Brownies ‘big hit’ with customers
A desire to run a shop like it ought to be and some savvy marketing are paying off for a husband-wife team in Georgia.
The shop is Southeast Auto Service & Repair in Hinesville, Ga. – the realization of a dream by Andrew and Charlene Parlett.
Andrew – an up-and-coming, hard-charging young technician – had been working for other shops, but didn’t always agree with how the shops were being run. So he decided to open his own.
He was determined to treat both customers and employees with the utmost integrity. His shop also strives for service excellence.
As a result, its reputation is paying off. Business is steadily increasing.
And helping the shop grow is some smart marketing on the part of Charlene. For example, she gives customers a choice whether to be contacted by text, email or phone. “We’re very active on our Facebook page, which has a nice-size following,” says Charlene. “And when we have a customer who has had a costly repair done, we make sure to send them a thank-you card and a box of brownies, which are a big hit.”
The shop also has a customer referral program. Customers can give cards to friends that offer $10 off their first repair. And when the shop gets a referral customer, the one who referred them gets a thank-you card, a $10 Visa gift card, and their name entered in an end-of-year drawing for a cruise for two.
Building a relationship with its customers is extremely important to Southeast Auto Service & Repair. The staff looks at its customers as neighbors, and serving those customers for years is its goal. As part of that relationship, the shop team is active in its community, serving in both civic and non-profit organizations, and volunteering for communitywide events.
Andrew and Charlene opened their shop in 2005 with five work bays and three employees (counting Andrew and Charlene). Today, there are six employees and 10 bays.
Southeast Auto Service & Repair is a full-service auto repair facility. It works on all makes and models.
Highly experienced and qualified team members are a priority. Andrew encourages employees to continually increase their skills through education and certifications. As a result, the shop was awarded an Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Blue Seal of Excellence Certification in 2010, making it the only “Blue Seal” repair facility serving the public in a 50-mile radius.
It’s also a NAPA AutoCare Center, which means all of its repairs carry a nationwide service and parts warranty. No other repair shop in Hinesville, a city of more than 33,000 people, offers this nationwide warranty, says Andrew.
Andrew has been working in the automotive service and repair industry since he was 16. He started as a part-time employee working in fleet maintenance for his family’s propane company. After graduating from high school, he continued to work there for two more years and then was sent by the company to a technical school. He decided to continue in automotive service. He is a tech school graduate and has multiple ASE certifications.
Both Andrew and his wife, Charlene, have earned the coveted Accredited Automotive Manager (AAM) designation awarded by the Automotive Management Institute.
Charlene helped her husband realize his dream: owning his own shop. Now she works from home, overseeing financials and their marketing efforts. Their daughter, Rachel, 20, works part time as bookkeeper while attending college. “Rachel spent several years working in a real estate management office and in an insurance office, so she’s a huge asset to us,” says Charlene. “But Rachel is treated like any other employee – including getting fussed at if she’s late, even if it is in the family kitchen!”
Although the shop is successful and growing, it hasn’t been without its challenges, say Andrew and Charlene. Its biggest need, they say, is to own its own building. The cost of commercial property is outrageous, they say, and 2011-2012 were challenging years economically, so they drained a good bit of the funds they had planned to put toward purchasing or constructing a new facility. “Owning our own building is our No. 1 focus right now,” say Charlene and Andrew. “We have a fabulous team of service advisers and techs. So as long as they keep doing what they do, we can stay focused on making sure we have a place to do it!”
Name of Shop: Southeast Auto Service & Repair
Location: Hinesville, Ga.
Square Footage: 7,000 square feet
Years in Business: 9
Number of Employees: 7 (including owner)
Number of Repair Orders Weekly: About 65
Projected Annual Sales: $900,000
Website Address: southeastautoservice.com
Why They Are a Member of ASA: “Because we saw the benefit of being connected to other shop owners.”