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The Heart of a Top Shop

Curry's Auto Service gets today's repair and service, keeping inspections at the center of its philosophy.
Monday, November 29, 2010 - 00:00

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On a fairly regular basis, technicians, service writers and other employees will perform a task at Curry’s Auto Service that makes the owners go, “They get it!”

Just like the employees at the Chantilly, Va., shop get it, so do owners Matt and Judy Curry. They get what it takes to be a successful shop, implementing new ideas and technologies on both the management and technical sides of the shop. The fact that they get it shows in their shop, making Curry’s Auto Service the 2010 Motor Age Top Shop.

But at the heart of the shop, and one of the first ways they get it when it comes to service, is the shop’s dedication to inspecting every vehicle that comes through the bay. Working with the customers to develop long-term plans ties together the business and technical sides of today’s shop.

The Currys go beyond inspections to really work with their employees, constantly training them weekly on various aspects of the business and service, and offering profit sharing. They take the time to physically show customers their vehicles and what needs to be done, also using photos to illustrate these points. They’ve built marketing around being certified Female Friendly, and have bought their technicians some of the best equipment out there.

Curry’s Auto Service gets it, and they make sure their employees get it, too.

Inspection Plan 101
All of the training ties into the core value of the shop: Curry’s Vehicle Inspection Program. Each customer receives this vehicle snapshot to help them understand not only what their vehicle needs and how repairs affect it, but also that the staff is an advocate for the consumer.

“The heart of what we do is we inspect every car. If you bring your car in for an oil change or a brake inspection, whatever it is, we look over the whole car for you,” Matt Curry says. “We do that as a matter of a service we offer to our customers. That’s how we go to market.”

The thorough vehicle inspection covers everything from brakes, belts, hoses, steering, filters and fluids down to the radio knobs and dashboard appearance.

“Sometimes it’s the little things like that. Think about the little things that are irritating about your car. When you bring it in, that’s an opportunity for us to help our customers help get everything in their car working,” Judy Curry explains. “If we notice something and we say, ‘Oh, Mr. Smith, we noticed this knob is broken,’ they may say ‘Oh yes! I’ve been meaning to get that fixed for years!’ It’s as simple as replacing something like that. It’s something we take pride in.”

Matt Curry says the program has been a key part of the shop since the day it opened its doors, March 16, 1998. Both Currys believe it is the proper way to treat their customers. But while they perform the complete inspection from tires to antennae, they also understand the type of economy today’s customers work in.

The list of repairs is prioritized for each customer, and service advisors talk with the customers to create a long-term plan of how they will treat their vehicles. “You want to be able to have the real conversation with the customer. This is what you need now. You’re going to need $2,000 or $3,000 worth of work over the next year as we can see it,” Matt Curry elaborates. “Now you don’t need to do all of it now, but we need to make a decision on how we want to move forward. Do we fix the car now? Is it time to get a new car? We want to give the customer options based on his needs.”

It ties in with vehicle safety, and priorities to keep the vehicle safe on the road and ready to handle the type of driving the owner does on a regular basis. Judy Curry adds that it’s done to build a better relationship so the shop employees can offer the right advice for the right customers. And Matt notes that some shops might be afraid to take on this inspection, but it’s important to build good relationships and also for the safety of today’s drivers. He says it’s just a matter of training your customers. His wife agrees.

“We’re trying to get them to understand it’s a service we’re trying to provide. We’re auto experts,” she adds. “When you bring your car in, we should be able to catch anything that you didn’t. They should be relying on us to tell them everything about their car. We want to make sure we look at the vehicle thoroughly when they come in. Based on what we find, we can work with the customer.”

That attention to detail is what sets Curry’s apart from competitors in the Washington, D.C., area, and is reinforced weekly in the shop’s training.

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