCare Center since 2014. Other affiliations include being members of the ASA-Midwest and AASP-MO.
In 2017, the Silvas were recognized as AMAM (Accredited Master Automotive Managers). “We had a cap and gown ceremony at last year’s Vision Hi-Tech Training Program and it was pretty neat to be featured in front of the crowd like that,” Mike Silva said.