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(left to right) edgar merino, marsh gluchow and mike townley stand before a granite sign that announces to the customer, owner marsh gluchow's home and cell phone numbers are on the wall for all to see.valley motor center's customer restroom rivals those found at spas.a neat-as-a-pin waiting area leaves a favorable first impression on customers.valley motor center's other store also serves as a geico claims center.A refreshment station complete with free beverages and candy is a customer favorite.It takes a lot of guts to put your cell phone and home telephone numbers on the wall in your front lobby under the heading, “Please Complain.” But Marsh Gluchow, owner of Valley Motor Center in Van Nuys, Calif., wouldn’t have it any other way.

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“Customer care is what I talk about most with my employees,” said Gluchow. “We get lots of customer letters, e-mails and phone calls, and I answer every one of them personally.”

The collision repair facility’s lifetime guarantee on repairs also hangs on the lobby wall in plain view, as does a statement against fraud. As if those things weren’t enough to put customers at ease, there’s a refreshment bar and a restroom that looks more like a Roman spa. The bottom line is that the customer’s first impression of Valley Motor Center is that it’s a clean and professional business, which might account for the shop growing from about $1.5 million in gross revenue in 1994 to nearly $10 million in 2008.

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Gluchow bought the business in 1992 knowing absolutely nothing about collision repair and, due to what he quipped were his “superior management skills,” drove it down to $113,000 per month in sales from $225,000 per month. Aside from his intense focus on the customer, he credits his later success to his involvement with the Coyote Vision Group and industry consultant Elainna Sachire.

Gluchow, 72, meets with his management team every month to review issues and analyze the previous month’s sales, cost of sales, gross profit, overhead, depreciation and interest, taxes and net profit. Quarterly reviews lasting four hours are conducted at Glachow’s home on weekends, with cell phones turned off and no other interruptions.

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As far as Gluchow is concerned, there are four things his shops need to focus on: the vehicle owner, the insurer, the vehicle and the shop’s employees, who he also considers Valley’s customers.

“Even though our mantra is ‘customer care,’ which is the engine that built our business over the years, by far the most important of those four things is our employees,” Gluchow said. “They’re our most important asset. Our most important asset leaves Valley Motor Center at 5:30 p.m. every day, and it’s our job to motivate them to come back the next day.”

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It seems as though Valley is doing a good job at that – Gluchow can’t even remember the last time one of his employees left for another shop.

“I went back about seven years in our techs’ personnel files and couldn’t find anyone who had left, so I stopped looking,” he says.

As far as vehicle owner customers go, Gluchow believes that every one of them should leave his shop saying “wow” over the service. And he empowers every member of his staff to make sure that happens.

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“The receptionist and everyone else are encouraged to fix any customer problem on the spot,” he says. “I tell them to not go looking for a manager because then the customer has to explain his or her problem all over again. ‘Fix it!’ I say, instead of letting that customer leave unhappy.”

At a Glance

Shop name: Valley Motor Center
Owner: Marsh Gluchow
No. of stores: 2
2008 gross revenue: $10,405,000
No. of employees: 56-58
Production sq. ft.: 27,750
DRPs: 13 (80% of sales)
Avg. cars per mo.: 422
Average RO: $1,975
Avg. cycle time: 11.6
CSI: 99.2 (over last 12 mos.)
Advertising budget: 2.1% of sales

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