Training Today's Customers

Jan. 1, 2020
New Hampshire shop focuses on training in the bays and in the parking lots.
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Training comes first at Precision Imports in Manchester, N.H. But unlike some shops, owner Dick Horan makes sure not only are his employees properly trained, but customers are as well.

Each year, the European, Asian and domestic auto repair facility hosts two Porsche tech sessions to educate customers about various Porsche issues. Horan says it started as a way to get to know the people in the Porsche Club, but has become an annual event.

“We do it every year and people look forward to it. It’s basically an education session,” he says. Trainers vary between industry recognized experts to himself.

Horan adds that by educating customers, no matter what type of vehicle they drive, they are better prepared to authorize repairs and recognize their importance to their vehicles. And before they can train and teach the customers, the technicians themselves must be taught through various training classes.

“I think today’s customers require certification. I think they actually look for it. In all of our ads and displays in the lounge, we always proudly display their certifications,” Horan says. “The funny thing is we have a complete wall that’s dedicated to plaques for certification. And we probably have stacks of them in one of the cabinets that we don’t have room to put them up on the wall.”

The shop has five Master Technicians with L1 designation, two of whom also are Bosch master techs. Bosch Training School and ASE testing are offered to employees at no cost to them, as is service advisor training.

“I want them to know that we are committed and the better they understand things, the easier it is for them to repair automobiles,” Horan says. “I started the company with this mentality. A former employer of mine was chairman of NIASE, which is the forerunner of ASE, and I was really impressed with how he did things. He always paid for training. I just continued that.”

Using Training
Employees are kept up-to-date in the shop with monthly meetings, and by utilizing computer terminals in each bay. These terminals all have access to Alldata, Shop Key, iATN, Bosch ESI, Porsche Technicians group and the Internet.

“They use is constantly,” Horan says of the techs, adding that they also come to him with ideas for streamlining the process. The same is true of making sure top of the line equipment, and factory-based diagnostic tools for MBMW, Volkswagen, Jaguar, Porsche, Audi, Mercedes, MINI, Mazda, Land Rover and Ford.

Horan helps transfer this training and these ideas beyond his shop to local students at the Technical College of Manchester and the Manchester School of Technology, a local high school. He is active on boards for both schools, and is a graduate of the technical school.


“My old service manager is the department chair and head automotive professor. I just think they do a good job,” he states. “I want to be involved and I want to be able to contribute to making these people smarter. All boats rise with the tide. I just feel it’s important. If you want your field to grow and go somewhere, then you have to contribute. You can’t just keep doing nothing.”

He hosts students through the high school’s job shadow program, working with two students each spring. “If somebody is thinking about doing this for a living, they actually can come into the shop, check it out and say, ‘This is cool’ or ‘Gosh, I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life.’”

He has had people come back after shadowing and going through the college to work for him. There are others who are service managers and who own their own shops.

“It makes me feel good, because I know I had a hand in steering them in that direction,” Horan adds. “Now they’re not just old students, they’re peers and we talk, which is nice.”

Staying in Touch
Communicating with the rest of the industry in his area is important, but so is communicating with suppliers and customers. Shop staff keeps customers apprised of the status of repairs through phone calls from the service advisor, but also through e-mailed estimates that then are discussed over the phone or in person. Customers also can schedule appointments and request estimates on Precision Imports’ website.

In addition to that communication with customers, the supplier relationship is strong. Much of this work stems from when Horan realized he needed to make a transition to better his own shop, now in its fourth location, a state-of-the-art facility built in 2003.

“At one point in time I was working very hard. I had 10 full-time technicians. We were bringing in a lot of money and we were spending a lot of money and I just wasn’t making any money,” he says. “I realized that if I’m going to make it in this business, I’ve got to become a smarter businessman. It’s one thing to be an excellent technician, but it’s a totally different animal to be a good businessman and actually be able to make money.”

So he revamped some training and has solidified relationships with his suppliers. A good part of parts are ordered online, but they speak with the suppliers daily. The full communication on any problem is in place through values Horan has instilled in his management team.

“All of the management team here are empowered to make their own decisions,” he says. “Everybody that works here has been here long enough that they know what I would do in a given situation and they usually are pointed in the right direction when I’m not here. My feeling of a good manager is the place runs the same whether they’re there or not.

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