THE SHOP

February '20

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42 THE SHOP FEBRUARY 2020 streamlines the workflow and tracks and builds your business, is really the stan- dard. It's not always attainable— but definitely is the standard. Regardless, the concept of standardization is important, from forms to processes. CAMPOVANS Sid Beck, GM at Cam- poVans, says about 50% of the Santa Barbara, California- based shop's work is building camper vans that serve as multiuse work vehicles. The company's founder has ties to the construction industry, which led to creating more and more custom builds for professionals. Who are your main work truck customers, and which main product categories do they cover (racks, lifts, ADAS, bedliners, toolboxes, etc.)? Sid Beck: All of our clients dip into a large pool of product categories, from custom racks and bumpers to interior storage areas for tools and full lift kits and wheel well expansions. What role do automotive aftermarket wholesale distributors play in your busi- ness/securing the right products at the right price? SB: We've had a few wholesale distribu- tors reach out to us in the past, but because most of them have a minimum purchase price you have to meet in order to be added to their distribution, we have ended up just creating personal relationships with the companies themselves, eliminating the middleman. What steps do you take to maintain your relationships with your professional cus- tomer base? SB: A large percentage of our client base has come through social media. We have three outlets for online marketing (Insta- gram, YouTube and campovans.com) that send people an online form that they fill out and we send them an email response. We try to be as engaging as possible through email, because we genuinely want a personal relationship with our clients. Quick response times are a great way to get to know someone and help them though the process of building a custom rig. The smaller piece of our client base comes from word of mouth and personal relationships in Southern California. What methods have you found effective in attracting new customers? SB: We have grown a reputation for being responsive and helpful in our online inter- actions. This speaks volumes to how we communicate throughout the build pro- cess and is something a lot of people have appreciated and shared with others on the internet. This reputation attracts new cli- ents to reach out and want to work with us. Along with positive client interactions, keeping our social media accounts and web- site constantly moving with new photos and videos attracts tens of thousands of new viewers to our work every month. Please provide a general outline of the steps involved in completing a work truck-related project from start to finish. SB: We start with a base vehicle. The client purchases the van from a dealer with all the factory options they want and then it is delivered to our shop. We then move ahead with all the behind-the-scenes work of sound deadening, insulation and wiring while our client finalizes color options for cabinetry and walls. Once the bones are completed, we upholster wall panels with specific colors/ textures chosen by the client and build custom cabinets fitted to the client's specific needs. All the finishing trim pieces go in, final electrical and water tests are done, the exterior components are installed, and we hand the keys to the client 6-8 weeks later. What's the most challenging aspect of serving work truck-related customers? SB: Storage space. How can you fit 20 sheets of plywood inside your van while not having to remove your bed, galley cabinet, fridge cabinet or passenger seats? The answer is that you have to solve the puzzle—one of the best parts of the job. What's an unexpected benefit you've found working with these customers? SB: Our clients love sharing their experi- ences with us. Oftentimes we get to see cli- ents using their rigs to their full potential. We just had a client pass by our shop with a full load of 2x4s for a house he was building and nothing about his build had to be taken out to accommodate all the boards. In fact, he could have spent a week in the desert—totally off-grid—with those 2x4s in his van and nothing about his camping experience would have been compromised. We also love seeing clients use their rigs for serious off-roading. We often receive photos with their vans on the edge of a cliff, with two wheels balancing in the air halfway up a Jeep trail in the Sierras, or on the beach camping for a few nights in Washington. We always share these photos with our guys in the shop, and it brings us a lot of fulfillment in what we do. What's your advice for shops in other parts of the country looking to service a professional audience? SB: Respond. People deeply appreciate professional customer service and fast response times. If someone sends you an email, respond that day. If someone calls your shop and asks a question, get the answer for them right then and there— don't put them on hold. If a client is on the fence about working with you, invite them to your shop and give them a tour, have them meet the crew. People love connecting with other people, not just a business. STEFANIE GALEANO-ZALUTKO heads up Zalutko Business Services and has been free- lance writing across multiple industries for more than 10 years. Visit the company's Face- book, Instagram and LinkedIn pages for more information, or contact her directly at szalutko@zalutkobusiness.com to learn more about client services. WORK IS ITS OWN REWARD Many fleet customers own the newest truck and van models, allowing shops to park the latest and greatest out front while gaining valuable hands-on experi- ence regarding OE advancements. (Photo courtesy Warn Industries)

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