Auto Service World
Feature   October 1, 2007   by CARS Magazine

Fifth Ave. Auto

Garage of the Year Finalists

Six bays, two technicians and one apprentice

Door rate: Variable door rate ($55-$95), depending on the job

Web site:

Members of the BCAA, Better Business Bureau and Canadian Independent Automobile Association

The first thing people notice when walking into Fifth Ave. Auto in Westbank, British Columbia, is how clean the shop is. Not just clean, but spotless. The reason is both owners, Kevan Springford and Don Robertson, make sure a professional cleaning crew comes in each weekend and on Wednesday evening to clean the shop. This includes not just the six bays, but all common areas, bathrooms and offices. This is a sign of the respect which both men treat not only their business and employees, but also their customers as well.

One customer was so impressed with the shop and its professionalism, he offered to come and work for Kevan and Don.

“He made us an offer we could not refuse,” Kevan said in an email to SSGM. “We would train him to be a service advisor and after we trained him, we would hire him. (He) has been training here full-time since April, 2007 … and he feels it is one of the best things he has done.”

Both Don and Kevin believe the key to a successful independent service shop is having service advisors who are trained to act as ago-betweens for the customer and the technician. A well-trained service advisor can put the often daunting technical information a technician has about a vehicle, into language a customer can understand. At the same time, a good service advisor will also help educate that customer in the importance of regular maintenance and book the next appointment right away.

“Customer education is about 85 per cent of the job,” Don added. “That is why we prefer to use the term ‘service advisor’ instead of ‘service writer.’ Service writer sounds like a menu taker.”

Along with training their service advisors, Don and Kevan invest in regular training of their two full-time technicians and apprentice. They are sent to the monthly ACDelco technical training courses and they pay for the courses.

“This is mandatory,” said Kevan. “If a technician is going to work here then he or she must attend regular training.”

Kevan and Don have also invested in management training as well for everyone in the shop, taking the ProShop course from T.A.C.T, for example. As well, both believe in investing in the future of the industry. Don is the current chairman of the Okanagan College apprenticeship program advisory committee and a member of the federal apprenticeship steering committee.

Kevan believes a critical issue facing today’s industry is making sure independents do a better job in communicating with customers.

“What you want to do is give people all the necessary information to make a correct decision about their vehicle,” said Kevan. “And whatever price you give them must include everything, such as shop supplies, recycling charges and taxes, for example. What comes out of their pocket must, in the end, be what you told them and you have to be able to explain why that is the case.”

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