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Body Shop Customers: The Importance of Getting Accurate and Complete Info

Obtaining accurate and complete information at the beginning of the relationship with your customer can be beneficial.

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Barrett has authored numerous industry trade journal/magazine articles, including several cover stories for BodyShop Business. Having grown up in a family-owned collision repair business and owner/operator of two successful collision repair facilities; his ongoing efforts as industry speaker and repairer coach-consultant are geared toward educating professionals and consumers to achieve equally successful resolutions to automotive-related property damage issues. Such issues include proper and thorough repair, reasonable repair profitability for repairers as well as equitable claim settlements for both claimants and the responsible/paying parties. ADE offers numerous professional services nationwide.

Little efforts can result in big benefits for long periods of time. So let’s discuss some “little stuff” that can save you time and help you avoid potential problems.

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Information

Obtaining accurate and complete information at the beginning of the relationship with your customer can be beneficial. Oftentimes, asking a simple question other shops don’t ask can speak volumes. For example, “How many were in the vehicle at the time of the accident, and where were they seated?” If they ask why you need to know this information, you can say you’d like to inspect the seat belts and their hardware to ensure they’ll continue to function properly in the future.

Well-organized repairers will have a “customer information form” which they will either complete or have the prospective customer complete during their initial visit. This form and its content can help elevate your shop in the mind of the prospective customer.

The customer information form will generally be one-half to one full sheet of paper. It can yield valuable marketing and demographic information that will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses as well as areas to enhance your marketing efforts. It can also portray a professional image to the customer.

All forms that the customer and/or insurer see should be attractive, well-prepared and void of spelling, grammar and spacing errors. Poorly prepared may portray ignorance, lack of attention and, more importantly, your lack of concern in getting it right. From a potential customer’s point of view, this lack of attention to detail may cause them to look for another repairer.

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Here are some examples of questions we included in my shop’s client information forms:

“How did you hear about our company?”

We asked this to determine how and where they heard about us so we could concentrate on enhancing and cultivating more opportunities. We could do this by adding more banners and signs at ballparks and recreation centers, etc., or dropping by to thank someone personally for their referral.

Options listed under “How did you hear about our company” included:

  • Customer referral. I wanted to see if our efforts to wow our customers were working and to have the opportunity to personally thank the person who referred us by offering them a free car wash.
  • Agent referral. Once again, this information helped us confirm if our marketing was working or not and thank those who referred us. We gave them things like flowers, bagels or coupons for McDonald’s, Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts.
  • Internet. We wanted to see if the Internet was being accessed and was effective.
  • Building sign. We wanted to bring attention to the sign if they hadn’t seen it before for future recollection (visual implant).
  • TV ad. While we didn’t have television ads, this option suggested we did and made the prospect think we were very successful. It was interesting how many people checked this box even though we didn’t have TV commercials!
  • Radio ad. We wanted to know how effective our radio ads were.
  • Drive by. We wanted to see if they were merely curious or killing time. If so, we would need to engage them to identify their needs.
  • Printed ad. We took out ads in local newspapers and used other print marketing to better educate the community on collision repair and a proper repair. We wanted top-of-mind awareness (TOMA) of our services and our brand. We actually ran mini articles in which I responded to collision-related questions to educate the reader.
  • Yellow Pages. If yes, which book? We had several telephone directories in our market area and we wanted to know which were being used the most. (Note: this was before the internet and social media, so today the approach would be significantly different).

After these questions, more questions were asked:

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“Who’s paying for your repairs?”

  • My insurance company
  • Their insurance company
  • Myself
  • Other party

This question was posed to determine the best approach to put the prospect at ease and expedite the process. We didn’t want to hurry the process but avoid redundancy such as preparing an estimate when the prospect already had one or more. This gave us the information we needed to find out the prospect’s needs and wants up front so we could address them early on.

“Has the insurance company written an estimate?”

  • Yes
  • No

We asked this to avoid automatically assuming we should prepare an estimate. Our position was that there was no valid reason to prepare another estimate until the vehicle was dismantled so a thorough assessment of all damages could be made.

“Is this your 1st , 2nd, 3rd estimate?”

We wanted to know if the prospect was merely shopping or if they were a serious prospect. Occasionally, we learned the customer had no intention of having their vehicle repaired but were seeking information to obtain a proper settlement from an insurer. This was a perfect opportunity to provide them a comprehensive repair assessment that would enable them to recover their full and proper entitlements. We assessed a reasonable fee for this service with the agreement that if they chose to have us perform their repair, the estimate fee would be credited to their final billing. Note: we offered “free consultations,” not “free estimates.”

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“Would you like us to perform your repair?”

  • Yes
  • No
  • Not Sure

If they checked yes, we would move right to preparing the repair authorization and, if applicable, getting a rental car for them. If they said no, we would try to find out why and see if we could overcome their objections. If they checked “Not Sure,” we would try to determine what their needs and concerns were and try to accommodate them.

“Although each is important, what’s the most important to you in having your vehicle repaired?”

  • Alignment of body panels
  • Color match
  • Drives correctly
  • Delivery on time
  • Written warranty
  • Other

While some checked only one, many checked all of them. This told whether the customer was engaged or not and allowed us to approach them with information to educate them. If they checked one, we were aware of their “hot button” and made sure to place importance on it.

“If you were referred to us, would you please give us their name so we can may send them a thank-you?” (Today I would ask for a cell number so we could text them).

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Summary

We used these completed forms for follow-up calls to those who had yet to select us as their chosen repairer. We learned that some were still trying to make a decision, while others were saving money for their deductible or perhaps the at-fault insurer had yet to accept liability. The follow-up call was well received by most and resulting in us securing many repairs. We also learned that some consumers were steered to the insurer’s DRP shop, which provided us the opportunity to offer a free, no-obligation post-repair inspection.

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