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As Matt Allen, owner of Virginia Auto Service in Phoenix, puts it, what makes this shop good is not about having a fancy waiting room with gourmet coffee.
Actually, he says the waiting area is very small and there is no gourmet coffee. But that’s OK, because he’s meeting the customers’ needs. They don’t wait for their vehicles to be finished, so funding is directed toward tools to make technicians better rather than amenities for the shop. The majority of the shop’s customers commute, dropping off their vehicles and taking advantage of Virginia Auto’s shuttle service.
“It wasn’t necessarily the business plan, it just turned out that we just don’t have customers that wait and we’ve never really had the request for all that kind of stuff,” Allen says. "We still have WiFi available for the few people that do wait, but it’s just kind of worked out that way.”
The shop provides free transportation for customers, most of whom accept the offer to the office areas surrounding the shop. In addition to the shop’s custom-wrapped Scion, it also offers loaner cars customers can take advantage of. And when they pick up their vehicles at the end of the day, each has been washed with de-ionized water.
Allen says the free car washes started as a service for customers after a major service. He says they soon realized it’s what the customers wanted.
“And after some time, we found that in the heat here it’s difficult to wash cars and have them look good,” he explains. “That’s when we went to the de-ionized water so we can now wash cars and we can actually park them soaking wet and they don’t spot. We try to wash every single car, even if it’s just for a tire repair.”
Pleasing the Techs
Allen understands what it takes to make his customer base happy, but he also understands what his technicians want. He, like many others in the industry, started learning about cars when he was 12, following around his older sister’s friends. He moved to northern Virginia as a young adult and started working at a gas station fixing cars. After spending some time working on a race team, he returned to Phoenix with the chance to buy a shop of his own.