What’s the first voice your customers hear when they call you? Who do they interact with over email and text? It’s the people in your front office. It could be your service advisor or a counterperson—whoever the primary point of contact is for customers at your shop.
That’s why this person is your brand. What they say and do reflects on your shop’s professionalism. Their ability to make a good first impression, interact positively with customers, and get more business through the doors is instrumental in your shop’s success.
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The individuals at your front desk are an asset to your shop. In this article, you’ll learn how to make the most of these staff members.
1. Set up a game plan for the day
Before the doors open and the cars start rolling in, take a moment to get organized. Who’s coming in? What do they need?
A good way to do so is by checking your automobile repair shop software for details about what’s to come. Review appointments for the day, check customers’ service history, ensure all estimates are ready to go, and that the required parts have been ordered. If a part is on backorder, make sure your front office immediately conveys the message to customers while giving them a new timeline.
Here’s how to create a to-do list:
- Divide tasks into three priority levels—those you want to do today, ones that can wait a day, and things that you’ll tackle in a week.
- Develop a game plan so that everyone in the shop knows their deliverables for the day.
- Tackle the unpleasant or difficult tasks first to make the rest of the day easier.
- Check items off the list as they’re done. It will provide a sense of accomplishment.
2. Hire good communicators
There are several reasons why your front office staff should be effective communicators:
- They represent your shop: Your front office acts as a bridge between the customer and the technician and needs to communicate with them effectively. They have to explain repair recommendations to customers in clear, plain, transparent language.
- Techs will need the correct information: At the same time, your front office staff needs to brief technicians on customer needs and manage repair schedules. You can help them out by investing in auto repair scheduling software that allows them to track all the information that they need to pass on to techs.
- Smooth operations will lead to success: A shop’s front office also has to speak to suppliers and get parts in on time. So they need to know the business like the back of their hands in order to understand commonly used industry acronyms and abbreviations.
3. Train staff to cost-justify
Knowledge of costs comes into play when you have to explain to customers why a service or repair is necessary. And translating that into plain language, emphasizing the benefits, is essential.
Consumers are reluctant to pay for services they believe are irrelevant. Your service advisor or counterperson needs to be able to make their case by cost-justifying it. They need to clearly explain why the service is the best investment for them.
The ability to cost-justify a service is valuable, not only to your shop but to your customer—who will only save money in the long term.
4. Increase your hours per repair order
A busy shop isn’t necessarily a profitable one. Your front office can help by measuring hours per repair order or H/RO. This will measure the number of hours a tech works in a period of time by the number of repair orders they complete in that time. This can help determine which techs are productive and where they can improve. A H/RO rate means your shop is turning a profit.
According to M5 Management Services, which coaches fixed operations, a national average is 2.3 to 2.8 H/RO. If your H/RO is close to 1.0, there’s room for improvement, as a tech may be just taking orders and likely not providing the service really needed.
Knowing how to get the best auto repair labor times is critical for your shop’s success.
5. Build customer loyalty
Getting your H/RO numbers up may depend on your front office’s ability to build and retain customer loyalty. Studies show that it costs five times more to get a new customer than retain an existing customer.
Share positive customer experiences and testimonials on social media and your website. If you have a loyalty program, your front office should be encouraging customers to sign up.
With a well-greased front office, your shop can thrive when business is booming and during the auto repair slow season alike. They’re important players in your team who play a pivotal role in developing your business. These employees have to be able to speak plainly, act transparently and do so in a calm, positive manner.
They have to wear several different hats, often at the same time. And while being proactive is the name of the game, your service advisor or counterperson will often have to think on their feet to help your business become a success story.