TURNING PANDEMICDRIVEN ADJUSTMENTS INTO PANDEMIC-FUELED INNOVATION IN 2021

Franchise Development

Christian Brothers Automotive reflects on the learnings and key takeaways from over the past year. 

By Michael Allnutt, Christian Brothers Automotive

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 a pandemic. Last spring, the initial onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought on a new level of complexity and uncertainty to nearly all businesses. Our operations model was put to the test, and now nearly almost a year into the pandemic, we’re able to reflect on the learnings and takeaways from the last year.

Adoption of new technology prior to the pandemic set us up to succeed.

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 point-of-sale software that we had been using for over 16 years. Upon the realization 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 point-of-sale system. The new system, called Tekmetric, offers 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. Utilizing Autotext.me, our service teams are able to keep our guests updated throughout the entire repair service process by using a tablet, which 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 the Digital Vehicle Inspection, or DVI for short. The DVI 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 that guests can see exactly what is going on with their vehicle without ever having to leave their house or business, which has turned out to be a major differentiator for automotive repair during the pandemic.

…our franchisees have been more innovative than ever.”

Systemwide agility cannot be achieved with a one-size-fits all approach.

At the start of the pandemic, Christian Brothers Automotive was in a unique position. Because our shops have remained open as an essential business during COVID-19, we have been able to continue to service 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 the more impactful initiatives was adding the concierge service of complimentary pick-up and delivery. While we’ve always offered courtesy shuttle rides, we knew that there was no better time than now to implement this service for our guests. This is something that we have always wanted to do, but lacked the time and focus to do it well. Many of our franchisees welcomed this service with open arms, knowing that the innovation would improve shop performance and the overall guest experience.

Franchisee support and leadership play a major role.

The investments we made as a brand into new technology prior to the pandemic and our operations protocol have certainly positioned us to fare well during such a turbulent year full of uncertainty. However, the secret ingredient to our strong performance through the past seven 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 — it’s a testament to why we’ve never closed a shop. In fact, we have a 1:2 ratio of Home Office members to franchisees to ensure the proper resources and support to yield franchisee success. 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.

…the secret ingredient to our strong performance through the past seven months boils down to the people who make up our franchise system and the commitment they have to creating the best guest experience possible.”

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.

Now in 2021, we’re able to reflect on the learnings and affirmations of the last year as well as the adjustments made and apply them into our system’s operations model moving forward. 

Michael Allnutt is the vice president of operations at Christian Brothers Automotive. For more information and franchise opportunities for International Franchise Association (IFA) franchisor member Christian Brothers Automotive, visit franchise.org/franchiseopportunities/christian-brothers-automotive.