Focusing on a "Total Quality" Experience in Your Auto Body Shop

Focusing on a “Total Quality” Experience in Your Auto Body Shop

The meaning of quality in the auto body industry has evolved to include customer experience, the workmanship and time it took to complete the repairs, the car rental and the manner in which the claim was settled with the insurance company. This is "total quality."

The meaning of quality today contains more than it did years ago. My commitment to quality has been the main focus since I entered the collision repair business 37 years ago. Although a lot has changed since then, today it is “total quality” that counts, not just the final product you deliver. Today, we’re all measured and scored on much more than the finished product.

Total Quality

The meaning of quality has evolved to include customer experience, the workmanship and time it took to complete the repairs, the car rental and the manner in which the claim was settled with the insurance company. This is total quality.

So how do we pull it all off? Well, you had better have the right total quality mindset and make sure it carries down to your people. It has to be part of your culture.

Quality Workmanship

An F-22 fighter jet has less than 2 million lines of computer code. The Boeing 747 has 14 million lines of code. A modern high-end car has around 100 million lines of code, and this number is anticipated to grow to 200 to 300 million in the near future. Additionally, there are new lightweight, high-strength steels, aluminum, composite materials and structural designs that distribute energy during an accident. We have had to move from the traditional process of trial-and-error learning to formal research of the manufacturer’s repair requirements, specifications, position statements and best practices.

We have had to invest in the necessary equipment, tooling and training needed to return our customers’ vehicles to their pre-accident condition. First-time quality workmanship restores passenger and vehicle safety and protects the customer’s investment.

Repair Experience

While we believe first-time quality workmanship is critical to our continued success, competitive advantage includes our customer’s repair experience. Our commitment to our customer’s repair experience starts at the very beginning of scheduling, vehicle check-in, disassembly, damage analysis, parts procurement, production and quality verification.

Customers are kept informed through the entire process through texting, email or telephone follow-ups.

Our quality-verification process checks quality of workmanship and our processes throughout the repair.

Documentation

Quality documentation is driven by our standard operating procedures that include standard pictures taken during vehicle check-in and damage analysis as well as good estimate notes and reference to OEM recommended procedures. The final quality check includes making sure that all invoiced items are verified and audited to make sure the actual repairs match the itemized invoice.

People and Culture

We’ve found that the root of creating and delivering the best processes and performance is attracting, retaining and developing the best people and culture. We continuously recruit – not only when we need someone for a particular position but any time we come across someone who will fit into our culture of teamwork and continuous improvement. There is no room for actively disengaged people in our organization. People who are unhappy with their profession and employer sabotage the processes and culture. Actively disengaged people either leave on their own or we invite them to work for the competition. Everyone from the call center to the porter has to be focused on a total quality customer experience; it needs to be part of your culture.

Measures of Quality

If we don’t measure it, we can’t improve it. Our key performance indicators relative to total quality are:

  • CSI (customer satisfaction index)
  • Quality of workmanship
  • Professional treatment/care and concern
  • Kept informed
  • Delivered on time
  • Returned for repairs
  • Repair concerns
  • Net promoter score (NPS)
  • Customer loyalty
  • All work billed was performed. Of course, if discovered, it is corrected before delivery.
  • Photo and documentation quality
  • Rental car complaints
  • Insurer claims approval delays

We continuously invest in IT (information technology) that allows us to collect, monitor and improve customer satisfaction. Our management system automatically sends a text or email to customers inviting them to complete the customer satisfaction survey.

Summary

At the end of the day, it’s the people and culture that create and deliver total quality. Success is not a one-shot deal, and it is not accomplished overnight. We have to chip away day in and day out. Total quality excellence is something that takes continuous improvement; it’s about getting a little better every day. 

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