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  Special Feature

Top 10 Automotive Repair Web Sites

Posted 1/11/2007
By Colby Horton

Top 10

Top 10AutoInc. is proud to present the winners in its 10th annual Top 10 Automotive Repair Web Sites competition. 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 based on specific 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, online customer surveys and other interactive features made certain sites stand apart from others.

A decade ago, AutoInc. set out to choose 10 Web sites that deserved the recognition of being the best automotive repair Web sites on the Internet. Since then, the Internet has changed substantially, making the functionality of shop Web sites more versatile, efficient and easier to use. Informational Web sites gave way to interactive sites that drive more customers into today's repair facilities. More and more shops are using the Internet as part of their overall marketing plan, making it even more difficult to choose just 10 outstanding Web sites.

Since it started, 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 the site and read the information the shops have provided.

25th Street Automotive - Phoenix

This site's home page, with its organization, nonindustry dominant photo and warm color scheme, demonstrates its overall professionalism. Adding the shop's affiliations to the bottom of the home page offers immediate credibility when the visitor enters the site.

The "About Us" section is well written and has an audio message from the shop's owner. The photos distributed throughout the site truly add to the shop's overall image. Customers can make appointments online, adding convenience to the site visitor. The site also has online specials, an outline of services offered and an "Employment" section. The site's "Ask-an-Expert" section allows site visitors to submit automotive-related questions to the shop's technicians and owner.

Bill Coniam, AAM, managing partner: "We wanted this, our first attempt at a Web site, to accomplish two objectives: First, to allow our busy customers a chance to learn more about the guys they trust to care for their vehicles - both for themselves and for their referrals. Second, we wanted our shop to be out of the ordinary. We didn't want our customers to read, 'We do brakes, cooling systems, diagnostics, blah blah blah,' to which our customers would respond: 'Well, I should hope so, but what sets you apart from the crowd?' We're a different and friendly place, and I think our Web site reflects that."

Baker's Collision Repair - Mansfield, Ohio

The standout feature of the Baker's Collision Repair Web site is the "Check Vehicle" feature. Customers can follow the repair process of their vehicle by viewing photos of their car and messages from their service adviser. The site offers added convenience by allowing customers to schedule an estimate or rent vehicles online.

The "Repair Process" section offers a graphical look at the process from start to finish. Each step is also well written and, in layman's terms, allows customers to fully understand the process. The "Shop Tour" section allows a glimpse of the body shop, paint shop and front office, illustrating the shop's capabilities. The "Information" section provides a list of questions and answers and a quick customer service survey. The site also allows prospective employees to complete an employment application online.

DeLee Powell, general manager: "We developed our site because we wanted to be able to get updates to our customers on 'their' time. Posting progressive digital photos of the repairs online allows our customers to log onto our Web site any time of day or night to get their current status."

Camarillo Car Care Center - Camarillo, Calif.

This site contains a lot of information and interactive features. But the navigation scheme makes finding the information easy. The home page's "Quick Info" section brings important information to the forefront of the site, presenting key elements of the shop immediately and concisely. The "About Us" section covers everything from photos of the shop to incentives for choosing Camarillo Car Care Center. The "Staff" section, complete with photos and brief bios, add credibility to the shop. A comprehensive list of "New Customer Questions" is a nice addition to the site, illustrating the professionalism and qualifications of the shop.

Site visitors can sign up for e-mail service reminders and specials as well as ask a qualified technician questions about their vehicle. Customers can schedule appointments online and watch an interactive slideshow regarding the shop's auto maintenance classes. Prospective employees can read detailed job descriptions of employment opportunities in the shop and download an application specific to the opening. A list of industry and community links completes this valuable and informative Web site.

Patrick Walton, owner: "Our Web site was created to allow customers to get as much information about our company at their own convenience. Our company has an open book policy - we have nothing to hide and we want to be able to share as much information as we can with our customers. Time doesn't always permit us to explain everything. The Web site is another tool in our toolboxes that helps us do our jobs. I think the popularity of our site is due to the fact that it is easy to navigate. Whether you want hours of operation or small snippets into our company, it's easy to find."

Cars Unlimited - Edgartown, Mass.

A shop's Web site is supposed to complement the facility's image. What makes this site stand out is the photos dispersed throughout that truly illustrate the professionalism of the shop. The layout, color scheme and navigation of this site are appealing. A link to the shop's "Ethics" is nice to see. A simple, bulleted list of this section makes the text easy to read and understand.

The "Staff" section is also a nice feature. Photos and brief bios accompany this section, once again promoting the capabilities and qualifications of the shop. "Contact Us" provides a form for customers to fill out with the option to heighten the priority of the message. This is a nice feature for customers, adding convenience and urgency to the process.

David Pothier, owner: "Because we live in a summer resort community, we created our Web site for people traveling here. Most customers who use our site are vacationing. We wanted to have a simple site to navigate and allow the user to see our shop inside and out and to meet our staff. It has worked very well for us. Having a Web site has given us the opportunity to get our name and credentials out there so customers know who and what we are before coming to our shop. Having a feel-good perspective before needing our services, so to speak."

Dan R's Automotive Service Center - Oregon, Ohio

This site offers a clean, professional layout with several interactive features for customers and potential customers. Its unique navigation bar appears on the right side of the page, while the shop's guarantee is prominently displayed on the home page, adding credibility and dependability to the facility. Visitors can schedule an appointment online, as well as sign up for the shop's e-mail list through the Web site.

Dan R's Automotive also features a "Used Vehicles" section complete with photos, prices and vehicle specifications. In addition, the site features several mopeds and accessories available through the shop. A complete list of services and detailing menu make this site informative for first-time customers. The "Preventive Maintenance" section not only illustrates the shop's capabilities, it provides information on the equipment used in the repairs. A professional layout and color scheme adds to the site's overall appeal.

Dan and Rick Reichow: "We reinvented our Web site to create a site that was 'out-of-the-box.' Our goal was to create a culture to ensure consumers would feel they were in good hands by offering a bold, personal guarantee on our home page. We believe the new Web site will be successful because of its clean and organized look. It also features the unique design of having the toolbar on the right side of the home page. We feel we have an awesome Web site."

Francis Automotive - West Chester, Pa.

This site's organization, navigation and informative home page make it a prime candidate for this year's top 10. Site visitors can make an appointment directly from the home page, or through a link on every page within the site. The home page also offers an opt-in list that provides subscribers with special discounts via e-mail. Additional information on the home page offers a concise glimpse of the shop, its history and its capabilities.

The staff page of the "About Us" section provides photos and brief bios of the Francis Automotive staff. "Services" is comprehensive and organized into sections detailing the type of vehicles the shop services, maintenance service and hybrid services. Links to other industry Web sites are a nice addition. The overall layout and design of the site adds to the professionalism.

John L. Francis III, vice president: "We redid our Web site because it was dated. Our old site was plain with limited capabilities. Our Web site is a key part of our business. We live in a world of 'right now.' People want information 'now.' Going to a Web site is the fastest way to get that information. Our Web site is just another tool to help keep our business at pace with this ever-changing industry."

Mazcare - Atlanta

The Mazcare Web site provides a sophisticated look, incorporating a nice color scheme and organized navigation scheme. The photographs throughout feature shop employees and convey a professional atmosphere. The site's text is concise, and well written.

The site also features an online appointment scheduler, adding convenience for customers and allowing the shop to make sales 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A "Night Drop Form" is provided for customers to download and complete prior to bringing their vehicle in for service. The "Ask a Mechanic" feature is also a good addition to the site. Some nice testimonials are presented on the site as well, adding credibility to the shop's capabilities.

Charlie Shatzen, owner: "I worked with a long-time customer who created our Web site for us because I felt that the design had to be done by someone who understood our business. The site has created more business for us and our existing customers like the conveniences it offers. We kept it simple, clear and concise to save time for our customers and have a clean, polished look."

Parkway Automotive - Little Rock, Ark.

The Parkway Automotive site offers a clean design complete with a professional home page. Featuring the shop's Better Business Bureau award through the site immediately adds credibility to the facility. The home page also offers a quick glimpse of what the shop offers, capturing the attention of the visitor without having to fully navigate the site. The "New Customer Worksheets" are also a nice addition to the home page, allowing new customers to complete important paperwork online prior to bringing their vehicle to the shop for the first time.

Customers can schedule an appointment online and view an interactive photo gallery through the site. The "Contacts" section is well organized, providing photos and e-mail addresses to key personnel. Prospective employees can also learn about opportunities with Parkway Automotive from the shop's Web site. A complete list of services and information on the shop's "Lifetime Oil Change" makes the site informative to both customers and prospective customers.

Mike Davidson, AAM: "We love our Web site because it is very useful to our operation. All of my staff directs first-time customers to the Web site to fill out our 'Customer Profile Sheet,' or if it is a driveability issue, they have a 'Driveability Sheet' to fill out. Our fleet accounts also have access to the site to get their drivers to communicate directly with our technicians. All of this affords us a lot of traffic to the site."

Scata's Auto & Truck Repair - Windsor Locks, Conn.

This site offers a unique home page design that truly grabs visitors' attention. The organization of information on the home page is also well done, featuring a quick glimpse of the shop's capabilities, affiliations, seasonal tip and the ability to join the shop's mailing list. Elements of the home page are brought into all sections of the Web site, adding consistency to the design.

The site's "Blueprint of a Well Maintained Vehicle" offers a graphical look at preventive maintenance. The "Services" menu is very comprehensive, focusing on both the capabilities of the shop and the vehicles the shop services. The "Ask Joe" feature is a nice addition to the site, while the online appointment scheduler adds convenience for customers. The "Virtual Tour" section provides an inside look into the shop. The "Community Board" allows people within the community to post autos for sale, community events, fundraising, meetings or plays.

Joseph M. Scata, AAM, president/CEO: "I have found the use of the Internet has become a timely source of communication. It provides timely feedback needed by the traveling motorist or customer and has become a way of life. I have found since we recreated our Web site, it has become a colorful and easy-to-use Web site. It has created more appointments every day - it's fantastic! This is the way today's world functions, and one must stay on top of the way the new world communicates."

The Auto Doc - Houston

The Auto Doc Web site offers an intense experience for its Web-savvy customers. Designed using Flash, the site incorporates animation and audio throughout. A nicely produced introduction to the site serves as a commercial for the shop's overall capabilities. Scrolling is not needed on this site. All the information fits nicely on the user's computer screen.

The "Services" section is well organized, with different vehicle components explained thoroughly. An online customer satisfaction survey and customer testimonials are nice additions to the Web site. The site also offers online specials and automotive tips. A "Career" section posts positions available in the shop and provides several ways to send a resume to the facility, including submitting it online. The color and navigation schemes and organization of the site make it among the best.

Dave Skorka, owner: "A cutting-edge, techno-savvy shop needs exactly that in its Web site! Our site represents what our current and potential cyberspace clients deserve: a sharp, clean environment with staff that moves quickly and thoroughly through the vehicles, with precision detail, and gives our clients unsurpassed customer service. We even threw in an old-fashioned, printable coupon to save them money!"

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