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Owning the Customer

“Owning” the customer is important. But who is the customer? The vehicle owner? The insurer? Both? Ah, the age-old argument…

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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’s now January, and memories of the balmy temperatures of Palm Springs, Calif., where I attended the Sherwin-Williams A-Plus Network Vision Conference on Dec. 12, have been frozen out of me by the cold, harsh reality of Akron, Ohio. A white-knuckled hour-and-a-half drive home the other day had me once again wondering what I had done wrong to have been born on this patch of the planet where a 20-degree day in January feels like a day at Club Med. But in fear of sounding like I want a pity party thrown for me (complete with icicle lights, how appropriate!), let me get to the point.

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At the conference, one of the speakers talked about “owning the customer.” You’ve undoubtedly heard of this concept before, and it sounds great, but we all know we could improve in this area. But it reminded me of the age-old argument in the collision industry: Who is the customer?

There are those who say it is the vehicle owner. And then there are those who say it is both the insurance company and the vehicle owner.

I’m inclined to believe it is the vehicle owner; I don’t think you can serve two masters. In so doing, I believe that one or the other gets shortchanged. Then again, I understand the reality of doing DRP insurance work. It’s a business decision, and one for which you have to accept the consequences, good or bad.

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I had one shop owner tell me at the conference that when he heard this “owning the customer” talk, he thought a more apt title would have been “owning the insurer.” Because he believes those who own the insurers will get the referrals.

How do you own insurers? Stellar KPIs. Of course, there is a caution here as sometimes not even that guarantees the insurer won’t drop you. How do you own vehicle owners? Great customer service! Of course, that’s too vague. I suggest you check out Hank Nunn’s article, “The Secret to Great CSI,” for more on that.

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