Industry Bypass: The Three C Body Shop - BodyShop Business
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Industry Bypass: The Three C Body Shop

Situated next to Route 3 – the original highway that ran across the Buckeye State from Cincinnati to Columbus to Cleveland before Interstate 71 was constructed – Three C Body
Shop does anything but go with the flow.

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Unlike those shops speeding
for the nearest DRP on-ramp, this collision-repair shop – driven
by owner Bob Juniper – has bypassed the insurance traffic jam
and taken a firm stance against direct-repair programs.

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Stop Signs

When DRPs were first initiated, Juniper was
like many other shop owners: eager to form a profitable relationship
between his shop and insurance companies. But after meeting with
several potential direct-repair partners, Juniper quickly switched
lanes.

"[The insurance companies] were looking
for shops with the right equipment, which I had," he says.
"They were looking for shops with good customer satisfaction,
which I had. They were looking for shops that would partner with
them and not rip them off, and that I wouldn’t do. But then they
would get down to discounts and the use of imitation parts – things
that I didn’t feel I could do and uphold our quality."

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Deciding that Three C wouldn’t participate
in those particular partnerships, Juniper turned away from DRP
participation completely. "I learned that DRPs weren’t about
the customer satisfaction and the equipment that they talked about
wanting," he says. "They’re really about price, and
price isn’t what we sell on."

Years later, Juniper is – if anything – an
even bigger disbeliever in DRPs.

Heavy Traffic

Though Juniper disagrees with those who say
a shop must form direct-repair partnerships to avoid being left
in the slow lane, he agrees that DRPs are changing the marketplace.

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To position his shop favorably in that new
marketplace, Juniper runs an aggressive consumer-awareness advertising
campaign. The message delivered focuses on Juniper’s firm anti-DRP
stance, but is also aimed at educating consumers about unfair
insurance-company practices.

"We market to the consumer," says
Juniper. "The consumer has tremendous power, and when you
have a real strong customer on your side, one who’s telling the
insurance company, ‘Hey, you’re going to fix my car right, that’s
why I pay my premiums,’ the repair goes a lot smoother."

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Radio ads are the backbone of Juniper’s consumer
marketing plan because, he says, they offer him 60 seconds to
tell his story.

"[Insurance companies] imply to the vehicle
owner that ‘you’ll get fast service, and this is our approved
or preferred shop,’ " he says. "We explain to people
on the radio that it’s not preferred because they do a better
job. It’s preferred by the insurance company so they can get the
cheaper job done."

Flooding the airwaves and other media since
1992, that explanation has helped steer Three C into the fast
lane.

To reach those radio listeners more inclined
to turn the dial than to listen to a commercial jingle, Juniper’s
60-second tell-alls are supported by billboard, newspaper and
transit advertisements – all donning backgrounds or logos in the
shop’s trademark color.

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"Pink is our color," says Juniper.
"It’s a hot pink that you can’t miss. All of our company
vehicles are hot pink, our billboards are hot pink. We’ve got
a transit bus here in town that’s painted all pink with our logo,
and then we have about 40 other buses that have pink signs on
them."

But Juniper didn’t stop with filling the streets
and the airwaves of Columbus, Ohio, with his anti-DRP message,
he’s filled the sky, too. Aerial advertisements include a hot
pink hot-air balloon and an airplane banner flown above the sold-out
stands of each Ohio State Buckeyes home football game.

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This marketing maverick credits his aggressive,
attention-grabbing and very pink marketing plan with attracting
the high repair volume his shop sees monthly. "I looked at
one of our reports recently," he says, "and for the
month, we had already done 282 cars. I think 260 [of those vehicle
owners] reported that advertising was the reason they were here."

The Road Ahead

Juniper’s long-term goals include building
a 100,000-square-foot collision-repair factory in downtown Columbus,
with seven or eight satellite sales locations in the suburbs.
Though estimates would be done at the satellite shops, all repair
work would be performed at the downtown location.

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"This trade has such a huge human-resources
problem – finding good technicians, shop managers and production
managers – that if you have only a single factory, you would only
need one main production manager and one or two other managers
instead of needing 10 production managers and even more technicians
at 10 locations," he says. "It’s also much easier to
supervise."

At Juniper’s current Columbus facility, which
employs 65 workers, certified technicians don’t work on any of
the 350 jobs per month from start to finish. Instead, the repair
process is broken down into pieces performed by different techs
specializing in specific phases of the repair. Utilizing this
system, the shop runs about 190 to 210 percent efficient each
month. In other words, if a tech is on the clock for 40 hours,
he’s producing about 80 hours worth of repair work. The industry
average is 150 percent.

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At the proposed collision-repair factory,
Juniper believes he could further break down the collision-repair
process – into six or seven pieces – and work at 300 percent efficiency.
As well as increasing shop efficiency, this further breakdown
of the collision-repair process would facilitate technical training.

"Instead of taking three or four years
to train a technician in all areas of a repair, each of these
individual steps become a trainable piece of the repair and could
be taught in four to five months," Juniper says.

Traffic Report

In February 1996, Three C switched over to
c.o.d. payment for all repairs – a switch Juniper refers to as
a "no brainer."

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"When I go to the grocery store, I’ve
got to pay the bill. When I go to the gas station, I’ve got to
pay the bill," he says. "In the collision-repair business,
who ever got us thinking we had to send out a $10,000 bill for
a repair and hope we get paid? Insurance companies are notorious
for sending you $9,700 and saying the other $300 wasn’t approved.
With c.o.d., that doesn’t happen."

In fact, a lot of what happens in other shops
just doesn’t happen at Three C. Above all, no repairs are dictated
by direct-repair requirements – Juniper makes certain of that.
With his aggressive consumer-awareness advertising, he also guarantees
that he attracts just the right customers – ones who will help
him and his shop continue to travel in the fast lane.

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The Path of Success

Though Juniper’s anti-DRP stance has taken
him on a detour many shops can’t follow, it hasn’t lead him away
from a successful destination. In 1995, his shop was ranked No.
458 on Inc. magazine’s list of America’s Top 500 fastest-growing
private companies – the first time a collision-repair facility
had been recognized in the list’s history.

"If shops figure out who their customer
really is – that it’s the vehicle owner and not the insurance
company – I think there’s a lot of opportunity out there for them,"
he says. "You can’t look at an insurance company as being
your customer because the only thing they care about is price.
And if someone down the street can do it for a cheaper price,
there’s no loyalty whatsoever."

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In 1996, the shop again earned a place on
Inc. magazine’s list, as well as a ranking of No. 12 on Dun &
Bradstreet’s list of the "Top 100" independent collision-repair
facilities in the country.

Other Avenues

A successful collision-repair shop owner,
Juniper has utilized his marketing skills and ventured into other
avenues of business. As head of Jupiter Marketing, Juniper currently
oversees the marketing plans for 61 body shops.

Like Juniper’s own marketing, the subscriber
plan focuses on consumer awareness about insurance companies and
DRPs. Using a common base, commercials are then tailored for each
shop.

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For a shop to jump on board, Juniper has three
requirements: First, you need to have the nerve to go up against
insurance companies. Second, you have to be able to afford the
campaign (which can add up to $100,000 a year). Third, you need
a big enough facility and a strong enough organization to be able
to handle potentially doubling your gross sales during the first
12 to 18 months.

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