Success Stories

Relationship Marketing Weekly: Auto Repair Shop Edition

What an incredible interview with Auto Repair shop owner Tom Lamber! Tom explains how he doubled his customer referrals with a cost effective relationship marketing strategy on today’s Relationship Marketing Weekly.  You’ll also be blown away with how he helps others in his industry..  Tom is a true champion of relationship marketing as well as a champion of helping others in his industry… even his competitors!

Kody Bateman: Very excited to have this guest on our call today from the automotive industry. We’re going to jump into that just a second. As people are coming on, we want you to just say hi to us. Maybe we can say hi back to you real quick. We’re really excited about this.

Over the last 10 or 12 weeks, we have shown somebody from – you know, a professional in various different industries. Insurance, real estate, mortgage, you name it. We’ve been talking about people from different professions.

Today, we are going to be in the automotive industry and this is one of great interest probably to all of us because all of us have a tendency to need our car fixed every once in a while. So we probably have a relationship of some kind with either a dealership or an auto place that gets – that we go get work done on our cars or trucks.

So today we have Tom Lambert out of Layton, Utah. He is with Shadetree Automotive. Welcome to your show, Tom. Thank you for taking the time to be with us today.

Tom Lambert: Thanks Kody.

Kody: We had a chance to visit before the show started and I just mentioned how you just resonated to care about people and we would really like to learn from you today how you go about doing that.

First of all, Shadetree Automotive. Can you just tell us a little bit about your shop and the type of work you do?

Tom: Yeah. So Shadetree Automotive, we’re 23 years in now right here in Layton. You know, my dad and an uncle of mine started the business, so a family-owned business. I had actually become the sole owner just within the last year. I’ve been here managing it right out of high school. So I’ve been here all my life.

Yeah, we’re just general auto repair shop. Kind of known as kind of the dealer alternative. We do just about everything you can imagine to your car from simple maintenance to diagnose some whatever crazy problem that happens on these things and major replacements, tires, all that kind of stuff.

Kody: OK. So everybody listening today, we are consumers of your service. Everybody is a consumer of your type of service. We’ve all had experiences of going to an automotive shop. Unfortunately in a lot of cases, those experiences aren’t the best.

Tom: Yeah.

Kody: The things I really like about you Tom is you not only want to create a good reputation for your own shop. You’re trying to create a better reputation to the entire industry and we really appreciate that example that you give to us.

That’s the reason you agreed to be on the show today because it’s an effort for you to help elevate your entire profession.

Tom: Yeah, for sure.

Kody: Tell us a little bit – so let’s say that I come into your shop. I need something done on my truck. Something is wrong with it. I don’t know what it is. I bring it into your shop. I need you to tell me what’s wrong. Give me an estimate. Can you walk me through the process of how you would take care of me as a new customer?

Tom: Yeah, for sure, for sure. And yeah, we have a very specific process for almost everything we do. Processes kind of have a little bit of human error or just makes it to where the next time you would come in, once you learn the way you do things, you just know what to expect and just get that little feeling of comfort.

So yeah, if you walk into our shop, the number one thing, we tried to create a complete different experience than what most people have in their mind. That’s probably going through your minds right now. You walk in through our glass doors and we got a nice, clean – our office. We bake cookies, believe it or not, right there in our entryway. So when you walk in, you smell freshly baked cookies and see smiling, happy faces. You come on in and we’ve got a little playroom for the kids so that those moms who are coming in, to check in, they can have the kids go create a ruckus in their little corner instead of hanging on to their legs.

I actually had my mom decorate my office, believe it or not. So it looks like mine or my mom’s family room instead of an auto repair shop with parts displays and whatever stuff that you guys don’t really care about.

Then the biggest difference for us is just the culture we have. Me and the other three in the office, we love what we do. We love people. We enjoy our job and we just have an absolute blast every day and then the fact that we’re so happy at work, we attract happy customers. So it’s just a totally different field in our office than what you would first expect. So that’s nice. So it’s nice to be in a warm and inviting environment.

Well then from there, if you’re new, you would only bring it either to myself or generally one of the advisers and then we walk you through the check-in process. We talk to you about your concerns and then we explain very thoroughly what to expect from us, what we’re going to do, exactly what we’re going to check, what exactly we’re going to charge, like right down to the penny, what exact time we’re going to call you or be done so that you’re not sitting around wondering. Everything is explained very well where communication is a big, big part of our process.

Kody: So thorough communication it sounds like.

Tom: For sure.

Kody: I know myself as a customer and those listening, I’m sure one of the biggest complaints that I have is that I don’t get fully explained. Communication is everything. I think in any business. It’s just that the more you feel in the know of things, the smoother things run.

Tom: Yeah, for sure.

Kody: Before the call, you coined a phrase. You said, “We don’t just fix cars. We take care of people.”

Tom: Yeah.

Kody: I thought that was cool. You ought to have that on – maybe you do have it on your wall somewhere. I don’t know. But that’s a cool saying. We don’t just fix cars. We take care of people. Myself and anybody else listening, we can sense that from you, Tom. I mean you resonate that you really do care about people. Where did that come from and how do you teach your employees as an example to do that?

It’s not easy to teach genuine caring. You have it. Where did it come from and how do you teach it to others?

Tom: Yeah. So I’m a firm believer in leading by example. So I’ve been blessed in my life. My dad is one of the best, caring people you will ever meet and obviously I’ve been hanging around with him for all my life. So for me, it’s easy because my dad is just a genuine giving person. You could meet him today and tomorrow, you could go ask him to borrow his truck for a week and he would hand you the keys and away you go.

So for me, it’s easy. I’ve grown up watching my dad take great care of people as well as I’ve had several other great mentors in my life. So it’s easy for me. I don’t know any other way. It’s common sense. I think we learned the golden rule in kindergarten.

Then for me, honestly I hire – here, we hired based off of a culture. You have to be a great person, number one. It’s ranked way above any skill you have. So if you’re not a good quality character that I’m going to enjoy working with for the rest of my career, we don’t even step into the whole interview process.

Kody: So you better have a smile on your face and a good – the interview stops.

Tom: Yeah, for sure, for sure. Having a good time is very important to me. I believe in setting goals and getting after them and really [0:08:17] [Indiscernible] your day. But you can do that and enjoy it at the same time and I’m big on that. I like to look forward to coming to work.

Kody: Yeah, that’s great. So you get a lot of referral business. In fact I’ve got notes down here that you get about 15 new referrals every month. You incorporated something a couple of years ago that doubled your referral base after you started doing it.

So you were already getting referrals before you did this.

Tom: Yeah.

Kody: And I think you were getting referrals based on – you have a good experience when you come to your place. It starts with walking in the door, freshly-baked cookies instead of grease and that kind of thing, and then good communication. So you’re already getting referrals. But starting about three years ago, you incorporated a follow-up system that doubled those referrals.

Could you walk us through exactly what you do to follow up?

Tom: Yeah, for sure, for sure. I can even tie in for you kind of how that relates to more referrals. So yeah, so you come bring your vehicle to me for service and we get you all done. Great. Your life is back online, because I know for a fact that when I have your car all day, your whole day is disrupted and it’s tough.

So the first thing you want to do is just get your car picked up and head on home and not have to think twice about your car. So step one, we always send a little quick survey to your phone the day you pick up your vehicle just to give you a quick, few questions to see if there’s anything else you’ve got questions on or if there are any concerns you have, why that’s top of mind.

Then the very next day, we actually sit down and go through our invoices and we actually just send out a simple thank you card in the mail that just says – just a genuine thank you for coming in. You know, I appreciate your business kind of thing. That comes to you via the mail and that usually shows up to you about a week down the road when you’ve probably started to kind of forget about your auto repair guy because there’s a lot of other things that rank a little higher in importance than thinking every morning you wake up, “Oh, I wonder what Tom over there at Shadetree is doing.”

So I found that us sending that genuine thank you not only is the correct thing to do. But it also helps us because about a week down the road, they’re like, oh wow, this is awesome. Not only do they do a great job with my car, but look at this. They sent me a thank you in the mail and then they’re more inclined to – I usually prompt someone that are more inclined to keep you top in mind a little more and then speak of you a little bit more to their friends and families and neighbors and we’ve directly related it to pretty much doubling our referrals over the past three years by using that system and there’s no better compliment to me than somebody trusting me enough to send somebody to me.

Kody: Now I notice you got a couple of those cards behind you. Do you mind just grabbing one of those? Show us what you send out and what’s on the inside of the card.

Tom: Yeah, yeah. So on the front, I hope you can see that. Just a genuine thank you. This looks like a normal thank you card. On the inside, just kind of a quick, general note. Thank you for coming to see us. Your continued support for our local business is very much appreciated and then most importantly we got a good-looking picture there with me and a couple of my favorite people there.

I need to update that because we’ve added somebody to the team. But yeah, just a genuine simple thank you. Believe it or not, I don’t handwrite that. But it looks personal and just a genuine thank you. You know, since I’ve started using this, I’m such a fan of it, that I convince a lot of people I do business with to try it. So I get excited when I get these in the mail too.

Kody: That’s great. So I’ve noticed in there – and I think this is really important. You said you’ve more than doubled your referrals since you started doing this.

Tom: Yeah.

Kody: It didn’t look to me like you asked for a referral in that card. Do you ask for referrals or do you just say thank you?

Tom: No. I think – I’m a firm believer in the thank you being a genuine thank you. To say thank you and then oh by the way, give me – they’ve already given me their trust to come and see me. There are plenty of other places that they could have gone and spent their hard-earned money. So just a genuine thank you. It’s very important to me that that’s all it is. I don’t like to ask for more than what we’ve already gotten.

Kody: Well Tom, you naturally incorporate a principle that we teach in our seminars all over the world. It’s a concept that we say, “Don’t ask for the referral. Deserve it.” You just naturally do that. You deserve the referral from the time they walk in the front door, all the way through the process, to how you follow up with a genuine thank you card.

Sometimes you send gifts along with the card. So you’re a great example of that. It’s interesting that we need to teach people. We basically – what you’re doing today and what we do all day every day is we teach – we’re teaching people how to be nice to each other. It’s kind of sad that we have to do that in today’s world. But we kind of have to do that in today’s world.

So you’re an incredible example of that. Are there any final words of counsel or wisdom to a fellow automotive – a person of – just some things that you can do to be more genuine with your customer base?

Tom: Oh, gosh. That’s a tough one. I’m quite passionate about that. You kind of hit on it a little bit. I’m not just doing this to – what I do every day to build my business. I’m so passionate about it that I really am working over the next few years to like change our whole image of an industry as a whole. It’s kind of a lofty goal. I’m not sure what kind of an impact I can make.

But yeah, I talk to shop owners all the time. I’m actually going to travel around a few shops this afternoon after our interview because I’m just passionate about these good, hardworking people. But mostly just kind of take a step back and realize what we’re really doing. Customers, you guys have a choice to go and spend your money in tens and thousands of places.

You come to see us and we just got to remember we’re taking care of you. Your car is a by-product but you come to see me. My job is to make you know that your day – everything is going to be OK. I’m going to take care of it.

Kody: Tom, there’s an interesting concept that you have incorporated that a lot of people don’t understand. I like to coin this by saying a rising tide raises all ships. Because you want to elevate your entire industry, you’re part of raising the tide. Now your store is called Shadetree Automotive. You’re a ship that’s in the tide.

But by raising the tide, by raising the industry itself, your shop actually increases. I have people all the time saying, “Well, why would I get on and tell my competition the things that I do to be nice to my customers and generate referrals?” Because that would make more competition for them and what we teach in our seminars – and I think you fully understand is that’s not what happens at all.

If I can help my competition to be better – so if we can help the automotive industry to get a better reputation, you at your shop will get more customers. Is that right?

Tom: Oh, yeah, for sure. We don’t even have competition honestly. I mean there are more cars driving around right now out past – the road past me than I could ever service or any of the shops around me service in a day. So yeah, sometimes we get a little narrow-minded. But we’re going to change that. It’s already getting better. You know, I’m blessed. We live in – the area I live in Davis county. Obviously I’ve biased on this, but just great people around here and honestly, we’re doing a pretty good job already in comparison to the rest of the nation that’s working well together. But we could definitely do even better.

Kody: Absolutely.

Tom: We will.

Kody: Well Tom, we sure appreciate your time. We appreciate you being on here. Wealth of information you provided for us today. For those of you next week, we’re going to do something unique next week in our Relationship Marketing Weekly. I’m going to hold a Relationship Marketing Course.

It’s going to be about 15, 16 minutes long. I’m going to give you some content that we teach in our Master Relationship Marketing Courses. It’s going to kind of tie the last 12 episodes kind of together including some of the things that Tom shared with us.

I’m going to summarize in about 15 minutes. It’s going to be a PowerPoint. So you will see some visual presentation to go with it. You want to tune in to that because it really – and you want to get your customers. This is what you want to get your customers to tune into because we – we’re trying to elevate everybody’s profession. That’s what we’re trying to do.

You’re doing it on automotive. We’re trying to help every profession to elevate because one thing I’ve noticed is that every profession needs help. The automotive profession needs help because the reputation is low. It’s low in insurance. It’s low in real estate. It’s low everywhere because generally speaking, people in those professions, it’s their livelihood. Their focus is on making money.

In the automotive, the focus is on fixing the car, not on taking care of people. We’re going to show the world how to change that. We’re going to show the world how to take care of people first and then everything else is a by-product of taking care of people and that’s kind of what we want to convey.

Listen, let’s bring the human race together in kindness. That’s what we’re all about. We appreciate everybody who tuned in today. Tom, thank you once again for the time you’ve spent with us and we will see you all next week on Relationship Marketing Weekly. Take care everybody.

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