How Do You Measure Success?

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Success, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is defined as the act of achieving a desired aim or result. Everyone defines success differently; however, it’s fair to say most business owners open up businesses to turn a profit and to provide good service. In broad terms, to succeed in the automotive maintenance industry, one must maintain either a high ticket average or a high car count. In a perfect world, you would have both. It would appear these two standards have become the barometer of success in the industry, but it goes so much further than pushing as many cars through your bays at the highest ticket average per unit possible. However, if these two metrics are the only metrics you use for measuring success, it won’t be long before it has a negative effect on your customer base.

The real issue here is, “How do we measure success?” When customers feel a shop is trustworthy and that they will be taken care of each time they visit, the ticket average and car counts will follow.

This also comes down to training and coaching. An operator can hammer employees all day long on car count and ticket average or telling their employees to make the customer happy, but if the employees don’t understand the breakdown of what goes into customer satisfaction or the end game, the shop can’t improve long-term.

When watching a football game or growing up playing football, the coach didn’t just tell a player to get out there and score a touchdown. He’d break it down into separate plays and focus primarily on getting a first down, then moving forward down the field toward the end goal of making a touchdown. The final score matters, but numerous tasks go into what makes up the final score before the clock runs out at the end of the fourth quarter. How many turnovers were made, passing yards, rushing yards, fumbles, fourth-down conversions and so on? Like in the football game, achieving success is often in the details. If shops can improve in the areas where extra services come into play, the ticket average and car counts will increase naturally.

For example, “In our operation, offering drinks to our customers was an important part of our overall customer service,” said quick lube advisor Ragan Holt. “At the end of each day, we would restock our refrigerators so I knew how many drinks were restocked. It was a quick and easy way to verify if we were offering a quality customer service experience. If our beverage restock numbers matched our car counts, then I knew our staff was offering drinks to our customers. This may sound trivial, but I knew if customers were accepting drinks, the first step of our customer-first philosophy was taking place.”

These details are important. Today, many customers see these small gestures as part of going to get their vehicle serviced. Customers want you to offer them something to drink. It’s like the football analogy; obviously the goal is to make a touchdown, but before you can make the touchdown you need to get a first down.

Another means of measuring success is to look at the customer profile coming into the shop. Industry studies show women are coming into our shops more frequently than men.

Shop observation studies show if you have a lower frequency of female customers, then chances are, it is time for some deep cleaning around the shop. Women tend to care more about clean restrooms and clean waiting rooms. If the shop is clean enough to pass your grandmother’s standards, but you don’t see a rise in female customers, then it may be a safety issue.

Although no one wants to be unsafe, women are generally better at recognizing an unsafe environment. They don’t want to look over and see a technician balancing over a pit or standing in front of a vehicle as a customer drives in. Men tend to focus more on how knowledgeable and professional the staff is. If you are noticing a lack of interaction between the technicians and the male customers, it could be an indicator it is time for product training or possibly more training on how to explain services. Men have a tendency to care more about credentials, certifications and continued employee training.

Still, another way to measure success is to take a look at the inventory. Shops need to have current synthetic oils in stock, along with all of the current year’s filter applications. In the quick lube industry, getting an oil change means getting all other fluids topped off, as well, including windshield wiper fluid, antifreeze, differential oils, grease and power steering fluid. Shops should get in the habit of tracking these extra fluids to make sure they are being used for each customer. If you are servicing 75 cars per day, you should be using at least 20 gallons of windshield solvent. If you’re not, chances are, your technicians are cutting corners. The same is true with all courtesy fluids. Customers expect these fluids to be topped off. If they are not, then you just fumbled the ball and may have lost the customer.

Do you have a barometer to judge quality service at your shop? If not, an effective way to begin is by checking purchase percentages at the end of each day to ensure your employees are offering necessary services. For example, if you sold air filters to 30 percent of your customers, then it is likely your technicians are showing customers what their filters look like and explaining their importance. The same is true with all of your services. Spend some time developing what you think a successful service should be, and that can become another way to measure the shop’s success.

Measuring success isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula. It’s important to take care of your employees and your customers, all while embracing your strengths and improving your weaknesses as a business.

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