Rev up rapport with an auto repair shop
Angie’s List member Joshua Schroeder of Aurora, Colo., says after a visit to highly rated Elder Auto in April, his search for a reliable auto repair shop is finally over. “I’ve lived in Denver six years, and this was the first place where I’ve actually felt I could trust the auto shop,” he says. Schroeder says he felt other shops assumed he didn’t know anything about cars and fixed whatever they wanted.
He paid Elder Auto $800 to replace the shocks, some hoses and a computer chip in his 2006 Hyundai Sonata, as well as change the oil. “They didn’t add unnecessary things to my service,” he says. “The tech even mentioned a couple other items, but said they could wait six months to a year. It’s nice to know someone isn’t just trying to nickel and dime you.”
Ramon Elder, owner of Elder Auto in Denver, says good customer service by his team of 14 employees builds trust and keeps clients coming back to the repair shop he started in 1994. “I believe that’s the reason we’re busy and can compete with chain stores,” he says. “We make sure customers leave educated and happy. That’s enjoyable.”
Angie’s List member Mark Mallaney of Englewood, Colo., says he felt his previous car mechanic always tried to sell him excessive services, so he recently visited Elder Auto. “I was not disappointed,” Mallaney says. “They split all of the work into separate estimates so that I could make an informed decision while staying within my budget.”
An honest, helpful approach gives highly rated auto repair shops an edge over the competition, according to John Nicastro, president of highly rated Elmer’s Brighton Garage in Rochester, N.Y. In 2007, Nicastro took over as owner at Elmer’s, which has operated in the same building since 1932. He currently employs four auto technicians and four support workers. “Very often, when we call a customer to explain the needs of their vehicle, we end up advising them to not fix it,” Nicastro says. “We’ll never sell work that’s not in the best interest of the vehicle or vehicle owner.”
For instance, he explains to customers when it’s not prudent to perform $500 worth of repairs to a car that won’t last or has other major problems. For 21 years, Angie’s List member Allan Kaplan of Rochester says he’s relied on Elmer’s for most of his auto repairs. “I have my oil changed there because they let me know if there are any potential issues,” Kaplan says. “I’m comfortable they won’t recommend repairs that aren’t needed.”
Kerri Beany Foulks, owner of highly rated Beany’s Auto Service Center in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, says building customer rapport is critical. Her father, Pat Beany, started the business in 1978, and currently employs eight people. “The intangible value of going to a smaller repair business is measured in the relationships you can build,” says Foulks, who often hosts car care clinics for clients.
All three auto repair owners say the vast majority of their business comes by word of mouth. Nicastro says he tries to educate customers looking to purchase a vehicle. “One of our most popular services is the new/used car check-over,” he says. “They know in advance what the vehicle needs, and many times they pay less for it.” The service costs $41.50, he says, but saves money in the long run.
Member David Berg of Rochester says he’s been an Elmer’s customer for 15-plus years. Nicastro checked a vehicle his teen son planned to buy. “Having a personal relationship with the person who takes care of your car is still possible,” Berg says. “I commit to building the relationship over time with routine maintenance, so that when something happens, he’s motivated to help me out.”