The Best Ways to Keep Your Bays Full All Year Long

technician helping with customer retention in an effort to maintain full bays

For years, I dreaded the month of February. I would tell myself, “Brace yourself for the inevitable. Business in February will slow down, and there is not much you can do about it.” I would also justify the reasons why; February is a short month, weather conditions will keep customers away, people are paying off their credit card bills from the holidays, and heating bills will take priority over car repairs, impacting customer retention. 

Perhaps the biggest reason February was slow had nothing to do with reality, but with perception. Since I told myself that very little could be done to improve February, this became a self-fulfilling prophecy: What you believe to be true, whether it’s perception or not, often becomes reality.

Finally, after years of struggling, I changed my mindset; “February does not have to be a washout. There may be things out of our control, but that shouldn’t stop us from trying to improve.” I created a strategy called “Operation February.” After successfully implementing this plan to help sales during February, I used it to improve the highs and lows of business throughout the entire year.

In this blog, I will share with you the details of Operation February and how you can apply this strategy to help keep your bays full all year long and improve customer retention.


Control Your Schedule and You Will Control Future Sales

Future sales are heavily dependent on the customer’s experience. When customers have an amazing experience, it creates a memorable and pleasurable outcome. This concept is at the heart of what’s called internal marketing, which is what you and your employees do every day. Every part of the customer process, from scheduling to customer writeup, the sales process, and vehicle delivery, must result in a memorable, and pleasurable experience. This strategy is also a key component to high customer retention rates. And high customer retention rates equate to increased car count throughout the year.

Vehicle delivery is at the heart of customer retention. It’s the first step to your next sale. Discuss with every customer, their vehicle’s next scheduled service, any deferred work, and future repairs. Set the appointment dates for those services and create a process to ensure that your customers are reminded and return for those appointments, thus increasing car count.

Another tip is to use your schedule to maximize potential. Create a process to review upcoming appointments. Determine how many new customers are coming in, and how many of them are returning customers. For returning customers, check vehicle history to review any past declined services and deferred work. Have your service advisors prepare to discuss this at customer write-ups. For new customers, be prepared to wow them and welcome them!

One last tip on scheduling; if at all possible, review vehicle history with customers while they’re booking an appointment. So, if a customer is scheduling an oil change and tire rotation, review with them any recommendations from their last visit, and any factory services that may be due.

Taking a proactive approach to scheduling will increase billable hours, which will help to keep your bays full all year long.


Get Your Entire Team Involved

Every business goes through highs and lows. Your objective is to have a consistent car count throughout the year and to maintain sales and profits. To accomplish this, you need to get your entire team to focus on ways to increase potential for the times that are traditionally slower than others.

Have meetings with your staff to discuss what can be done to bump up sales during expected slow times. Remember, we want to brainstorm fresh ideas, so encourage everyone to speak up and consider all ideas. Collectively agree on the best ideas and implement them. Then see what worked, what didn’t, and what was learned.

Getting the team involved inspires and motivates everyone. This also creates an environment that improves morale by promoting the team concept. Having everyone pulling in the same direction will have a positive impact on future performance and can help encourage customer retention through all levels of your business.


Create a Consistent and Continuous Targeted Marketing Plan

If there is one thing I learned about marketing and advertising, it’s that it needs to be done on a consistent and continual basis. To launch an ad campaign during a slow period may be a wasted effort. Ad campaigns take time to develop and work. By the time your ad begins to work, your perceived slow time will be over. Maintain a consistent marketing and advertising plan throughout the year to encourage customer retention.

It’s also worthwhile using your business management system as a marketing tool. Each month run a report for customers that you have not seen in over a year. These may be lost customers, customers who have purchased new cars, or customers who are overdue for vehicle services and maintenance.

Create a process to contact these customers, through emails, text messages, postcards, or calling them by phone. You won’t get everyone to return, but I promise a good portion will set up appointments. And you may also find out why you haven’t seen them in a while.

Please be sure that your marketing strategy is targeting your profile customers. You don’t want to be a company that tries to be all things to all people. The best advertising identifies and markets to your targeted audience, which are also the consumers that become the most loyal.

These days, it may be difficult to create an extensive marketing plan on your own. Many marketing companies cater to the automotive aftermarket industry and do a great job. Perform your due diligence and consider a professional marketing company, and of course, discuss this with your business coach.


Maintain a Positive Mindset at all Times

Having a negative mindset can be more damaging than reality. Negative thoughts prevent you from thinking through and finding solutions to problems. A fixed, negative mindset limits your potential and will stunt the growth and the potential of the people around you.

Maintain a positive mindset every day. Let others know that you have faith in the future. That we, the entire team, are in control of our future. And while we cannot foresee every future outcome, having a plan to achieve excellence will allow us to reach greater heights. Sitting on our hands and giving up should never be an option.

Remember, as a shop owner, you have a responsibility to bring out the best in others. Identify the strengths and potential of your employees. Work with them and create an environment that allows them to grow, both in their personal lives and within your organization. Doing so will have a positive influence that will stimulate innovation and encourage your team to find new ways to increase overall team performance. This will go a long way in overcoming those so-called slow times.



As shop owners and leaders of your company, take a proactive approach to keeping your service bays full all year long. Establish your long-term goals, and communicate those goals to your entire team. Don’t accept that things are the way they are, and that change isn’t possible. Set a positive tone, which will encourage and motivate your team to create ways to improve future outcomes.

Taking a proactive approach is a familiar strategy at Elite. We know that auto repair shops are like fingerprints, and no two are alike, and the business strategies that we help you create are targeted to your specific needs. From our one-on-one coaching program, service advisor training, and our Pro Service peer groups, Elite is committed to your personal and business success.


Headshot of Joe Marconi

About the authorJoe Marconi – With over four decades of industry expertise, Joe is a seasoned professional whose accomplishments include owning and operating one of America’s most successful auto repair companies. A graduate of the Automotive Management Institute, Joe is a recipient of the CARQUEST Excellence Award, served on industry panels, and played a role in developing the ASE Engine Performance Certification test. As a former columnist for Ratchet & Wrench Magazine and co-founder of, Joe has been a keynote speaker at the Ratchet and Wrench Conference. After selling his automotive company in 2021, Joe now dedicates his time to giving back to the industry as a Top Shop 360 Business Development Coach with Elite Worldwide and serves on the board of directors for the Service Stations Dealers of Great New York. Joe, a Bronx native now residing in Patterson, New York, enjoys family time, community involvement, and pursuits such as tennis, golf, and woodworking.

© 2023 All Rights Reserved. Industry Affiliates

Privacy Policy