Auto Shop Coaching Blog

Your Competition Doesn’t Want You to Read This Post

“Having no competition is a bad thing. Competition makes you try to improve yourself all the time.”Shu Qi

Your competition doesn’t want you to read this post. Keep reading, and you’ll understand why.

I recently called three automotive repair shops at random and asked, “I’m new to the area and looking for a good shop. I want to do business with you, but my wife wants to use your competitor. What makes your shop better?”

The first shop I called was in the New York area. Michelle answered and responded, “Umm, uh, can you please hold?” Before I could respond, I was patched through to a voicemail where I couldn’t leave a message because the mailbox was full!

The second shop was in California. Jack answered the phone and replied in a deep, confident voice, “We’ve been in business for 20 years, we have ASE-Certified technicians, and we have state-of-the-art technology!” Compared to my last call, this was brilliant, so I felt better as I called the third shop in Ohio and spoke with Brian.

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Without any hesitation, Brian answered, “We provide a vehicle pick-up and drop-off service that allows you to keep working while we work on your car. We perform a free 65-point courtesy check and will email you pictures of what we find that’s good and what needs to be addressed. We also offer a 3-year 36,000-mile parts and labor warranty. This is the best warranty in the business, so you’ll be worry-free with our guarantee!”

Which shop would you have picked? If you chose Michelle’s shop, you probably wouldn’t be crushing your competition any time soon! My guess is that you chose Brian’s shop ahead of Jack’s. What gave Brian the edge? Unlike Michelle and Jack, Brian listened to the same radio station that all your customers listen to — WIIFM, which stands for What’s In It For Me? 

How Will You Solve Your Customer’s Problem?

I have some bad news. Your customers don’t care about you, your 20 years in business, your state-of-the-art technology, or your ASE-certified technicians. They do care about the specific benefits that will solve their problem.

The good news is that even if your competition has the same offerings, you can sell your benefits and get the business. That is why your competition doesn’t want you to read this post. So, how can you use this information to gain an unfair advantage in your market? Keep reading to discover two tactics to grow your market share and car count!

Define Your Brand

When I mention McDonald’s, what are the first words that come to mind? Words like consistency and convenience are the typical answers. If you’re traveling late at night in an unfamiliar area and must choose between McDonald’s and “Eric’s Burger Joint,” which would you choose?

Even though I make a great burger, have ASE-certified cooks, and have been in business for 20 years, McDonald’s would be the safe choice because they have defined their brand. You know you will get a consistent and convenient experience from McDonald’s.

What words come to mind when I mention the name of your shop? Answering this question is important because customers look for a safe choice when searching for a shop. To help define your brand, I recommend studying your 5-star internet reviews and looking for the common words that are used.

For example, you may notice that multiple customers describe you as honest, fair, convenient, and friendly. These are the first words that come to mind when they think of you. Your brand communicates the specific experience they will get and will make you the safe choice.

Dare to Be Different

I know what you’re thinking, “But Eric, we have a clean shop, offer a courtesy shuttle, and have great reviews. Why should I dare to be different?” Your customers expect these things and aren’t “wowed” by what they expect. As mentioned in a previous post, the “wowed” customer is twice as likely to come back, and three times more likely to refer you than one who is merely satisfied, so daring to be different can improve your car count.

ATI Fundamental #6 instructs us to go the extra mile. The top shops go the extra mile by delivering a wow experience. Most shops are focused on customer satisfaction which is the bare minimum. Since most shops are focused on doing the bare minimum, you will stand out from your competition by creating a wow experience.

For example, most shops offer a shuttle service. Brian’s shop, mentioned earlier, provides pick-up and drop-off service at the customer’s workplace. Most shops offer a 1-year 12,000-mile warranty. Brian’s shop offers a 3-year 36,000-mile warranty. If you had a relative traveling in the Ohio area needing auto repair, would you refer them to “most shops” or Brian’s shop?

I challenge you to schedule a meeting with your team. Ask them to name the specific aspects of your service that wow the customer and make you different in your market. If the response you hear is the sound of crickets, take it as an opportunity to brainstorm specific offerings that can separate you from the competition. After creating your list of wow experiences, be sure to revisit what you came up with at your future meetings. This regular review will keep these benefits top of mind and make it easier to communicate to your customer.

So, there you have it. Defining your brand and daring to be different can help you gain an unfair advantage against your competitors. When I call your shop and ask what makes you different, will I hear from you, or will I hear crickets?

Non-ATI Members: For more tips on achieving specific results and running a productive, profitable shop, check out our shop owner events at

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Eric, the Accountability Coach, is an Executive Coach at ATI and has coached since 2009. Eric came to ATI having managed over 60 different automotive repair facilities and having supervised over 500 employees at a given time. He loves seeing members progress beyond what they thought was possible and improve their shop to the point where they can leave for weeks at a time and come back to a business that's better than when they left.