Auto Service World
Feature   September 1, 2013   by Tom Venetis, Editor

Meineke Car Care Centre

Vaughan location showcases the strength of customer service, honesty for building a successful service operation

You might think that the automotive service industry has no relations with the food and beverage industry; they are poles apart and an owner and operator of a successful service operation would have nothing to learn from an industry that specializes in breakfasts, lunches and dinners.

The reality is that there is a lot that can be learned from the food and beverage industry, says Cam Campli, who with partners Andrew Jackson and hockey-legend Wendel Clark, operate the newly opened Meineke Car Care Centre in Vaughan, Ontario, located on the busy Highway 7. Campli who had some years earlier been in the food and beverage industry, knows how important customer service is in maintaining long-term customer relationships. He was often disappointed in the quality of customer service he found in automotive service operations and he came to believe that many sales were lost because of it.

When he decided to embark on a new career as an operator of an automotive service operation, he put customer service front-and-centre. This new location is, in fact, his second Meineke operation. He has another successful Meineke Car Care Centre in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Campli, Clark and Jackson plan to open two more operations in the near future.

One of the first things Campli put a premium on is educating the service writers and technicians on how to speak with customers.

“We have to remember that most people don’t understand our (technical) language,” he says. “I really emphasize to our service writers and technicians that they should not speak to a customer as if they are another mechanic or an engineer.”

This will cause a lot of unnecessary frustration for the customer and the service writer or technician who will soon be speaking past each other. Campli has service writers trained on how to translate what technicians have discovered about a vehicle to the customer in a clear and concise manner and how to produce an honest and understandable estimate for repair and maintenance work.

The end result is a relationship built on trust that leads to a customer’s long-term commitment with the shop and its staff.

“We had a person come in with an exhaust issue on their Saturn,” Campli says. “But when we put the vehicle on the hoist, we noticed some other issues with the tie rods and ball joints. We told the owner that we could repair the exhaust, but these issues were much more critical and needed to be addressed immediately. Yes, if the exhaust goes, it is certainly inconvenient for the vehicle owner; but it is not a safety issue.

“However, we said that if one of those other critical components fails it becomes a very serious safety issue. When we explained this, the owner not only did the exhaust work, but immediately let us do the tie rods and ball joints, and we aligned their system as we had to replace the tires that had worn due to the problems we discovered.”

Campli sums-up his business philosophy this way: “I will not sell you a service job that you don’t need. I will prioritize all the work to give you the most honest and fair estimate, and I will make sure your experience here is of the highest quality from the moment you step in through our front door. That is why I put such a high premium on things that others may find trivial. For example, greeting the customer when they come in through the door and saying you will be meeting with them shortly. Some might say that having the customer wait for a minute before you greet them is not a big deal, but for the customer, that minute feels like ten minutes. It feels to them as if an eternity has passed — and customers do notice those little things.”

Even keeping the shop floor clean and organized at all times is something that gets noticed. Campli says he has customers telling him they send business to the shop because they are impressed not only with the excellence of the service, but on how clean and organized the service bays are.

That commitment to customer service is apparent when one steps into the waiting area. It is a large space, decorated tastefully with plenty of natural light, comfortable chairs and workstations with computers and wireless connectivity. Several large-screen televisions grace the walls as well as a framed Maple Leafs jersey of Wendel Clark. The waiting area allows a view into the large, six-bay service area.

Duane Arbeau, vice-president and general manager with Meineke Canada, says he is very excited about the approach Campli, Clark and Jackson are taking with the location. Only a few days after opening there is an ever-increasing number of new and repeat customers coming into the bays. Arbeau sees this shop as a model for how Meineke is approaching its growth plans for Canada. The plan is to have 40 franchise operations by the end of this year, up from 20 in 2006. Meineke plans on having 100 operating in Canada within five years.

“As we evolve with new franchisees, we are encouraging them to visit operations such as this one to find out how to put into practise exceptional service standards and what makes for exceptional customer service,” Arbeau adds. “This is a beautiful location and many of the elements that you see here you will see at the last eight Meineke centres that we opened. We are trying to build a brand in Canada that is based on relationships as opposed to transactions. If you can do that right away, it pays off. And to do that, we are looking for franchisees that have a high level of business acumen, energy and communication and leadership skills, like what you have here with Campli, Clark and Jackson.”

Arbeau, Campli and Jackson are excited to be working with Clark who is not a silent partner in the business, as some might expect from a well-known celebrity. He is very hands-on and consults daily with the staff and works on business strategies with Campli, Jackson and Arbeau.

“When I played in the National Hockey League I always took pride in leading by example and having a strong work ethic,” Clark says. “I see the same commitment with Meineke and the franchisees. The most successful teams that I played on were ones that had a solid game plan. I like the Meineke game plan.”

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