PartsTech Repair Shop Highlight - Northtown Auto Clinic
We recently sat down (virtually) with Erin Hall of Northtown Auto Clinic to talk shop as part of our new interview series highlighting repair shops across the country. Join us as we discuss industry trends, COVID-19, and what it takes to be successful in this business.
Tell us your name, the name of your shop, and a little bit about your business?
My name is Erin Hall, I'm the co-owner of Northtown Auto Clinic. We are an 11 bay shop with 4 and a half technicians (My co-owner Brett Crawford is an ASE Master Certified Technician and doubles as a front counter person.) We do everything mechanical under the sun, electrical, diagnostics. We tackle pretty much everything but bodywork for all makes and models.
How long have you been in business?
Northtown Auto clinic has been in business since 1982. My co-owner Brett has been here since practically day one. We took over ownership 2 years ago in 2018.
How long have you been a PartsTech customer and how does it change the way you order parts?
We’ve been with PartsTech since 2019 when we switched our shop management system. It definitely helps us reference different prices and availability on the parts that we’re really familiar with.
For instance, if we’re looking for a Motorcraft plug it makes it really easy to bounce back and forth and between Factory Motor Parts and NAPA and see who has the brands we’re looking for in stock and at what price.
It’s also really nice because [PartsTech] has that direct integration into our shop management system. That way I can really keep track of where those parts are coming from when I'm working on 5 different vehicles.
What does it take to be successful in this business?
Patience, with staff and with cars. That and really good communication with those around you. You also need flexibility for all of the new and unusual technologies, and the new and unusual ways cars are breaking nowadays. You need to be flexible with the problems that come about, and you need to be able to communicate what you need properly, both to your technicians, and to your customers.
In your opinion what are the biggest challenges facing the industry right now?
We’re always going to have technician shortages and new technologies, that's just part of the game. As someone who was not in this industry previously and has grown into it, I would say the biggest challenges that a lot of shops face is coaching, managing, and being able to communicate properly with your staff. When it comes down to it the biggest challenge I see is training and maintaining those staffing choices and giving staff an opportunity to grow instead of hiring and rolling over staff constantly.
How has COVID changed the way you do business?
There's less face to face time with customers. We essentially closed our front office to the public and locked our front door. We’re sanitizing cars and trying to keep a good safe distance from everyone.
Everything that we do is via phone calls, emails, and texting. Luckily our shop management system is really great with helping us connect with our customers that way. Everyone in our area has been very accommodating and understand that we’re a small business and we’re trying to keep our staff safe and keep them safe as well.
What’s one thing you do better than your competition?
One of the things that we’re really proud of is that we offer a lifetime parts and labor warranty on some of our repairs. So essentially, no matter what, if that fails we’ve got you covered. For example a water pump. When we put a new water pump in, we cover it for the lifetime of the vehicle. So long as the customer keeps up with their maintenance. It doesn't matter if you're in the middle of Kansas, or right down the street. We’re going to get that water pump taken care of if it fails. I think that’s something that really no one in Kansas City is doing, and we're really proud of it.
What does a great day at the shop look like?
A great day at the shop is whenever you don't have to have a lot of patience. Everything is going smoothly, and cars want to be fixed. A great day is also when you’re just able to help a customer easily. They recognize that you went through a good effort to help them and you’re able to make their day a lot better.
Do you have a favorite make to work on?
Honda and Toyota, Just because they just don't seem to break in unusual ways. They seem to just break in normal ways. Brakes, tires things like that. So those are definitely some of our favorites to work on. You just know what to expect, unlike say a BMW or even a Jeep that just decided “I think I’ll come up with a new COVID-19 to get sick with today.”
On parts, do you look for the best quality available or the best value?
It’s a little bit of a mix, but for the most part, we lean toward the best quality available. Again, with the lifetime warranty we offer, we’re going to make sure that part lasts as long as possible. For that reason, we’re typically going to go with the higher quality part unless it's otherwise requested.