Auto-matic customer service

Posted by on Mar 7, 2012 in Featured, Print Article | 0 comments

Mooresville Auto and Tire

By Elaine Whitesides

On a snowy weekday morning the phone doesn’t quit ringing and there’s a steady stream of customers through the door. In the waiting area is a family with a child playing with toys while his parents watch TV and talk on their cell phones. A woman is tapping at her laptop keyboard in the light of a picture window while yet another woman cracks open a textbook.

Jon Brown and Tom Duh make sure customer service is their No. 1 priority.

Co-owners Jon Brown and Tom Duh tag team as they talk with customers about the problems they have come to share. Many who come in are greeted by name and those who come in as strangers leave having shared not just their names and problems, but a bit about themselves and their lives.

Doesn’t sound much like an auto and tire store, does it? Yet it is. The Mooresville Auto and Tire on Monroe Street not only provides customers with Goodyear tires, owners of just about any variety of motorized vehicle from daycare vans to boom trucks to passenger cars can get service for virtually any automotive situation or problem.

Observing the two owners interact with customers, employees and each other, it is obvious they are both people-centric. Brown says it makes a difference and Duh agrees, saying, “People are the center of our business. Without people we have no business.”

On an average day, the shop will service about 70 vehicles with one part-time and six full-time employees in addition to Brown and Duh. Of the employee roster, all but one has been with the pair since they took ownership in 2006. These owners see value in retaining long-term workers and take action to do that.

“We sponsor lunch every day,” says Duh. The kitchen is stocked with drinks and snacks free to employees. If those needs are met, he believes that people work better and harder.

All employees are salaried, which Duh says results in technicians taking their time and putting in the best effort on every job.

Every employee station has its own computer and diagnostic equipment.

“We do constant training,” Duh says. Employees are provided annually with about 40 hours of book training, formal NAPA training classes as well as on-the-job experiential training and informal sharing of industry articles and information.

“Employee education benefits customers and the business,” says Duh. “and if you keep people that means all the education you provide is not wasted.”

Technology plays a big part in this shop.  Vehicles today are more electronic with computers and have more maintenance items than in the past. It takes special scanning equipment and more time to diagnose problems. Each technician is provided state of the art scanners and a computer at their work station to make the diagnostic process as quick and efficient as possible. “This technology is awesome,” says Duh, as he explains that cell phones also play an important role.

Each job is quality-checked by Tom Duh before the customer takes it home.

“We all have cell phones and use texts, photos and calls to troubleshoot,” Duh says. “I supervise every employee in the shop and look over every vehicle before it goes out.” Because he is able to share information from one end of the shop when he is at the other end, it saves time and expedites everyone’s work.

Duh keeps an eye on overall operations too.

He says that being environmentally conscious is good; good for the environment and good for the business. By reusing oil to heat the building and recycling paper, plastic and cardboard it means less is going to the landfill and they save on utility costs, garbage and waste product collection. Plus, he says, it just makes you feel good.

The comfortable and welcoming feeling customers get when they walk in is by design, too. Duh explains that the focus on the customer side of the counter is on kids and families first, automotive second. “We cater to kids. There is nothing (kids) can get hurt on. We take dangers out of the equation.”

Mooresville Auto and Tire has been a Safe Place for kids for 5 years.

The facility is designated as a Safe Place where children can seek refuge if they need help. “We’re close to schools, always open and the Boys and Girls Club is right behind our facility,” Duh says. “Because we are this close to so many kids, it makes sense. We have been a Safe Place for five years.”

Customer service goes beyond a comfortable waiting room and baby changing stations. These owners say that if people like you at the counter and are treated nice and with respect; if customers know you won’t over-sell or under-sell, that builds trust and everything works.

“Once someone comes in and gets good service,” Duh says, “They bring in all their work.”

Jon Brown

Both men have been in the automotive industry for many years. Brown worked in auto parts sales and had even owned five Indiana NAPA stores in the 1970s. He moved to California for a time, but returned to parts sales in Indiana and eventually became manager of what was then the Mooresville Goodyear store. Duh was a mechanic and bought parts from Brown over the years at previous jobs.

When Brown decided to retire in 2005, he brought Duh to the Goodyear store as his replacement. However it wasn’t long before Brown developed a strong opinion about retirement. “I didn’t like it,” he says. He admits, laughing, that he was bored.

So when the owner decided to sell, Brown proposed buying it to Duh.

“Once we saw the opportunity and saw how we could grow a business,” Duh says, “it just came naturally.”

They have learned that Mooresville is a great community to have a business because of the people they have as customers.

Brown had already experienced business ownership and Duh says he knew he would since the day he was born because he isn’t a rule-follower. He says he likes to follow his own rules and he does not like to hear you can’t do something.

The majority of their work is servicing passenger vehicles, but Duh says 30 to 40 percent of their business is commercial vehicles. They also undertake restorations. “I never say, ‘No,’” admits Duh. “If you come up with something and it’s feasible, safe and legal, I can figure out how to do it.”

As published in the Morgan County Business Leader, March, 2012

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