Shop Owners Talk Customer Retention,

the Industry’s Bad Rap

For Emily Chung, owner of Canada’s AutoNiche, the hassle of double-entering data into Quickbooks and “never having a true reading until everything’s reconciled” led her to Protractor and its built-in accounting tool in 2014. 

For Jim Reeser, director of retail operations for Pennsylvania-based K&W Tires, the need to standardize processes and centralize reporting for his 10-store operation made Protractor’s enterprise management capabilities a natural choice. 

The industry veterans say they quickly discovered how the shop management system could turn their ideas for customer retention into repeatable and trackable processes. Chung and Reeser agreed to open their playbooks to reveal the features and capabilities driving those efforts, including AutoNiche’s four-visit customer retention strategy. 

Get Them to Four 

Chung isn’t short on creativity, especially when marketing her 12-year-old operation. When COVID locked communities down in 2020, she created a Facebook promotion that promised a free roll of toilet paper for every customer who serviced their vehicle at AutoNiche. She also blogs and vlogs about common repairs to help educate vehicle owners. 

Lately, Chung has been tinkering with the first-visit work order templates she’s created within Protractor. They include a second-visit promo for any recommended work the customer declines. The goal is to get four visits out of each customer. “We’re always looking for ways the system can support the goals that we have,” she says. 

Removing the Friction 

Reeser and Chung can’t say enough about the deep integration between Protractor and AutoServe1’s digital vehicle inspection tool. It’s a connection the SMS shares with other DVI providers, which allowed Chung and Reeser to shop for the right DVI tool for their shop. 

That deep integration results in a unified software experience for their teams. For instance, Chung’s advisors can start estimates within Protractor as her technicians perform their AutoServe1 inspections. She also likes that previous AutoServe1 inspections are a click away from within Protractor’s work order screen, allowing her advisors to deliver a connected experience for her returning customers. 

Squashing the Industry’s Bad Rap 

One of the many lessons Reeser learned over his more than 40-year career is if you ask for an air filter and the customer says “No,” you better ask for that filter during the customer’s next visit. “Otherwise, they’ll believe you’re just trying to make money,” he says. 

With Protractor, his advisors are notified 90 days after a customer’s visit of any deferred repairs. The feature is designed to drive the shop’s marketing efforts. However, Reeser also asks that his advisors take a moment before writing up a customer to check Protractor’s deferred category, which is just two clicks away, he says. It’s a small step in Reeser’s process that establishes credibility with customers. 

Tip Your Technician with a Review 

Generating customer reviews is a significant focus for Reeser. Not only are they important to driving in business, the reviews also help with recruiting. Reeser is currently testing a new modification to his customer follow-up process, which Protractor’s built-in CRM powers. The minute an advisor generates an invoice, Protractor texts customers, “Thank you for your business.” Then, depending on the customer’s preferred contact method, a postcard or email is sent two to three days later that says, “Thank you for coming in. No need to tip your technician. If you go online to post a review, we’ll tip your technician for you.” 

Taking a Page from the Dealer Playbook 

Chung can’t say enough about the checks and balances she gets from Protractor. For instance, if a part is missing on a work order, Protractor won’t allow her and her advisors to close it out. “I appreciate that because, when I run a report, I know the numbers are true,” she says. 

Chung saves her highest praise for Protractor’s Reminder List, which her shop uses to create and present a customized preventative maintenance schedule to kick off every customer visit. The process calls for the visual aid to be shared with AutoNiche’s technicians before conducting their inspections. 

“We use it at the beginning of the service to tell customers, ‘Hey, this is the maintenance schedule, especially if you’re keeping the car long-term,’” she says. “Then the AutoServe1 report is presented as further evidence.” 

Chung adds: “Schedules and routine maintenance are part of the dealership model. It’s nothing new. It’s just that there isn’t much consistency in the aftermarket to talk about preventative maintenance. Protractor gives us the tools to be consistent.”