Shop of the Week is a weekly column devoted to showcasing the efforts of automotive shops and their teams across Canada. Want your shop to have a turn in the spotlight? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org!
From left to right: Matt Thompson, Cameron Humphrey, Kevin Marentette, and Craig Steward (automotive service technicians) and Madelaine David (service manager).
Name: Kevin Marentette Shop Name: Powassan Auto Service Location: Powassan, Ont. Number of employees: Five Opening date: November 2010 Specialty: Electrical diagnostics and computer programming, Subaru performance upgrades Main parts supplier: CarQuest Auto Parts
What has been your biggest challenge as a shop this year, and how did you navigate through it?
KM: The biggest challenge we have faced this year, as with most automotive shops, is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. We have introduced a lot of new safety procedures and protocols necessary to adhere to the guidelines set out by Ontario Public Health. To ensure proper physical distancing and capacity restrictions can be met we have worked hard to stagger appointment start times and removed more than half of our waiting room chairs.
We are still able to accommodate our our customers but limiting the traffic at any given time is important to ensure our customers feel comfortable and safe when visiting our shop. If our customers are not comfortable visiting the shop we now offer contactless drop offs and pick ups as well as increased acceptance of Interac e-transfers for payment. Each customers appointment is given additional time to allow for proper cleaning/disinfection of the vehicle before and after repairs. In addition, enhanced cleaning measures of the shop and equipment is also completed throughout the day.
What is your biggest success story this year?
KM: With the local and provincial governments urging consumers to “shop local” and support local economies, we have experienced a large increase in new customers from our area who were unaware there was a full service automotive repair facility in their town. The feedback from these customers has been incredible with many returning and referring family and friends.
How has COVID-19 impacted your business?
KM: We experienced a drop in business in the middle of March as news of the pandemic spread and shutdowns began. With the timely implementation of safety protocols we were able to ease our customers concerns and resume pre-pandemic levels of work. We had long been discussing purchasing a new service counter to compliment recent upgrades to our facility and COVID-19 gave us the required push to move forward. We installed a custom built 13′ long hardwood and steel service counter to greet customers as they are welcomed into the shop. Not only does it look amazing but the full length safety glass shield certainly helps the customers, and staff, feel comfortable during face to face interactions. This gives us more floor space for better traffic flow, organization and greater work productivity.
What kinds of digital technology are you currently using?
KM: We use an online scheduling system for appointment booking and management. Every service bay is equipped with its own laptop allowing the service techs to easily review their appointments and manage any potential concerns quickly as their day progresses. Having each bay equipped with their own access allows for physical distancing of staff within the shop. This year, we implemented a digital menu board displayed on a large screen television in our customer waiting area.
In addition to the menu board it also cycles through pre-loaded graphics and short videos about important repairs and seasonal maintenance advice. We also make use of a virtual vehicle program on the shop tablet that uses shot .GIF files to assist customers in understanding the importance of different repairs that we have recommended to them. We have always accepted Interac e-transfers as a form of payment but have seen a sharp increase in customers utilizing this service in the past months. We use IdentiFix, a vehicle repair data program which gives online access to industry service information. We also use online computer and module flashing programs.
If you could see one change in the aftermarket, what would it be?
KM: Currently, we are having difficulty with accessing parts for our customers with RHD (right hand drive) vehicles. It is hard to acquire parts for these cars in a timely fashion and with shipping oftentimes delayed the issue has only been magnified. We would love to have more suppliers offer a selection of replacement parts for these vehicles.
Tell me an interesting fact about your shop?
KM: Our location was originally built and opened in the late 1940s as a location for a family run business called Whittakers Garage who sold and serviced International Harvester tractors. The building has a strong history and presence in our community. It’s always been important to us to carry on a reliable and trustworthy family run business in this location. Powassan is a wonderful small town and we look forward to being a part of this community for many years to come.
Name a part or product that your team is enjoying this month?
KM: We encounter many amazing parts and products in our day to day work but if we had to choose one, Duracell batteries have been performing exceptionally well. Given the harsh conditions we experience in the north, they have proven strong over the last month. We carry a full line of Duracell automotive batteries and customers are pleased with the two year warranty they offer.