|The shop today.|
“We use a third-party company that contacts our customers post-repair and asks them about their service. They answer a series of questions and then have the opportunity to add comments. With the permission of the customer the company posts the reviews online. Good or bad, they are posted,” Waller adds.
“With a tremendous amount of consumers basing their purchasing decisions on online reputation this has been a major focus for us. We cannot afford to give poor service, because this is one of the main ways we attract new customers. It has been really important, because over the last several years we are seeing more referrals because of our online reviews,” he observes.
“We also re-designed our website and added an online estimate portal. This has been a great way for us to create a touch-point with new customers. We are the only shop in our area with this, so it has really helped us stand out. I would definitely recommend it to shop owners looking for a way to differentiate themselves online.”
Social media sites have been utilized with considerable benefits as well. “Facebook has really been a positive marketing outlet for us,” according to Waller. “The biggest success was when we started doing a throwback Thursday picture: People loved it, especially since so many of the people from our community have relocated after the Hurricane. We were blown away by the comments that people were leaving.”
Free touch-up kits are provided along with key chains, pens and other branded advertising specialties. “Recently we started to ask customers if they would like us to order the kit from the dealer since it will last longer. We order the kit and also offer a free touch-up whenever they notice a chip. Pass by the shop on a sunny, dry day and we would be more than happy to do a touch-up. So far we have gotten a really positive response and we are considering making it permanent,” Waller says.
“We have also wrapped two vehicles with our logo, locations and website,” he adds. “Since we have team members driving to different shops daily it has been an excellent rolling billboard. We also drove one of the vehicles in a parade, and it was a great way for us to get out in the community and get our name in front of people.”
Wages on the sly
While the 33-year-old partnership between the Fradellas and Waller began in 1982, Fradella’s roots began taking hold several years earlier in a tale of two Al Wallers. The late Al Waller – known as “Big Al” while Al Waller is called “Little Al” – was the vice principal at Chalmette High School who established a vocational education program in cooperation with an area body shop. Mike Fradella and his cousin Dave Fradella both took part in the endeavor, eventually going into business together.
As Little Al entered high school, Big Al was concerned that his son had little desire to go to college. It would have been considered a conflict of interest for Little Al to participate in the training program (Not necessarily just for Body Shops) that Big Al developed, so Big Al approached his former students – Mike and Dave – and asked if Little Al could come and work at their shop while Big Al paid his son’s wages on the sly without him knowing about the arrangement.
“My Dad continued to pay my paycheck the entire time I worked there,” Little Al recounts. “He would pay Mike, and Mike would pay me. I don’t think he ever knew that I knew he did that – Mike told me years later.”