A Vital Branding Lesson from an Auto Garage

I think every Christian Bros. garage looks the same: like the multi-car garage of a multi million-dollar mansion.

There are few things I dread as much among my official duties as “man of the house” as taking the car in for service. I am clueless when it comes to most things auto-related. Having been raised by a single mom during my formative years, a love or affinity for things like cars, sports and the like were never instilled in me at that tender age. So, when I take a car in for repair, all my “Man Cards” get checked in at the door.

So all last week my car has been making this high squealing noise. Probably not a good thing. The first place I took it too was a tire shop I’d been to before. Engines weren’t their specialty so they referred me to another shop. The second shop was backed up with work and I’d have a long wait. I wasn’t too crazy about waiting there as I had a lot of work (they didn’t offer any kind of shuttle service) Kind felt like the lobby of “Sanford & Son” anyway. I went to a third shop close to my home. To be frank, I always get kinda nervous there. The proprietor is a large fella with a heavy southern accent and parked in the car lot is a large truck with a Confederate flag on the front license plate (to be fair, I don’t know that it’s his car, and he’s always nice enough when I’m there.) They looked at the car, told me the rack and pinion needs to be replaced and it would cost $650 (I have no idea if that’s a good rate or not). While I was waiting, he was talking with his buddy about how the boss at the last job he had pissed him off and there was some comment made about wanting to shove some kind of hammer up his a–. Not the kind of conversation I thought the proprietor of a business should be having in front of another customer. But, who am I to judge?

I decided to hold off on the work to get a second opinion. My wife had told me a couple of times about Christian Brothers Automotive because it was a referral to a friend. (Of course, I don’t ever remember her telling me.🙂 I checked them out online and was intrigued. Naturally, being a Christian myself, I was encouraged by the name (the founders were friends together in Sunday school). I was further encouraged by their faith-inspired mission statement. But beyond that, their whole website instilled confidence. It was a relatively decently designed site (compared to other auto garage sites). Had lots of smiling faces, and the testimonial page for the garage near my house was a mile long. So I brought the car in.

STANDING OUT FROM THE CROWD

Christian Brothers garage.
You could eat off the floor of the Christian Brothers garage.

Okay, this is where it gets more interesting. The first thing I noticed when I drive up is that it doesn’t look like a typical auto center. The garages were designed more like the garages you see on an expensive mansion. When I looked inside them, they were actually clean! Then I walked into the lobby (it’s actually where I’m typing this blog post because they have free wifi). It looks more like the lobby of a high-income real estate office. Hard wood floors. Oriental rug. Mahogany tables. Crown moldings around the windows, doors, and ceiling. Ornate lamps. A small fridge stocked with free water bottles. A glass brick counter with wood counter top. Home-like wall art. A fragrant aroma. A leather couch and matching love seat. And a bathroom as clean and well-decorated as any in a fine home. I still can’t believe I’m sitting at an automotive center. Oh, and they are actually friendly. Most automotive garage people I come in contact with look miserable and sometimes make you feel like you’re taking up their valuable time.

There are a number of valuable take-aways for every service oriented business:

  • Instill trust: research has shown that the trust-factor is the leading reason most clients choose any service-oriented business. What do you do to instill trust in your prospects? If you’re charged with capturing a precious event, or creating an effective promotional video, what evidence can you show that you can get the job done, and done well? Are you getting testimonials from past clients that you can share?
  • Look different: do you look like everyone else, or does everything about you stand out. From your website, to your studio, to the work that you create.
  • Warm environment: is the environment where you meet your prospects (whether it’s a studio, office, or your home) designed to delight the senses. Is it neat, clean, lawn cut (if applicable), and does it smell good. Do you offer “tea and crumpets.” Furthermore, are you friendly and inviting?
  • Mission statement: do you have a mission statement that encapsulates the essence of your business. Something that you, your employees, and your clients can use as a barometer for the kind of service you provide?

In the end, the front-office guy went over all the issues with the car. He broke it down into what really needed to be done and what could wait. He admitted he wasn’t the cheapest place to get some of these parts, and their quote for the rack and pinion was higher than the other place. But he also said that it wasn’t crucial for me to get it right now as long as I keep the power steering fluid filled. (The guy at the other shop never bothered to tell me that). Not once did I ever feel like “You better do all this work or your car will explode” (which is how I feel sometimes when talking to other garages).

I’ll most likely bring the car back for much of the work. I am willing to pay more for their service because of the trust factor and experience I had. And since this leather love seat is so comfortable anyway, I could sit here all day and write blog posts if I had to.🙂

What are some of the things you do to make your business stand out from the crowd?

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