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  Shop Profile

Texas Shops Offer Customers Convenience, Next-Generation Auto Repair

Posted 1/16/2004
By Colby Horton

JoeAuto
The exterior of JoeAuto's Plano, Texas location. The company currently operates five state-of-the-art facilities.
An October 1997 USA Today poll ranked auto repair as the most dreaded experience a consumer goes through, even above going to the dentist or calculating tax returns. It was at that time that Randy Vanstory, co-founder of JoeAuto, a full-service automotive repair facility with five locations throughout Texas, decided to put an end to that perception in his area. Now, four years since the opening of the company's first state-of-the-art facility, the success of JoeAuto is unsurpassed among independent repair shops.

Look up JoeAuto in an Internet search engine and you will find information about the repair facility in the likes of CNN, InformationWeek, U.S. News, and the Microsoft Web site, to name a few. Why the diverse exposure? Because JoeAuto offers customer management services that can be implemented into any industry, not just the automotive sector. Simply stated, it's all about producing a positive experience for the customer.

"People do not always trust repair shops to do good work for a fair price and the repair process is extremely disruptive to everyone's busy lifestyle," said Mike Mirabella, vice president of JoeAuto. "We are striving to change the reputation of our industry by excelling in customer service, and standing behind our work."

Like all members of the Automotive Service Association (ASA), changing the image of the industry is paramount for the upper management and staff of JoeAuto. The company spent two years asking customers what needed to be done to improve the automotive repair experience. The overwhelming answer was more convenience.

The type of convenience JoeAuto now offers its customers is exceptional. It's this convenience that has created such buzz about the facility within the national media, because JoeAuto has virtually reinvented the automotive repair experience.

JoeAuto
Home page of joeauto.com.
At the forefront of the overall vision of utmost convenience to its customers is the shop's Web site (www.joeauto.com). A previous recipient of AutoInc.'s Top 10 Automotive Repair Web Sites competition, JoeAuto's site incorporates the latest technology to make the repair process easier on its customers.

Through the company's Web site, customers can go online to price certain repairs, make appointments, manage their profile records, schedule loaner cars, and even monitor their repairs via Web cams placed in each bay of the different facilities, all of which can become pretty costly for any independent repair facility.

But in early 2001, Ford Motor Co. and CCG Venture Partners LLC pledged to raise $13.1 million to help finance the technology that drives the shops' promise of overall convenience, which included its online endeavor.

"We believe our Web site gives our customers the opportunity to get a snapshot of our image, a list of our services and the option of making appointments for service, all at their convenience," said Mirabella. "We have Web cams in each bay of our facilities so our customers can watch their vehicles being worked on, whether they are at home or work."

Mirabella also suggests keeping your site simple with accurate information.

"Don't try to fool people with a fancy site or services that you cannot provide. Make your site an accurate reflection of your business."

JoeAuto
JoeAuto provides convenient customer check-in stations.
Besides the ability to watch the repair process via the JoeAuto Web site, the company incorporates several other unique services into its business plan. Customers can rent loaner cars for $10 per day when their vehicle is being serviced. JoeAuto also provides a shuttle pickup and drop-off service and extended hours for the customers' convenience. In addition, each shop is equipped with computers with Internet capabilities for any customer to use if he or she decides to wait for their repairs.

JoeAuto also encourages its customers to seek a second opinion to ensure they are receiving the best value in terms of workmanship and quality. To that end, each shop has implemented a "second opinion center" that allows customers to compare estimates and verify information JoeAuto has provided them.

"We offer a private phone and phone numbers of our closest competitors that allows our customers to check our repair recommendations and prices against our competitor," said Mirabella.

The shop also offers same-day service to its customers on most repairs. A majority of repairs are promised in a 24-hour time frame.

JoeAuto technicians are all National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certified and must complete an extensive training program when beginning employment at the company.

JoeAuto
JoeAuto is a full-service automotive repair facility. Pictured are the bays at the Plano, Texas location.
"We offer many training programs to our JoeAuto employees," said Don "Mac" McDonald, director of automotive services. "We have hired some of the best trainers in the industry to conduct our own in-house training classes."

McDonald is considered one of the best trainers in the industry, and bringing him to the corporate staff of JoeAuto is a testament to the company's commitment to training. He helps write ASE certification tests and was head of Snap-on's training program.

"Don McDonald gave credibility to the technical side of our business," said Mirabella.

McDonald also said the company has a very involved screening process before anyone is considered for employment at JoeAuto. The result? A staff of well-trained, highly qualified technicians and personnel who make the car repair process easier on customers. Operating with a staff of 12 when the shop first opened, JoeAuto now employs 60 people at its different locations.

JoeAuto is the only independent automotive facility in the United States to receive J.D. Power & Associates certification. The company is AAA-certified and, in addition to being a member of ASA, is a member of the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA), the Motorist Assurance Program and the Automotive Training Managers Council.

Servicing a total of more than 300 vehicles per week at its various locations, the company averages over $1 million in annual revenue per store.

"We have been fortunate that each of our shops do between two to three times more revenue than your average repair shop," Mirabella said.

JoeAuto is active in the community as well. In fact, at the opening of its Plano, Texas, location last summer, the facility held a sneak preview event, with proceeds benefiting the Plano YMCA children's program. The company is also actively involved in the Boy Scouts of America, ROTC and Lions Club.

JoeAuto joined ASA shortly after opening its doors. "We joined ASA in order to develop synergies with other automotive repair facilities and their owners," said McDonald.

The future of JoeAuto certainly seems positive. The company's fifth location opens this month in Dallas. In the next year, JoeAuto hopes to open several other facilities in the Dallas and Houston markets. And by 2007, the company expects to open service centers in the nation's top 50 metropolitan markets, with initial expansion throughout Dallas; Austin, Texas; Atlanta and Denver.

Shop Stats

Name: JoeAuto
Location: Tomball, Houston, Plano and Dallas, Texas
Square footage: 86,000 total for all locations
Web Site: www.joeauto.com
No. of employees: 60
Business philosophy: “ Our business philosophy centers on fixing cars right the first time, treating all customers with honesty and making it convenient to do business, and taking care of our employees.” - Mike Mirabella


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