Finance+Operations

Bounce Back from Low Car Counts

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Every shop is going to have its good days and bad days. Ideally, every shop would have a line of cars every day, keeping your team busy from open until close.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, and no matter how successful a shop is, there will be down times every once in a while. 

Ryan Elifritz, owner of Pine View Kwik Lube in Masontown, W.Va., says his three-bay shop about 15 miles southeast of Morgantown averages around 20 cars a day. 

Being a rural area with fewer options is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to car count, Elifritz says; lighter population density means fewer competitors, but it also means fewer opportunities for high-traffic advertising and walk-in traffic.

Over his career at Pine View, Elifritz says he’s found several effective, easy-to-implement methods to combat lower car counts and improve overall efficiency at the shop.


Step 1: Provide incentives.

It’s no secret that people love a good bargain. Elifritz says using promotional discounts or other incentives is a good way to get people through the door and to go out of their way to get into your shop.

Elifritz has implemented two main types of promotions. The first of those, which is tied to a specific day, is targeted at times of the week that he and his staff know are historically less busy than others. 

“I started a ladies’ day special, something like a Working Women’s Wednesday, which has helped drum up a little more traffic to try and replace some of that business on slower days.”

Of course, Elifritz says he’s been flexible in some instances on that when it meant trying to win over and keep a customer. 

“We had a lady come in one day after our ladies’ day special and she said she couldn’ make it on that day. I don't do it for all customers, but I told her I wanted to make a good impression and I went ahead and gave her the discount,” he says. “If she had a great experience and appreciated how well she and her vehicle were taken care of, she’s going to tell her friends about that.”

The other type is status-based. Camp Dawson, an Army National Guard facility, is just about 15 miles southeast of Elifritz’s shop, and because of that he says a lot of veterans and actively enlisted members come to his shop on a regular basis.

Though it’s fairly standard across the country, offering military discounts and other discounts for select groups makes your shop a well-known supporter of that community and encourages members of that community to come visit.

“I take 10 percent off oil changes for veterans,” Elifritz says, “and I always make sure to thank them for their service.”


Step 2: Get some exercise.

When car counts are low, Elifritz says that’s the perfect time to do some good, old-fashioned door-to-door marketing.

“Go around to local businesses in your area and just let them know that you're out there. You can offer to service their vehicles with a fleet program or something like that.”

If you can spare one or two techs to go out and drop off some coupons or other printouts from your shop with other local businesses, it could help increase word-of-mouth referrals. Elifritz says that’s especially useful in rural areas such as Masontown where traditional advertising avenues don’t capture nearly as much attention as they otherwise would.

Another practice that became more popular during the pandemic that Elifritz has taken advantage of is car pickup service.

“If we're not really busy, I'll offer to go up and get their vehicle for them, bring it down to the shop, change the oil and then take it back to them,” he says. “That helps a lot, too, because a lot of people don't have time during their busy schedule.”

Going that extra mile to take care of your customer goes a long way in building a solid reputation of exceptional customer service.


Step 3: Maintain your standards.

Maintaining that exceptional customer service, regardless of how many or how few cars are coming through your bays on a day-to-day basis, is essential to getting customers to come back. 

Elifritz says maintaining good service has taken several forms in his shop, whether that’s efficiency in the services they already provide or adding new services to become better equipped to service more vehicles.

“We check every air filter and offer a cabin filter service, and a lot of people don't get that,” he says. “If we can do that and get that extra service to that customer, that may be their deciding factor in choosing where to go for their next service.”

In addition to quick lube services in two bays, Pine View has minor mechanical and other maintenance offerings and a designated third bay. Those sales—air filters, batteries, and more—can provide a much-needed boost to sales when counts are low. 

Maintaining high-quality service, Elifritz says, is the best way to establish a great reputation and help reduce the frequency and severity of downtimes.

“My whole thing is if you can keep everybody happy while they're here and they leave happy, then they'll go tell their friends,” he says. “That's the main thing. You want people to have a good experience.” 

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