EDITOR'S NOTES: One Hundred Grand - BodyShop Business
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EDITOR’S NOTES: One Hundred Grand

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Jason Stahl has 28 years of experience as an editor, and has been editor of BodyShop Business for the past 16 years. He currently is a gold pin member of the Collision Industry Conference. Jason, who hails from Cleveland, Ohio, earned a bachelor of arts degree in English from John Carroll University and started his career in journalism at a weekly newspaper, doing everything from delivering newspapers to selling advertising space to writing articles.

It probably seems like I’ve been harping on you about customer service lately.

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Unfortunately, I’m going to do it again.

Customer service never fails to intrigue me as a potential gateway to increased sales. To say it’s still an unturned rock under which profits can be found is a huge understatement.

Evidence of this is CARSTAR’s claim in this month’s cover story (“Win Fans for Life,” pg. 28) that increasing sales by only car per week by the way a customer is initially handled on the phone can result in an incremental $100,000 per year (one car a week at $2,000 times 52 weeks).

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Going further, CARSTAR says its research indicated that each individual customer, over his or her lifetime, has the ability to drive $100,000 worth of work to each of its stores. The conclusion? “The investment in delivering excellent customer service is minimal, but pays incredible long-term dividends.”

If you haven’t done your own consumer study, you should. CARSTAR has, however, and here are some interesting findings from it:

• The target audience for collision repair is very broad with nearly 40 percent participating in the category in the past two years.

• Consumers make their decision on where to get their cars repaired based on “reputation” for quality work. This reputation is based primarily on the recommendations of friends and family, as well as the influence of insurance companies and prior experience.

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• Consumers don’t visit a shop to get an estimate but rather to “interview” the shop for the job.

• Approximately 60 percent of customers (at least the ones who first bring in the vehicles) are women.

• The primary competition is local independent shops, not car dealers, although car dealers are well regarded for using genuine parts.

Like any task in your shop, providing excellent customer service isn’t easy. The hardest part is being consistent. How many times have you embarked on a great new way to do business, only to see it fade away due to someone getting lax in enforcing it and making sure it was being executed consistently and the same every time? It’s like the pile of dirty dishes in your sink. To eliminate the problem, you resolve to wash each dirty dish as it’s put in the sink so the plates don’t pile up. For awhile, it works and the sink is spotless. But then you get lazy or disinterested or [insert excuse here], the pile grows again, and before you know it, you’re back to the same dilemma.

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Another difficult part is getting employee buy-in. A great example of a company I believe that has successfully accomplished this is the Ritz-Carlton. Ever stay at one? If so, you probably noticed that all the employees are exceptionally nice and gracious to you. In fact, one time it was so obvious across the board that I came to the conclusion that either a) these people were secretly brainwashed to do things the Ritz-Carlton way, b) someone told them that if they didn’t do things the Ritz-Carlton way they would surely be caught on tape by the hotel surveillance cameras, or c) an enthusiastic manager was successfully able to communicate the Ritz-Carlton’s mission statement and expectations to them, achieved buy-in, then instituted a program whereby he or she could make sure that those expectations were being met consistently. Not one to believe
in conspiracies, I think the answer was “c.”

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I hope you read this month’s cover story and take to heart what it means to offer superior customer service.                

Jason Stahl, Editor
E-mail comments to [email protected]                                

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