Auto Shop Coaching Blog

How to Increase the WOW Count at Your Shop

"Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients."Richard Branson

Imagine that you’re a customer getting your car serviced at your shop. What are the first words that come to mind when you pull up to the curb?

What’s the first impression you get as you walk up to the counter? How do you feel after interacting with your service advisor?

Be brutally honest. If you weren’t the owner, would you enthusiastically refer your shop to your friends? If your first words, impressions, and feelings weren’t “WOW,” you would be unlikely to refer.

You have a low WOW count!

By now you may be thinking, “Great opening, Twiggs, but my issue is car count, NOT WOW count! That government shutdown has really impacted me!” (The fact that you’re STILL blaming the shutdown THREE MONTHS LATER, is a topic for a future blog post!)

Well, consider this: according to a recent service management group study, the customer who is WOWed is twice as likely to return and three times more likely to refer in comparison to one who is merely satisfied.

Your WOW count is impacting your bottom line more than you realize.

ATI Fundamental #11 states the following truth: “We‘re All In The Customer Service Business.” When it comes to customer service, WOW is the new satisfied!

You aren’t “WOWed” by what you expect! Here’s something you’ll never hear:

You’ve got to go to Eric’s Automotive. They greeted me at the counter, took forty minutes to change my oil and rotate my tires, and didn’t lose my hubcaps!”

While this is satisfactory, it’s FAR from a WOW! The key to increasing your WOW count is to focus on your most neglected customer: Your internal customer. To do this, I must first address “The negativity sandwich.”

The Negativity Sandwich

Early in my career as a shop leader, I would always deliver “the negativity sandwich” to my employees. For example, I would call my technician, “Tom,” to the office and begin with this statement: “Tom, I appreciate the fact that you’re always on time and that you’re always willing to stay late to help a customer.” (Positive)

I would continue: “BUT Tom, I really need you to do a better job of doing the test drives and completing the courtesy checks on every car.” (Negativity) I would then finish with, “Tom, you’re a valued member of my team, and I appreciate your efforts.” (Positive)

As you can see, the negativity was sandwiched” in the middle.

I was delivering “sandwiches” so much, that it felt like it was always lunchtime at my shop!

It was so bad, that whenever I said something positive, they knew the negative statement was coming! In their mind, they were thinking, “Wait for it, wait for it…”

Eventually, my employees ignored the positive opening and closing statements and only focused on the negative. Imagine having a shop where your people only focus on negativity.

How motivated would they be to improve your WOW count? The solution is to practice proactive positivity.

The Power of Positivity

Eventually, I came to my senses and started practicing proactive positivity. During my managers’ meetings, I gave out plaques to recognize the top performers in Gross Sales, Gross Profit Improvement, and Net Profit as a Percent to Sales.

I presented my manager, “Marco,” with his “Best Gross Profit Improvement Plaque” for the year and was concerned by his apparent lack of excitement after receiving the award. He never even cracked a smile.

Seven years later, after leaving the organization, I returned to his shop to have some work done to my car. As I greeted him in his office, I noticed something surprising. The plaque was still hanging on the wall above his desk!

When I mentioned it, he got emotional, and referred to that day as one of his best since joining the company!

Never underestimate the power of positivity. As you increase your WOW count with your employees, they will be motivated to pass it on to your customers.

The Benefits of Positivity

I challenge you to create a culture that inspires your team members to say, “I get to go to work,” instead of “I have to go to work.”

If every shop paid the same, offered the same benefits, and was 15 minutes away, would your employee still choose to work for you?

The service advisor who GETS to go to work will be inspired stay late to shuttle your customer.

The technician who GETS to go to work won’t leave for the day without cleaning his bay.

The Shuttle driver who GETS to go to work will radio in to let you know the name of the customer he’s picking up to allow you to greet her by name when she arrives. (For more information on the Concierge Service, click here)

The bottom line is that WOWed employees are more likely to increase your WOW count with your external customers!


There’s a time and place to start and finish your coaching sessions on a positive note. I GET IT!

The final challenge I leave you with is to consistently find time to communicate positivity that isn’t just a sandwich to cover a negative statement.

This will help to improve your WOW count!

P.S. Email to receive your Emergency WOW Count Checklist!

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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.