Crossing the Finish LinePosted 1/16/2012
By Angie Kilbourne, AAM
but 10 websites distinguished themselves from the field.
We’ve said this before: Our job gets harder and harder each year here when reviewing automotive repair websites. This year proved to be our toughest challenge.
We have to admit, there really isn’t a bad site among the scores of entries we received this year. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, core competencies and areas of improvement to consider. That was what made this job difficult. We found we had to get really picky, and look very hard at what each offered to find this year’s Top 10.
It came down to active participation in communities, marketing efforts and social media in many cases. Each of this year’s winners clearly have done their homework on their markets and their clients, and have positioned their websites to showcase their businesses appropriately for each shop’s unique circumstances.
We were pleasantly surprised to see many of the entries have embraced mobile-friendly websites as part of their overall digital strategy. These shops have heard, and more importantly, listened to their customer base and answered the call to provide clients information through multiple touch-points. They aren’t willing to give up an inch of their advantage over the competition. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at this year’s AutoInc. Top 10 Automotive Repair Site winners.
Atlantic Motorcar, Wiscasset, Maine
For Atlantic Motorcar, consumer trust is the name of the game – right down to its tagline: “Earning your trust. Every time you turn the key.” And its website is a reflection of that mission, with rotating headlines that remind customers of everyday (but often forgotten) services to shop news to timely headlines related to autos and their service. As a matter of fact, we really enjoyed perusing the site’s blog because it offered so much more than just specials and shop news.
Another interesting section is the site’s “Service Case Studies” that helps educate vehicle owners about problems seen right in the Atlantic shop. What a great way to instill confidence in consumers. But the most interesting piece of Atlantic Motorcar’s website is its mobile-friendly website, which visitors are automatically directed to when a mobile browser is detected.“We spend a great deal of time and effort to make sure our online presence is easy to use and communicate with,” says Bruce Howes, Atlantic Motorcar’s owner. “We also strive to bring the same respect, integrity and customer service online as we do in person. Our new website does exactly that!
Clark’s Car Care, Naperville, Ill.
Making sure your clients can get the good word out is important, and Clark’s Car Care takes advantage of social sharing technology to give customers an easy access point to brag about the great service they are getting, right at the top of every page. In addition, the team at Clark’s puts in extra time on local websites answering automotive-related questions, says co-owner Laura Weber.
What we found refreshing was the fun vibe they used on the site, such as the comic-book style captions for photos and the not-too-serious tagline, “Auto service you can swear by. Not at.”Pair that up with fresh, smiling faces on the “Meet Our Team” page and a waiting room with popcorn, a massage chair and video games, and you get the feeling that this team has a good time, even when it’s not such a great day at the shop.
Dave’s Car Care, Glendale, Ariz.
Getting your clients involved in the conversation may be the most difficult aspect of maintaining a social networking campaign. But Dave’s Car Care believes it has hit a sweet spot with its recently redesigned site that encourages more interactions between customers and staff.
“The site design is helping us to improve our interaction with our customers,” says Dave Denmon, owner. “For example, since July, in regard to testimonials, we went from two to 20. In just over a month we have collected some 30-plus completed feedback forms. With the launch of this new site, we added a special help menu to the right on every page along with a few special features, which are helping us to interact with customers. These features include: 1) VIP and VIP referral system; 2) “Raving Fans”; 3) new customer survey; 4) FAQs page, which allows people to ask us questions; and 5) a newsletter sent to our VIPs.”Denmon also reports they are incorporating social media share features to not only the website, but also in newsletters and the soon-to-be-launched mobile-friendly website.
FixAuto Portland East, Portland, Ore.
Not resting on its laurels, FixAuto Portland East, an AutoInc. Top 10 winner from 2009, went back to the drawing board and launched a completely redesigned site in March 2010 that builds on its previous successes.
“I don’t believe there is any one feature that stands heads above the rest, but rather the entire site works together to stimulate the visitor to stay awhile,” says Camille Eber, owner. “It helps them understand where we came from, where we have been and who we are. It shows them that we are committed to our craft by way of certifications, training and satisfied customers. I have customers mention: They found just what they need in the FAQ; they were so happy to submit info online; loved reading our history – so I think the best feature is really dictated by the customer – if we had what the customer was after, then that’s the best feature.”From the live Twitter feed on the home page to the multiple points around the site to share information on social networks to the Spanish language pages, we found FixAuto’s website one that had to be included in the 2012 winner’s circle.
Hubbard Woods Motors, Winnetka, Ill.
Being there for clients is more than just a slogan in this business; it’s a way of life for successful shops. Hubbard Woods Motors takes the extra step with its recently redesigned site (July 2011) to ensure customers have easy access to the shop, using the method that works best for each individual.
“Our site is also fitted with the capability of detecting mobile browsers, automatically redirecting traffic to our new mobile site,” comments Bob Berger, owner. “This provides easier access to our information, as well as ‘click to call’ phone numbers and ‘click for directions’ capabilities.”These efforts continue to pay off, such as the customer traveling a long distance with her Volvo who posted on Facebook, “It made it without any issues. Thank you Hubbard Woods!” Mentions like that are pure gold for any business, and the Hubbard Woods team has learned the true value of staying in contact with clients on their own terms. It’s a great lesson for all of us.
Milstead Automotive, Spring, Texas
But social media and online contact forms are just the beginning to a truly great site. You’ve also got to consider how people will find you when searching for automotive repair. Milstead has been executing a dynamic search engine optimization and placement plan that, according to Amy Milstead, president, has put them at the top in their local markets.But it doesn’t stop there. Milstead ensures they take an active role in the community, from environmental issues and conservation, to ensuring motorists get home safely when they’ve had too much to drink. Check out the company’s “Last Call” program that will deliver both the motorist and the vehicle home within a 10-mile radius of the pickup point for just $50. Now that, in our opinion, is going the extra mile for the community.
Motor Works, DeKalb, Ill.
Motor Works takes nostalgia into the digital age with its clever website design that they manage themselves through a content management system, says Marty Fay, owner. We found the sidebar bios of the staff, scattered throughout the site, an innovative way to ensure visitors get a more personal look at the people servicing their vehicles – an important aspect for shops to ensure success in today’s age.
What was most refreshing was the online blog, “The ABC’s of Motor Works,” that provides more than just shop specials of the month. Don’t be mistaken, the info is there, but clients are also provided with a great array of industry news, interesting information and features of the shop as well as the community.
And be sure to stop by the Classic Cars section, where they show off some of their best work for the locals who drive those special vehicles that need the extra tender loving care.We were also glad to see Motor Works at the top of the list in local search; it’s obvious this recent redesign is working for them in all the right ways.
Precision Auto Repair, Pleasanton, Calif.
Specialization in the automotive repair industry can be a two-edged sword: Shops can focus on the types of work they do best, but they’ve got to work harder to bring in the right customers. Precision Auto Repair made that a focus with its redesigned website, which launched in February 2011.
“We worked really hard on our new design to reach our target clientele and help connect us with our community,” says Renee Edgren, co-owner. “We are very specialized and needed to target our potential clients. We use specialized landing pages to reach our potential clients and it’s working extremely well.” Precision can back up those statements with great positioning within local search and social media search, too.We liked the professional messages found throughout the site, and the fact that customers have easy, prominently displayed access to leave comments on a number of social networking sites, including the increasingly popular Yelp review site.
Robert’s Auto Repair, Monterey, Calif.
Clean, clear and consistent navigation is the star on the Robert’s Auto Repair website. With four separate areas of business, this site provides customers with all the right tools to get the answers they need quickly.
“Our website nicely combines our four main profit centers, general repair, collision repair, tires and detailing,” says Robert Wesenberg, owner. “Our upscale community and clientele have reacted very well to the design, as well as the easy online scheduling, night drop form and online specials.”Featuring certified reviews from Google on every page is a plus to building trust with customers, and Robert’s gives them easy access to leaving their own comments on the search engine giant’s pages, too, as well as links to their Facebook and Twitter pages. Check out the site’s blog, where Robert’s offers solid advice for vehicle owners on a number of topics.
Tony’s Service Center, Phoenix, Ariz.
Ensuring new clients are made to feel welcome is important, and Tony’s Service Center extends that reach out through its website. In the crowded Phoenix market, Tony’s strives to go the extra mile by offering top-notch information and advice to clients on a 24/7 basis.
“Our great reviews really help people feel comfortable calling us, and our website’s clean design make it easy to find the information they are looking for,” says Dan Guido, owner.We loved the professional photography of the staff and shop that gives the site a very personal atmosphere. In addition, the Tony’s staff stays active on the social networks, including LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, and the site also provides a link to its reviews page on Yelp.
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