I’m always intrigued by business leaders in the automotive space who look beyond the bottom line to purposefully create an organization that caters to the needs of employees and customers. After all, these two stakeholder groups have more to do with the success of a business than any element of product, price, place and promotion.
Business is about people. Period.
Understanding this concept as a business leader is important but not nearly as important as taking action toward implementing processes and business practices to heed this philosophy.
Auto Tek owner and president, Leonard Fehrle, recently sat down with me to discuss the success of his organization. I drove to his shop off Ben White Blvd. in central south Austin to find out why their customers are so happy with their car service. What I discovered was a reputation that extended far beyond their stellar series of online reviews. In fact, since Fehrle took over the shop as the sole proprietor back in 1993, he’s made every conscious effort to keep on the forefront of technological advancements in auto repair and monitor trends of consumer behavior to ensure his customer service deliverable is completely in line with consumer expectations.
When asked about the history of his shop, which originally opened in 1979, Ferhle’s passion becomes evident. “When I took over the shop in 1993, 95% of our customers were male. Since then, we’ve completely redesigned our waiting area to make it more comfortable. We stopped working on hotrods to focus on a complete auto repair experience across every major brand. Now, our customer base is 65% female, and we have a large following of repeat customers.”
Fehrle employs his son, Aaron, and daughter, Andreah, and credits their input as a catalyst for improvements in customer care and operational excellence. He jokes about handing down the operation to them so he can sit on a beach in retirement only to reverse course and state he’ll probably never stop working at the shop. His commitment to the customer is evident in the stories he and Aaron tell about their customers.
People should be a primary focus for any organization, and trust is an absolute necessity in order to run a successful business.
One of his customers who moved to Colorado will not let anyone else work on his vehicle. He drives back to Auto Tek in Austin, TX for all repair work. Another customer brings them food and pastries about every 90 days in appreciation for how well the employees handled her car repair experience after having a traumatic collision in the city. Now, heading into the holiday season, Leonard says his customers will bring all kinds of pastries as a thank you for always shooting them straight with a completely honest approach toward car repair.
“Everyone at some point will have multiple car repair issues to deal with. It’s up to us to translate our professional assessment into communication that makes sense for the customer. We point out repairs in terms of priority, notifying customers of which items won’t need immediate attention. This is a level of cooperation and transparency that is a part of our business model, and it always will be that way at Auto Tek,” said Leonard when asked why his customers trust him so much.
Conversing with Leonard and Aaron reaffirmed everything I stand for as a business and marketing strategist. People should be a primary focus for any organization, and trust is an absolute necessity in order to run a successful business. Some of the Auto Tek employees previously worked for large corporate auto repair facilities and eventually left those jobs to find an employer like Leonard. They wanted a work environment where honesty is always at the forefront of their recommendations for auto repair.
Focus on the social part, not the media part...
You simply can’t buy this type of culture. It doesn’t happen from one day to the next. This is a business philosophy that takes years - decades - to finely tune. It is a result of a continuous effort toward being the best at what you do. When asked how Auto Tek would outlast the competition over the next 15-20 years, Fehrle’s response was one word. “Integrity.” The way they run their operation isn’t a temporary tactic or a marketing strategy. It’s simply the proper way to run a business.
I originally scheduled the interview to ask Leonard about the importance of social media as a business strategy. Though once we started talking, the conversation evolved into a discussion that proves one important fact. Social Media is not about marketing - it’s about people. Focus on the social part, not the media part, and you’ll be well on your way toward building a business that customers absolutely love. When customers love a business, they recommend it to others. That’s the most fundamental aspect of social media that every business leader should recognize.
Auto Tek is not a client of Makes Media. This is not an advertisement but simply an illustration of quality business practices in the automotive sector. Auto Tek is located at 4313 Gillis St., Austin, TX 78745. (512) 326-3881.