Top 10 Automotive Repair Web SitesPosted 1/17/2006
By Colby horton
AutoInc. is proud to present the recipients of its ninth annual Top 10 Automotive Repair Web Sites. After reviewing hundreds of Web sites found in search engines, links from other sites and shop sites found in the "Find Nearest ASA Shop" locator of the ASA Web site, nominees were chosen and submitted to the AutoInc. staff for review.
Sites were judged based on certain criteria. The nominated sites needed to have a pleasing appearance with professional graphics and an easy navigation scheme. We looked for basic information like services offered and easy-to-find contact information. But innovative trends such as online appointment scheduling, vehicle repair tracking, customer surveys and interactive features made certain sites stand apart from others.
Each site was rated in five different categories: design and graphics, content, speed, navigation and innovation. It was a difficult task to narrow the field to just a few nominees because there are so many exceptional sites.
Since its inception almost a decade ago, AutoInc.'s annual Top 10 Automotive Repair Web Sites feature has been a guide to help shop owners understand the capabilities of the Internet in the automotive repair industry. We want to help other shops find their place on the World Wide Web and give them examples of what fellow shop owners are integrating into their sites.
We are including a screen capture of each winner's home page, along with a brief description of the site and comments from a representative of the shop. Be sure to visit each Web site to gain the full experience of each site and read the information the shops have provided.
This site offers a simple layout, but the innovation of the Web site is far from simple. Visitors are greeted with the shop's professional jingle when they enter the site. The navigation scheme is easy to follow and remains consistent on every page within the Web site. The graphics throughout the site mirror the navigational pieces, integrating every element of the site. The comprehensive service menu is well organized and allows visitors to opt-in to receive promotions on the shop's services via e-mail.
The shop's Web site also allows customers to schedule an appointment online using a convenient electronic form. A feedback mechanism allows the shop to receive
customer comments directly from the site. Online specials make this site a useful resource for customers and potential customers.
Tony Zobott, president: "We created our Web site in an effort to continue our name branding marketing and allow our customers an avenue to access us 24 hours a day. We wanted to create a professional-looking Web site that is synonymous with the image and professionalism we try to convey every day. The Web site allows us additional exposure with our customers as well as linking our name with many quality national companies. We hope our site continues to evolve and grow to become more informative and give our current and prospective clients a reason to visit on a regular basis."
This site's concise navigation scheme makes finding information a snap. The shop's services are organized into defined categories, making it easy for a customer to find the service that is right for their vehicle. Everything involved in the shop's maintenance plans, including pricing and benefits, is outlined on the Web site. Online specials are also prominent on the site.
Customers can schedule an appointment online using the site's appointment scheduler. A printable night drop-off form can be downloaded from the scheduler as well. The "Ask a Tech" feature allows motorists to pose questions to Bodkin Automotive's experts, allowing interactivity through the site. Links to other automotive and community Web sites make this site informative.
Bob Bodkin, AAM, president: " The site was originally developed to show our customers that we are up with technology. I was also looking for a way to enable our customers to find information and contact us after hours, other than the usual answering machine. We have averaged 38 online appointments per month this year. Most appointment requests are submitted after 10 p.m., with the majority of them on Friday nights. This shows me that the site is providing customers with the convenience we were hoping to provide. An interesting note: the customers who schedule online spend an average of 6 percent to 7 percent more per repair order. I believe this is due to them being able to see everything I can offer, without any pressure to buy. For those considering a Web site, you must market it. I include it on every piece of marketing I do."
This site's Flash intro serves as a mini-commercial for the shop, allowing a quick glimpse of what the shop offers before even entering the main Web site. Customers can track the progress of their vehicle repair directly from the shop's site, offering convenience for both the customer and shop personnel. The list of business affiliations running along the right side of every page within the site offers credibility to the business.
The unique display of staff bios in the "Meet Us" section offers insight into the shop's personnel. The bios are written by each staff member and include a photo. The service menu is well organized with links to pricing on certain services. The "Repair Process" section graphically outlines the process for consumers, while the "FAQ" section offers answers to various questions the motorist might have. The "FAQ" section also includes a comprehensive glossary of car repair terminology and facts about deductibles.
Myron Hazen, AAM, owner: "Our first Web site was real generic. To me it was like a cardboard cutout. This redesign looks much more professional and is a whole lot more informative. We tried to inform potential customers of their rights and what to look for when dealing with an insurance company or repair shop. If they aren't our customer, that is OK; we feel that the collision repair industry should, as a whole, try to inform the public as much as possible. Customers are smart enough to make intelligent decisions given the proper information."
The standout feature of G&M's Web site is the repair status feature. Customers can follow the repair process of their vehicle by receiving daily e-mail updates or by logging on to the site using an e-mail address and password. The feature includes photos of the vehicle as it goes through the repair process. Customers can also use the site to schedule estimates online.
The "Before & After" section provides visual evidence of the shop's capabilities. A well-written "FAQ" section presents answers to common questions. Automotive tips frequent the left side of every page within the site. And the "Repair Process" section offers a graphical look at the process from start to finish. The "Contact Us" section offers phone numbers and location information, and also an online form that can be completed directly from the site.
Sue and Mike Martin, owners: " We created our shop's Web site on the recommendation of a business associate. We were a starting point for him in creating Web sites for auto body repair shops. We are glad that we had him design this site. It gives us a presence 24 hours a day. In today's business environment, we think that is an important stance to have. People seem to be going at all times of the day. Our customers have all indicated they like the site and the fact that we have real customers' cars featured in 'before' and 'after' photos. There is valuable information on our site that is usually commonplace information for us in the business. However, for customers, it's information they need, as they rarely have to deal with auto body repairs. We think a Web site is a valuable additional marketing piece to have in place for our business."
Jerry's Auto Repair packs a lot of information into its well-designed Web site. In addition to scheduling appointments online, the company offers its customers the ability to securely view and maintain individual vehicle maintenance records. Customers can also receive service reminders from the shop. Seasonal specials and the ability to opt-in to a special e-mail list completes this site's interactive features.
The site's "Company" section offers everything from the shop's mission statement and history to warranty and employment opportunities. Directions to the shop, information about shuttle and towing options and complete service menu make this site an excellent choice for this year's Top 10 competition.
Jerry Griebling, owner: " Getting this award is a little like accepting an Academy Award. I think I need to say thanks to R.L. O'Connor Creative Services for the design of the site. And I need to say a big 'thank you' to GenesisFour Corp. for providing us with their Service2000 software that allows us to do so many awesome things - like easily retrieving our customer data so that it can be electronically transferred to our marketing partners at MechanicNet. Our customers like receiving their service reminders via e-mail and really like the ability to securely view their vehicle history online. Our public has definitely entered the 21st century. We are doing our best to keep up with them!"
This shop's Web site serves as an informational marketing piece and is an interactive experience for customers and potential customers. Meyers' Auto Tech has taken its Web site to a new level, allowing customers to view their vehicle being repaired using one of four webcams mounted above the service bays. Images from the cameras refresh every 30 seconds, giving visitors a "bird's eye view" on the comings and goings of the shop.
A link to schedule service online is available on every page of the site, while an online customer survey is offered for those who just had their vehicle serviced. The shop even offers an incentive for completing the survey online. A downloadable shop newsletter and the ability to apply for financing online add to this site's benefits. A unique "Diagnose My Problem" section arms motorists with important information before bringing their vehicle to the shop.
Scott Meyers, vice president: "We developed our Web site to complement our overall image program, and to aid in our efforts to add convenience and confidence to our customer's experience with us. We believe the 'Diagnose My Problem' section allows our customers to feel they have a part in the repair process, and that it demonstrates to them that we understand their situation and want to help. The webcams give our customers the opportunity to monitor the progress of their vehicle once we do begin the repair. Personally, I was hesitant to put such effort into our Web site because I was unconvinced it would be helpful. My wife and partner, Jessica, insisted, and clearly I was wrong. Our customers love it and it has been one of the more successful features of our marketing efforts."
This site offers concise information without a lot of extraneous links. Unlike many shop Web sites, Rapid Repair places its list of services directly on its home page. This allows a customer or potential customer to know the shop's capabilities immediately upon entering the site. The shop also uses online specials to entice motorists to visit the site often. A clean layout, animated masthead and a photo slideshow at the bottom of the home page complement the site.
Among the interactive features of the site is the ability to schedule an appointment online. In addition, customers can create a personal car care page specific to their vehicle. The information presented within this page includes recalls, service bulletins and recommended maintenance. A thorough list of frequently asked questions makes this site informative and a good resource for customers and potential customers.
Rush Doulati, president: "After 12 years, when we moved into our new location last year, a decision was made to maximize our exposure of the new shop to existing and potentially new clients. With the help of StarWebCreation.com, which designed rapidrepairautocenter.com, it was an instant success! Clients saw an easy, attractive site that guided them to a world of information that was relevant and custom-made to their car through the personal Web page they can create in three easy steps. We estimate that 7 percent of all our sales has been influenced by our Web presence."
This site uses every aspect of a good Web site: good design, easy navigation, professional graphics, unique features and interactivity. Visitors can watch the shop's current television commercial directly from the home page. Customers can conveniently schedule service from the shop's Web site. Once the vehicle is in the shop, customers can track the progress of repairs through the site. An employment section posts positions available in the shop and gives specific directions on how to apply for the positions.
The "About Us" and "History" sections are thorough and well written, providing a good representation of the facility. Technicians interested in continuing education can sign up for the courses online through the shop's Web site. The shop also allows customers to sign up for its newsletter online. A comprehensive service menu and warranty information completes this site.
Sandy and Bob Buerk, AAMs, owners: " We created our Web site enhancing our aggressive marketing program to make sure we are reaching as many potential customers as possible. The Internet gives us a chance to educate and pass along information impossible to cover in a 30-second radio or television ad. We want the local population to know who we are, what we stand for and what's going on at St. Marys Auto Body. We love the fact that while visiting our site, you can watch our current television ad, read our mission and vision statements, and sign up for continuing education and I-CAR classes. Creating a colorful and visually appealing Web site is a great way to enhance a professional operation."
The home page of this Web site offers a clean and professional design, with elements that are carried throughout the site. The "Services" section contains a complete service menu. The "Meet Our Staff" section contains brief bios and photos of shop personnel. The "Company Info" section has everything from the shop's mission statement and history to the shop's business philosophy and employment opportunities.
Customers can schedule an appointment online through the shop's Web site. Several "e-specials" are also presented on the Web site, with the option of receiving these specials via e-mail through an opt-in function. Thorough directions to the shop and a list of links and affiliations make this site a prime choice for this year's Top 10 competition.
Mike Suddeth, owner: "Electronic marketing is growing every day and today's clients are becoming more Internet savvy. The Web site is the foundation that is needed to reach those clients. It gives us a powerful tool to communicate with each other. The interaction between that client and us helps build a relationship with that client. This is extremely important in any marketing plan. It does not matter if it is the long-term client or the prospective client looking for a shop to have their vehicle serviced. I believe that for any marketing plan to work, you have to meet the needs of your clients and the Web site has been one of the ways we have been able to do that."
This shop's home page, with its organization, dominant photo and color scheme, demonstrates the overall professionalism of the entire site. The list of services is thorough and organized. The "About Us" section includes qualifications of shop personnel, downloadable copies of the shop's newsletter and customer testimonials. An online tour of the shop's facilities is uniquely presented, while the "So That's Why!" section offers explanations of various vehicle components. The site's "Kids' Corner," accessed from the home page, provides games and contests for children as well as links for parents.
Customers can schedule an appointment online or "Ask the Expert" questions pertaining to automotive repair. Both features provide the interactivity needed for a successful automotive repair Web site. The "Career Opportunities" section allows prospective employees to submit a resume through the shop's Web site.
David S. Becker, AAM, owner: "In late 2003 we began working with a marketing firm that transitioned us into a brand and an approach to our marketplace that took us to the next level. We do a lot of mailings, also carrying the same look and feel as our site, with our Web site URL printed on them. We know that building confidence in the minds of our prospects is key to get them to try us. Our customers constantly tell us that they 'felt very comfortable with us' after learning more on our site. Going after a high-end customer base, you have to look the part."
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