Walking into the serene, peaceful waiting room at Frank’s Mercedes Service in Henderson, NV, one would think that it’s a laid-back business. But, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Owner Frank Scandura and his dedicated team of top-notch techs are one serious group. Serious about their business and adamant about upholding this statement: There’s never been a car in for service that we couldn’t fix. A bold, but accurate, statement one that’s backed by the training, expertise, and proper tools and equipment to tackle even the toughest jobs, fix vehicles right the first time and deliver value beyond customer expectations. That’s the Frank’s Mercedes Service promise on every job, every time.
“There is no such thing as ‘we can’t fix that’ at Frank’s Mercedes Service,” confirms Scandura, who’s very proud of the team he’s assembled. “I’ve got the best crew I’ve ever had the best crew in town. I’ve got people waiting to be hired, to come work for us. And, to me, that is such an honor,” he continues.
Specialization also sets Scandura’s shop apart. The shop focuses on Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, VW and Jaguar, and while his techs are all ASE-certified (with four being ASE master-certified), Scandura empowers them to provide expert service by giving them the tools and equipment they need to do their job. “No one can be an expert on every car out there. By concentrating on a few makes, we can have dedicated equipment to correctly service them,” he contends.
The techs at Frank’s Mercedes Service are well equipped to handle any job, with everything from hybrid-compatible A/C machines, to a drive-on alignment rack, (that allows the shop to fix the $49 alignments done by other shops), to current, factory-level scan tools and test equipment for the European nameplates in which they specialize all laptop-based for portability to duplicate concerns during in-car testing.
And those jobs at this full-service shop run the gamut from electrical to suspension, to air bag systems and tires, and the techs even act as a liaison for their customers when body repairs are needed. Not to mention that the shop is a state-licensed Smog Test and Repair Station. This allows repairs up to $450 to be taken into consideration if a customer’s car fails a smog test. The customer can then apply for a waiver from the state of Nevada to register his/her car for another year. Only emission-related work from a state-licensed shop, such as Frank’s Mercedes Service, is recognized by the state. This opens the doors for referrals from shops that are not so equipped.
Plus, with Frank’s Mercedes being a Bosch Service Center, Bosch training is readily available for its techs, as is various on-line training that’s cost-effective and convenient.
Return on Investment
ASE-master certified with the L1 certification, Scandura credits his background as a technician with giving him a “grassroots appreciation” for having the right tools for the job. “A lot of shop owners don’t keep their equipment updated and maintained. They see it as an expense; I see it as a return on investment,” he explains.
“You can’t afford not to have the right equipment,” Scandura continues. “And, if you charge a customer a fair and reasonable fee when you use it, then it’s only a certain amount of cars before it pays for itself.”
But, the right equipment doesn’t always mean it has to be brand new, explains Scandura, who keeps his eyes open for good equipment that’s gently used, as a means to curb expenses without sacrificing quality. “We took the time to take everything apart to clean it up so it looked good when we opened,” he continues. In business since February 2001 at his Las Vegas location, Scandura opened his Henderson shop 10 years later in February 2011. There are 13 bays between the two locations.
The work environment is just as important to Scandura as is the caliber of his equipment, which is immediately evidenced by the well-lit, very welcoming shop atmosphere. “All the walls are white, and we use high-output fluorescent lighting fixtures. It’s easier for techs to do a good job in such a setting and anything I can do to make their job easier, also makes them more productive.”
Also boosting productivity and profitability is an efficient workflow system, access to repair information and a commitment to using only highest-quality parts. “We use the best parts available to minimize wasting the techs’ time with high-failure and ill-fitting parts,” explains Scandura. “A clean and well organized shop also helps. And, all techs have access to the shop management system and all information systems.”
First Impressions Count
Beyond expert repairs that are done right the first time, customers are well taken care of even before any work is done on their vehicle.
“Customers are at ease when they walk into a professionally decorated and clean lounge area. At times, we will walk a customer through the shop so we can show them what we’re working on, the clean environment is noticed and I’m sure it comes up in conversation when they talk about us,” remarks Scandura. “We’ve had customers tell us that our waiting area looks better than the dealerships in town. That’s very nice to hear. I try to model my business after what I think a customer would expect at the dealership, and then over-deliver. That alone separates us from other independent repair shops.”
Scandura is also diligent about booking a reasonable number of cars per day, as a means to ensure customer satisfaction. “When you’re over-booked you’re under-delivering. One slight disappointment equals a customer not returning,” he says.
But, when customers are totally satisfied with their vehicle repair experience, they tell others, as Frank’s Mercedes Service knows all too well with it benefitting from word-of-mouth advertising in a big way. “We send an e-mail to all customers after a service visit and ask them to review us. That lets me know how we’re doing.
“I believe if we’re not getting large amounts of referrals from our existing customers, we’re doing something wrong,” Scandura explains. “I also believe our advertising will start conversations that lead to someone saying ‘Sure, I’ve heard of Frank’s Mercedes Service, they do good work.’ We also use direct mail, billboards, radio and print. Social media is next.”
And, then there are all those little extras that really add up in the customer satisfaction department. “We give all customers a free oil change for every referral. We hand-wash every car, install seat covers and floor mats (at the time of write-up so customers see first hand that we want to protect their car), verify all repairs and offer a three-year/36,000-mile warranty. Plus, we provide free WiFi, complimentary soda, water or coffee, and complimentary shuttle service without mileage limits.
“We’ve all heard the phrase ‘no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.’ When you really care (I mean REALLY CARE), your customers will trust you, and when they trust you, they will purchase from you and tell their friends.”
Tech Recruitment & Retention
Scandura uses two recruitment avenues to find techs. First is word-of-mouth advertising, as techs recommend former co-workers and others in the field. Second, is a solid relationship with the College of Southern Nevada. “They have a great automotive program and I’ve hired several students and then provided the needed training for them to excel here,” explains Scandura.
Tech retention is also top of mind, as Scandura knows the value of keeping key people as it relates to a shop’s success and customer satisfaction. “We’re closed on Saturday so our employees can spend the weekends with their families,” says Scandura. “When I ask an applicant who has chosen us (they called or sent a resume) for the #1 reason they want to work here, the answer is ‘an improved quality of life.’”
Scandura says turnover is non-existent because he treats his techs like peers and appreciates them. “I realize this is a dangerous environment and these guys make sacrifices to fix someone else’s car so that I can earn a living,” he continues.
Customers also appreciate low turnover. With cars coming in for service only every 10 months now on average, says Scandura, it makes customers more comfortable about the repair experience if they see the same faces when they return almost one year later.
Raising the Bar
Scandura and his team are doing a lot of the right things, and it’s his no-nonsense, back to the basics way of running his business that has earned him a good return on his investment. As he puts it: “To be successful today is not very much different than a number of years ago. For us, it’s always doing the right thing, even when no one is looking. By always putting the needs of the customer first, we find the money always follows. It’s very easy to do a good job. Find out what your customers need and then give it to them.”
Article courtesy of SHOP OWNER magazine.