How Covid-19 Proved the Strength of Christian Brothers Automotive's Operations Model
Rooted in our mission to change the way customers think about automotive service by providing knowledgeable, honest, and genuine car repair, Christian Brothers Automotive has remained committed to that goal, even in the midst of the pandemic.
Earlier this year, the initial onset of Covid-19 brought on a new level of complexity and uncertainty to nearly all businesses, including ours. Our operations model was put to the test, and now, 8 months into the pandemic, we know our model has passed that test. We are confident that the operations put into place before the pandemic, paired with our franchise system’s willingness to be innovative, led us to a record-breaking year.
New technology pre-pandemic
In 2018, we searched for ways to greatly improve our guest experience. One of the first decisions we made was to move away from the POS software we had been using for more than 16 years. Realizing that the software was no longer able to support our teams’ daily scheduling and management needs nor meet our guests’ experience expectations, our organization decided to switch to a new cloud-based POS system called Tekmetric, which offered far more versatility that streamlined operations, while simultaneously improving our ability to serve our guests to their satisfaction.
We continued to shift our car care experience into high gear through a new technology partnership with autotext.me. Now our service teams are able to keep our guests updated throughout the entire repair service process by using a tablet that provides automated text and email updates to guests on their vehicle’s repair status, repair recommendations, estimated completion time, and other critical servicing information. One of the key features of autotext.me is digital vehicle inspection, which enables our team members to rank the technician’s findings based on the urgency of the recommendation and, of course, safety. Each report also includes pictures and videos so guests can see exactly what is going on with their vehicle without ever having to leave their home or business, which has turned out to be a major differentiator for automotive repair during the pandemic.
At the start of the pandemic, the brand was in a unique position. Because our shops have remained open as essential businesses, we have been able to continue to serve clients in communities throughout the country.
Covid-19 has brought a lot of complexity and uncertainty with it – especially with a system of more than 225 locations across 30 different states, all of which have different mandates and policies surrounding their coronavirus responses. As franchisees have made modifications to their operations to meet the ever-changing needs of our world today, the training and support programs we already had in place set them up for a successful adjustment. As a result, our franchisees have been more innovative than ever. They began experimenting with different workflows, processes, and procedures.
One of our more effective initiatives was adding the concierge service of complimentary pick-up and delivery. While we’ve always offered courtesy shuttle rides, we knew there was no better time than the present to implement this service for our guests. This was something we always wanted to do, but lacked the time and focus to do well. Many of our franchisees welcomed this service with open arms, knowing that the innovation would improve shop performance and the overall guest experience.
Recipe for strong performance
The investments we made as a brand into new technology before the pandemic, along with our operations protocol, have certainly positioned us to fare well during a turbulent year full of uncertainty. However, the secret ingredient to our strong performance through the past 8 months boils down to the people who make up our franchise system and the commitment they have to creating the best guest experience possible.
Christian Brothers offers our franchisees and their team members more support than most franchisors, and that is something we take great pride in, and is a testament to why we’ve never closed a shop. In fact, to ensure the proper resources and support to yield franchisee success we have a 1:2 ratio of home office members to franchisees. We have an amazing team that provides marketing, recruiting, accounting, coaching, training, purchasing, and IT support, but our support does not stop with franchisees. We also have individuals dedicated to supporting our front-office service teams and our technicians.
Our franchisees are an innovative bunch and together, as a network, we continue to challenge the normal ways of doing business by always looking for new opportunities to better serve our guests and their teams.
Michael Allnutt is Vice President of Operations at Christian Brothers Automotive.
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