STAUNTON, Va. — Federated Auto Parts Inc. has developed a training seminar designed to assist its Federated Car Care Centers affiliates and other automotive service customers in reaching younger consumers. The new program—called "Connecting with the New Generation of Auto Repair Customers"—is designed to help dealers improve customer service by "applying new and proven techniques," specifically those dealing with social media, the company said. Federated Vice President Mike Allen said that significant changes are happening in the automotive service market, and the new generation of motorists has different expectations in regards to customer service. "Given today's rapidly advancing technology, there is no doubt that social media plays a very important role in connecting with the new generation of auto repair customers," he told Tire Business. "The same basic techniques that have been used in the past to perform outstanding customer service will now be taken to a higher and more strategic level to maintain communications through new mediums. "Sites such as Yelp and Facebook have a tremendous force-multiplying effect that can have either a positive or negative impact on business," he said, "and we felt it was of paramount importance to inform and support our service provider partners in the area." Mr. Allen said it is important that repair facilities look into alternative ways to communicate, such as texting, email blasts and social media. The program, he added, is designed to give service providers a better understanding of "what it takes to stay ahead in today's ever-evolving marketplace." The instructor-led program is meant to "facilitate a great deal of interaction and allows participants to better understand the behavior of different demographics and age groups," Mr. Allen said. The program, he added, is by request and features an in-person, 90-minute seminar, which includes interactive examples of best practices used by other companies. The training was developed for owners and service advisers/writers of Federated Car Care Centers locations, but Mr. Allen noted it is also available to other "progressive auto repair facilities" that are Federated customers. "Many of our members have an active training schedule with their professional customers, and this program is designed to be integrated into those efforts," he said. Mr. Allen said so far customer feedback on the program has been "very positive." "I think it is critical to comprehend the impact that social media is having in business," he said. "...Clearly, there are shops today that may have doubts about the importance of this media, but a quick visit to Facebook or Yelp will confirm the need to utilize all the tools available. "Social media offers the opportunity to dramatically improve customer connections and retention levels along with the ability to acquire new patrons." To reach this reporter: wschertz@ crain.com; 330-865-6148.