Recognized Quality in Auto Service
When you have so many options for servicing your vehicle, one shop getting recognized for particularly outstanding work carries a lot of weight. Auto Centre Dufferin in Shelburne is an AutoPro service centre, and not only has it won the prestigious SSGM Best Garage In Canada award, but across the nation, AutoPro also ranked at the top of the list in the recent JD Power and Associates awards.
Owner Steve Bowles opened up the 6000-square-foot, 9-bay service centre in 1998, and business has been steadily growing ever since. He now has a staff of 11, including four licensed technicians and an apprentice.
The goal has been to remain the best possible one-stop shop for anyone’s car servicing needs.
“We do maintenance, repairs, diagnostics,Rust Checks, tire care…” Steve rhymes off. “We’re an independent auto service provider with an AutoPro banner program, which is run by NAPA.”
His association with the banner program isn’t taken lightly. Along with being beholden to an international corporation like NAPA, Steve’s staff is regularly trained to arm them with information and insight into the most current technology available, which is regularly updated in the shop. All very good for keeping the company on the cutting edge of vehicle maintenance, but it doesn’t come without a cost: Steve closed up shop for three days in April while his staff was trained in Listowel. As a small business owner, Steve feels the cost of the combined training and no income over those days, but it’s a price he’s more than willing to absorb in order to give his customers the best possible results.
“We try to provide a very professional type of service when people come in,” Steve says. “Our staff is well trained, and we constantly upgrade skills. Everyone is involved with training from the front of the place to the back.” Not only are the technicians regularly trained, but Steve ensures that everyday courtesies are conveyed by his front-line staff as well, so that his clients have the best possible experience from the moment they step through his doors. People are invited to enjoy fresh coffee, television, and free wifi while they wait. “Customer skills are a very important part of the business,” Steve emphasizes.
It’s no doubt that the polished customer experience from Steve and his staff helped AutoPro affiliates top the JD Power and Associates rankings this year. The national measurement is collected from a customer service index, based upon feedback directly from customers. More impressive still, however, was the shop earning the 2008 SSGM Best Garage In Canada award: out of approximately 37,000 car service facilities across the country, Auto Centre Dufferin won for outstanding customer service. No mean feat, and Steve chalks it all up to his staff.
“The best thing I have to offer is the staff, no question,” he says. “They’re well trained, they care about our clients. Auto Centre is a total team effort.”
Auto Centre is open from 7:30am til 5:00pm – 4:30pm on Fridays to let everyone get out sooner – and is not open Saturday. Steve knows that the staff appreciates getting the time off to spend with their family and friends, adopting a “work on the business, not in it” approach to his scheduling. Furthermore, he closes up for an hour once a month for what he calls a “staff appreciation lunch.” Quarterly, he has just staff out for an evening; no family, just the Auto Centre team. “I have really great staff and I don’t take it lightly,” Steve says. “They’re there for me every day. That’s what makes the business successful.”
Further trust is put in his team by asking them to help him with any hiring decisions, and he’s certain it’s a more successful method than making the choices himself. “I’m not the one only one working with them,” he says of prospective employees. “Hiring the proper staff doesn’t just happen. When the staff is involved with the hiring process, mistakes happen less.”
Auto Centre sponsors local hockey and soccer teams, and Steve would like to see support of the community extend beyond teams and events and edge into the vehicle service industry as a whole. “I’d like to see people in the industry not be competitors, but working together.
We should support one another. We are professionals in a professional industry. We need focus groups, we need to talk to other shops about our experiences and work.” An earnest call to action from an award-winning shop owner who clearly knows how to run a business.
Written by Reay Jespersen