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Auto repair shop mixes unlikely combinations to build customer loyalty

Wednesday, November 22, 2017 - 09:00
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My college-age niece, Sydney, is one of the 80 million millennials who regularly use their smartphone for nearly everything – including the search and review process for auto maintenance and repair. At the same time, many Baby Boomers and Generation Xers still crave the human touch that goes hand in hand with a more personal experience.

One San Francisco-based leading Prius specialist, Luscious Garage Hybrid Auto Care, is successfully bridging the generational divide by combining a peaceful environment with leading-edge technology.

Four blocks south of restless Mission Street, I entered their sunlit service bay entrance, which resembles a meditative sanctuary instead of the stereotypical manly, iron-beam-and-concrete-barrier setup typically guarded by a growling service writer.

Gina, the shop manager, cheerfully escorted me around this open space, which could easily fit seven cars. Beneath clusters of vines, which freely dangled from the ceiling rafters, I enjoyed the soft music that filled the shop and studied the tubes of colorful wires and other electrical boxes neatly stored for future use. Recycling is valued in this purposeful world, and nothing is dumped on shelves randomly.

While in-shop safety for the customers is a priority – protecting clients from runaway electrical currents and keeping the immaculate floor clear at all times – I marveled how freely one car owner stood behind a tech, who was crouching into the cabin of her blue Prius. Meanwhile, another customer looked at the tools prepared to fix his car, including a red, rolling tray full of engine parts and a green collection bucket ready to capture the used motor oil.

None of the shop employees seemed anxious to shoo away the customers, who were clearly welcome to observe the work in progress. But just in case customers have enough of watching actual car repairs, everyone can enjoy full access to the in-house library, which contains a healthy sampling of intellectual literature.

Software technology reigns unobtrusively here at Luscious Garage. Customers may begin the service repair journey from the convenience of their mobile devices or on the oversized monitor on the kiosk, where Gina paused to explain to a customer what the diagnostic trouble codes meant. Quietly, she planned the maintenance treatment for his four-door Toyota, which was parked a few feet from them. Then, with a finger swipe authorized by the customer, the car was ready to be serviced by one of the five techs, who are electronically assigned to complete the work orders at their designated stations. Tied into the mobile device or computer, customers can actively track the repair progression.

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