The customer is king in your body shop… or are they?

Does the insurance company dictate our pay rate and judge our cycle time? Does our boss sign the checks? Is it the manager of the dealership who agrees to send us work and who needs this car in a few hours? The pressure is high to get our job done right, and we often find ourselves under pressure to get the job done quickly. Ultimately, we need to remind ourselves and our team that none of these relationships and pressures would exist if we didn’t have the client.

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Real talk

When traveling, why do you like to stay in four or five star hotels if you have the choice? Is it because they are so much nicer? That’s certainly part of it, but I’d venture to guess that the main reason most of us like to stay in nicer hotels is the way the staff makes you feel. They might have the nicest decor, the softest pillows, and the most amazing amenities, but if the staff is inattentive and doesn’t take special care of you, I bet those wonderful things won’t mean as much. Hotel chains, restaurants, and high-end stores all know that the key to retaining a customer is how they treat them. Why are we different?

Maybe your store’s waiting room has folding chairs and wallpaper from the 60s. Your guests will care a lot less about these things if you make them feel like kings – like they’re yours. first priority. And again – they are… aren’t they? This customer is your biggest spokesperson. No matter who refers others to your store, no referral is stronger and more powerful than a past customer with a real experience to share. Nothing!

Don’t Tell Me – Show Me

Some of my shops really understand and understand that the customer is king. I know this from their actions – not from what they tell me. They will fight with the insurance company on behalf of their customers to get repairs done correctly with the correct parts. They will take the time to speak with their customer when they drop off their vehicle in a concerted effort to invest in that person rather than treating it as a deal in a thousand. They take the time to remember the customer’s name and greet them enthusiastically when they return to pick up their vehicle. They have already examined the vehicle before pick-up so that they can confidently hand over the keys to the customer and take a final turn on delivery. It’s authentic, it’s real, and it’s a culture that the shop has created because the owners really care. And that makes managers really care – which makes writers, CSRs, techs, and retailers really care. It’s the pride of their shop and the joy of serving that customer, no matter how long they have to go.

I’ve also seen shops that get so caught up in the body shop rush that they get lost. They are so busy sorting out insurance issues and getting the car through the shop as quickly as possible to meet deadlines that they lose sight of their true purpose: to serve the customer. In these stores, the best interest of the customer is actually of lesser importance. It may sound crazy, but this situation is more common than you might think. And if you’ve spent any time in this industry, I’m sure you’ve seen it firsthand.

Look in the mirror

This may sound intense, but this is a challenge from me to you: I ask you to look at yourself first. Who are you most concerned about when a car arrives at your store? If the answer isn’t immediately “The guest driving this vehicle,” chances are other employees in your store won’t respond that way, proving you’re missing the mark as a whole.
If your immediate answer to the question that worries you the most when a car comes to your store is “The driver of the vehicle,” but you see that your store isn’t following that thought process, look at your next one in line. What/who is their highest priority? Where the “buy-in” ends is where your problems begin. The solution may be a consistent and intensive retraining of your staff, or it may be something as drastic as replacing your employees. But you have to do whatever it takes to get everyone fully on board – and it’ll be one of those two options that gets you where you need to go.

How do you change?

I firmly believe that life is all about perspective and it starts with you, regardless of your status at the store. Change your perspective and realize that the collision repair industry is a service industry that serves our customers. We are not a service industry bullied by lead times, rental days, cycle time, parts supply, etc. These are components that go with the job, but they are not kings. They may be the loudest and hardest to appease, but we as a bodywork culture confuse ‘squeaky wheel’ with ‘king of wheels’.

Once we take the time to look at things through a different lens, we can change our processes and our procedures for doing things on the customer side. This will affect all areas of our store and allow us to start transforming those CSI scores organically. If serving our customer is our primary goal, then our technicians are more likely to fix something right the first time, our CSRs are more likely to greet customers warmer, our editors are more likely to give accurate updates and frequent and we as the body industry are more likely to move away from the rat race and into a space that makes us more money and puts more happy drivers back on the road by completely safe. As this goal becomes a reality, our store and those in it will all be proud of what they do and who they are and we will continue to rise in “the game”.

Thoughts?

Is that too “fairy tale ending” for your blood? Is it doable? I know it’s because I see stores adopting this customer-focused mindset, but please let me know why this wouldn’t work for your store. I would love to hear your opinion, because I really care. And isn’t that what we expect from the people we come into contact with? So tell me – yes, YOU – why are you and your store different and who is your king, if not the customer? BSB

Micki Woods is a marketing and business development specialist for the automotive industry. She owned her own body shop and was on the management team of one of the largest body shops in Los Angeles County. She now speaks, teaches and hosts events across the country. Visit Micki’s website at mickiwoodsmarketing.com or email her at [email protected].

Joseph P. Harris