With only four locations in the suburban Chicago area, Duxler Complete Auto Care might at first appear to be a small fish competing in a very, very large pond.
But the family-owned dealership has built a band of loyal customers as solid as the work it guarantees.
Although the company was established in 1920 by the Duxler family, the Moak family has been running the operation since 1983.
“My Dad (Glenn Moak) bought the company in 1983, so next year is our 30th anniversary,” explains Brian Moak. “Basically when he bought it, it was one store and we’ve now broadened to four. He ran and owned the company by himself from 1983 through 2009, and in 2009 I bought the company from him.”
Prior to the 1983 purchase, Glenn Moak worked as an employee for Duxler for a number of years. To this day, the Moak family credits the Duxlers for a large part of their success and even kept the original Duxler name to honor the family and the customers who have trusted the brand for decades.
“It was something we decided to do for two reasons,” says Brian. “First, the Duxler name was so prominent in our area that we thought we might be losing something if we changed it. The larger reason is that my father felt so loyal to Woody Duxler for taking him under his wing, for teaching him and for giving him a shot, that for him it was kind of a tribute to that man and that family.”
Loyalty is a theme you see throughout the company, from the ownership to the employees to the customers, and Brian says the strong relationships stem from treating everyone as if they’re friends and family.
“We are like the ‘Cheers’ of the tire business,” says Brian. “When you walk in, we know your name, your significant other’s name, your kids and your dog. It’s not just about fixing your car, we are a relationship company.”
When it comes to helping customers, Brian says they avoid “sales pitches” and try to stick to the talking points that busy customers want to hear, such as how they can save money and how they can prevent a problem.
“I played in the tires since I was two years old, so I grew up on the same side of the counter,” says Brian. “I’ve never experienced being a (tire) customer, but I have experienced being a customer when the plumber or the electrician comes to my house and I know how it feels to have someone talk at you. That is the biggest pet peeve I have. We have a back and fourth conversation with our customers. We take them into the shop and show them what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”
Brian adds that they explain to customers what their cars could use now, as well as what they should expect over the next 3,000 miles or 6,000 miles to prevent expensive repairs.
“They want to know if they’re driving their kids to school or driving to work everyday that the car that they’re in has been maintained. It’s a lot less expensive to maintain a car than it is to repair one.”
Not only are customers getting an accurate report, they’re hearing the facts from technicians who have been in the business for years and have earned their confidence.
“I think what makes us different and separates us from the rest of the pack is that we have salary-based employees and we have employees who, once they’re here, don’t leave,” says Brian. “That’s our biggest asset and the thing that we care most about is the people who work for this company. In a way, this has become an extended family.”
Duxler Complete Auto Care has 49 full-time and four part-time employees, many of whom have been there for decades.
“Our oldest employee is coming up on 28 years with us, and the second oldest is coming up on 25 years,” says Brian. “People who come here stay here, and that’s the backbone of the company.”
To ensure their technicians are working with maximum efficiency, Duxler provides intensive and extensive training and the latest service equipment.
“We believe in making sure our people are as well-equipped as possible,” says Brian. “That means training and that means equipment, which means accessibility. Whatever they need, we really try to accommodate, whether it’s personal or business.”
In order to get new employees up to speed quickly, Duxler has a specific training method that has worked for decades.
“We start someone off with the basics and let them work side-by-side with experienced techs and, as they grow, we closely monitor their growth and we start giving them jobs that might be slightly over their capability level,” explains Brian. “Then, we tag on somebody who has the capability to do the job and they teach them. We call it the ‘Duxler way’ and it works really well.”
On a busy day, the four Duxler locations turn over approximately 200 cars on average, leaving no room for error.
“We do everything from tire repair and replacement to oil changes and even replacing engines,” says Brian. “A lot of our focus is mechanical service. We do about 35% tire sales and 65% service, and we’re high volume stores.”
Competing with the big box stores and price sellers can be difficult, but Brian says they’ve always focused on providing quality work and exceptional customer service.
“Our industry is not the ‘good ole days’ in the sense of when ‘word of mouth’ did everything for you,” says Brian. “In this economy, people want a deal. They’re looking at price and, a lot of times, stretching their budget. Sometimes price is more important than quality, and that has been a terrible hurdle for us because we have never been a price-driven place. We’ve always been fair, we’ve always offered exceptional value and we’ve always given customers the best quality product they can get at a fair market price.”
To stay relevant among the competition, Brian says they use a mix of advertising, marketing, public relations and community involvement.
“We own four stores and we’re part of four local communities, but we’re part of eight local chambers of commerce, we’re a part of Rotary Club and we’re a part of several other networking groups.”
Charitable work has always been a major foundation of Duxler, and each year the company involves itself in an array of charitable and community organizations.
“We have a handful charities that we make significant contributions to each year and we try to get as involved in everything as we can,” says Brian. “We sponsor baseball teams and football teams, and we recently sponsored a huge running race called The (Ricky Byrdsong) Race Against Hate, in which major corporate sponsors participate every year. We support a lot of women’s organizations and we sponsor conferences that promote women business owners.”
While each day provides a different set of problems to fix and customers to manage, Brian says they take the work seriously while trying to make the most of the day.
“People trust us with one of their most important assets and we take that very seriously,” he says. “But, we start off the day laughing, we deal with our stresses, we deal with our problem cars and tough customers, and we try and make light of everything that we can.”