Redondo Beach, Calif.—Scott “Oz” Osborn, ASE Master L1 technician and co-owner of Osborn’s Automotive, started his automotive career in 1974 at a gas station while still in high school.
“I worked the graveyard shift, cleaning floors, workbenches, and restocking shelves,” he said. “And it’s been all automotive since then, including my first business around 1979, specializing in Sunbeam Tigers and anything for street racing.”
Osborn said he soon learned that maintenance and repair was a far more reliable source of income and stability than the customizing and racing field. So in 1986 he bought the first of four Union 76 gas stations with service bays between Redondo Beach to Sacramento.
“I ran those successfully for many years until 2002 when my wife Nancy and I bought our current location on Pacific Coast Highway, a 1,000-square-foot shop with three bays, and got rid of our last gas station.”
It may be small, but Osborn is quick to point out that there is plenty of parking. “Square footage comes at a premium in Southern California, especially along the beach. I pride myself on making every square foot count and providing quality service.”
Over the years, the shop has had steady growth, with annual sales reaching as much $1.25 million, an increase in car count, and more than 80-percent customer retention.
“Car count is up over last year and so is the average repair order,” he said. “When we switched to Repair Shop Solutions (RSS) electronic online inspections a few years ago, our average repair order was around $425. Last year it climbed to more than $600. That’s almost a 50-percent increase in average RO in just two years.”
Osborn attributes the 15-percent growth in the past year to a number of factors, with quality repairs and outstanding customer service topping the list, followed by aggressive marketing, proper shop management, and expanded services.
“In 2015 we started marketing our hybrid service pretty heavily, which is paying off,” he said. “We took on the name of ‘South Bay Hybrids’ at Osborn’s Automotive and have been using that avenue to push the hybrid services. We even created a second website for it that helps us get the message out.”
The shop is doing some aggressive customer retention initiatives including washing cars, phone follow-ups, free shuttle service, and personal reminders, he said.
Osborn has also changed over the shop’s website to Kukui, which he said has proven to be a huge success in tracking advertising dollars.
“With the Kukui system, we can tell exactly how our ads paid off for us. Their dashboard lets me see how many calls came in from each ad source, listen to the phone calls, and even see if it was a new or returning customer and what they spent. I learned that the money I was spending with one online ad company was a total waste, with zero return. That saved me over $200 per month getting rid of that.”
In addition to using Kukui for the shop’s website and follow-up emails, Osborn decided to take it a step further and do a lot of personal phone follow-up calls and setting of appointments.
“Along with the mileage sticker in the windshield, we just let the customer know that we’re going to be calling them when their car is due for the next service to set up an appointment.”
Recently, Osborn wrote a book for consumers titled ”Making Smart Choices - A Helpful Guide to Maintaining Your Vehicle,” which he said is helping position Osborn’s as the local experts.
“We’ve also expanded our TV commercials. We’ve tried real hard to make them something funny so the viewer will remember them,” he said. “We have two commercials now where I either lick the dipstick or fill a wine glass from the oil pan to ‘organically’ sample the oil and tell them what’s wrong with the car. I guess you just have to see it to believe it. They’re on our website too.”
The shop has been heavily into maintenance for years, but in the past 12 months, maintenance has increased another 10 percent over repair and diagnostic jobs.
“Maintenance is much more profitable than repair and it really is good for the customer,” he said. “If we keep this up, we’ll put roadside service out of business.”
Osborn also believes it’s important to always use the correct fluids and he buys a lot of OEM fluids from either the dealer or a local supplier.
“We use Completes Plus in Gardena as our number one supplier,” he said. “They have been there for me for about 20 years now and I know that if I really need something in a pinch, they’re the ones I can count on.”
Last year at AAPEX in Vegas, Osborn said he concentrated on finding updates for the shop’s six scan tools, including a new Toughbook with Toyota software, as well as making some strategic connections for his software business, RSS.
Osborn’s has been the winner of South Bay’s Best Auto Repair award for five years in a row. It is an AAA Approved Auto Repair facility, a Bosch Service Center, and a member of ASCCA.
Jaime Sanders, shop manager, has meetings with the techs every two weeks to go over their inspections and look at their habits, Osborn said.
“We strongly believe in watching the reports in our inspection system to see which techs are recommending each service and making sure nothing is being oversold or missed.”
If Osborn sees a technician recommending a specific item such as a brake fluid service more than 40 percent of the time, he knows something is wrong.
“Either the cars really need it and we’re not getting it sold at the counter or he’s recommending it based on false data, like time and mileage, only without checking the physical condition. That doesn’t work in my shop.”