As times change, so does Hillside
Torrance, Calif.—Dave Carney, owner of Hillside Auto Repair, voted Best Independent Auto Repair Shop in the South Bay for 12 years running, and one of ATI’s top 25 independent repair shops in the U.S., said he has changed his business model through the years, embracing the latest technologies to service today’s vehicles.
“The biggest change we’ve made was partnering with Matt Curry and his crew at The Hybrid Shop two years ago,” Carney said. “We all were trained on the systems — it started out slow, but now we are the ‘go to’ independent shop in our area for hybrids, which is our fastest growing part of our business. I would say 20 percent of our business is from hybrids due to getting out there in front of our competition with that technology.”
Carney invested in a Snap-on Modus Ultra, Solus Edge, and Solus Ultra, a Microsoft Surface Tablet, a Toyota TIS Techstream, an Autel MaxiSys, a Bosch Tech2, a Snap-on TPMS3 tire pressure sensor diagnosis an programmer, a Pioneer Leak down Tester, Identifix, and AllData.
“Equipment plays such an important role in how we determine if a car has a problem. We knew we had to be on the cutting edge with our diagnostic equipment to handle any vehicle or situation.”
Carney said about three years ago he came to realization that his employees were stuck in their ways and he needed to change employees if he wanted to be successful.
“It was a struggle getting them to use new technology,” he said. “One example of that was doing inspections electronically. So, we began making changes and now we have the right team. Today, a ‘willingness to learn’ is a job requirement.”
All technicians use a wireless tablet to perform digital inspections through Repair Shop Solutions, which Carney said not only becomes a part of the history of the cars, it also gives the shop a complete photo library. “This whole system has been a key component in our success.”
In addition to advertising for new customers, he also stepped up customer retention marketing efforts to existing customers.
“The average visits per customer, according to our Kukui metric page, is 2.27 visits a year per customer, which is up from 1.83 visits last year,” he said. “Since March, the shop has averaged 10 new customers per week; up from three new customers per week.”
The average repair order is $525 and it continues to climb as employees are trained to perform better inspections and his customer advocates (service advisors) develop the communication skills to educate customers on the benefits of properly servicing their cars.
Carney said he also attributes the shop’s growth to having “the right people on the bus” with the skills necessary to convert a phone call into a paying customer, becoming an AAA AAR, and joining ASCCA, which has helped him run a better business, and protected him from legislation that could have undermined his business.
“We use Biosphere for our phone skills training and the results have been phenomenal,” he said. “We also do a lot of marketing online, and by direct mail and print ads through Mudlick Mail.”
How it all began
Dave Carney, started his automotive career, with his wife, Zoie, in 1984 when they moved from Minnesota to get away from the winters and opened a service station: Hillside Chevron.
“I started as a Chevron franchise dealer back in the days when they were still ‘full service,’ with gas pumps and two bays for auto repair.
He had no training in running a gas station or auto repair but he put his Midwestern values of hard work, good value, and down-home friendliness to work and learned on the job, one customer at a time.
“I was 30 years old and it was just myself and one mechanic,” he said. It was a hope and a prayer – and some good luck along the way – that made it successful.”
Carney’s “winning over one customer at a time,” philosophy became his formula for success and in 1990 he opened a Crenshaw Carson Chevron, also in Torrance.
“The repair business at both stations was flourishing, but I knew I needed a dedicated repair facility to fully take advantage of the business potential. A location next door became available in 2000, so I took it, opened Hillside Auto Repair,and Zoie joined the business. Her warmth, caring, and organizational skills have shaped our culture of exceptional customer service.