Investment is key to any business, including collision. Colorado-based Global Collision has found that investing on many levels, from relationships with customers and staff to its operations/procedures, pays off big time.
Ford to Ferrari
As a certified repair facility for multiple upscale auto manufacturers, the eight-store operation strives to offer its patrons what it calls a “Ford to Ferrari” experience.
“You’re getting Ferrari-quality care when you come to our facilities, no matter what your make/model of vehicle,” says marketing director Liza Milijasevic.
After CEO George Lilley moved from the United Kingdom to the states in 2003, he opened the first Global Collision location in Denver. Since then, the company has expanded to eight facilities across the state, making it the largest independently owned multiple-shop operator (MSO) in Colorado.
The “Ford to Ferrari” mentality is exemplified through the shop’s standard operating procedures, which make the business seem less like a body shop and more like a spa. By referring to customers as “patients,” as well as having Enterprise Rent-a-Car and mechanical and glass repair on-site, Global Collision seeks to make the repair experience as painless as possible.
“You’re turning around disruption and stress for many people, and you’ve got to use empathy and have the convenience and efficiency to get them back on track as soon as possible,” said Milijasevic.
Flow Line System
While Lilley was in the U.K., he developed his own operating procedure called the “flow line system,” with the key theme of responsibility.
“There’s no way you can get a production manager to stand behind every technician and make sure he’s putting clearcoat down; everyone has to be made accountable,” Lilley explained. “So, it’s a strict procedure where people are made accountable with regard to documentation, signing off on the actual repair, etc. They’re getting paid to do the job right the first time. You can cut out some middle management there, and clearly that’s a good savings in expenditure.”
Before a repair, Global Collision details every vehicle that enters its facilities. This allows the technicians to be able to identify damage more quickly and accurately. From there on out, the company designates a customer service representative (CSR) from its call center to handle each customer. The CSR also asks each customer how often they would like to be updated and their preferred method of contact: text, email or phone.
“We don’t have a lot of incoming calls asking about the status of a vehicle because we’re very proactive,” said Lilley. “We have a golden rule in the company where we do not give a date of completion unless we’re assured that the car is perfect.”
Lilley calls this a “right first time approach,” insisting that the shop is only as good as its last repair. Each location has a production meeting every morning to evaluate every vehicle and discuss which “patients” can go home that day. If a car isn’t fixed correctly the first time, Global Collision will find a more suitable technician to make repairs.
“To rework a car means it’s not profitable,” said Lilley. “If you have to twitch the car again for rework as the result of a neglectful approach by someone, that individual never gets the opportunity to rectify that car again.
“People can make good salaries in this industry based on this ‘right first time’ approach, which people sometimes don’t grasp. But after a period of training, [that] approach is paramount. These individuals have to be aware they’re working on high performance vehicles so there’s respect for repairing a customer’s vehicle.”
Going with the Flow
To get customers back on the road quickly, each shop is set up with a paint booth in the center of the floor.
“It’s set up that way so there aren’t a lot of cars that have to be moved very far or around,” said Terry Lake, operations director. “It can go from disassembly to repair to paint booth, and then right to reassembly.”
This “flow circle” setup serves as a win-win for both Global Collision and its customers.
“Time is everything,” said Lake. “If you save 10 minutes a car times 100 cars a month times eight shops, that makes your productivity go up higher, so you can get more cars out the door and make more profit.”
Another thing that makes Global Collision stand out is its numerous certifications to repair high-end vehicles. From Porsche to Bentley, the MSO strives to give these vehicles the highest quality care. And although the average Joe can’t say he owns one of these cars, Global Collision says it doesn’t treat him or her any different.
“These high-end, high-profile brands demand the absolute highest levels of training and professionalism,” said Milijasevic. “If we can deliver what those companies want, then we will bring the same kind of service and attention to detail to any vehicle.”
Ahead of the Curve
The decision to repair high-end vehicles came after close examination of trends within the industry, such as the increasing sophistication of materials used to manufacture cars. Jaguar was the first make that Global Collision took on, and that certification prepared the repair center to accept other brands.
“Jaguar is one of the first cars that had a huge emphasis on aluminum, but now aluminum is in almost every brand of car,” said Milijasevic. “So the investment we made with aluminum training and equipment and knowledge is paying off tenfold because we geared up for that before anyone else.”
Hitting the Books
Lilley recognized the importance of having a strong marketing presence so that potential customers would have Global Collision top-of-mind before needing them. The business takes that idea to the next level by printing its own custom magazine, Global Collision Magazine, offering articles covering everything from winter driving tips to technical information to accident dos and don’ts. The first issue was released at the end of 2012.
“We’re trying to appeal to everyone, from a customer who’s never had contact with us before to an insurance company partner whom we’ve known for 10 years,” said Milijasevic.
Lilley believes that the biggest challenge confronting the industry is finding young people willing to make collision a career. As one way to draw young talent, Global Collision purchases used tools and equipment for its technicians.
Global Collision has opened a facility every year since 2003, and will continue growing. It’s awaiting certification from Nissan and Volkswagen. It still sees opportunity to expand within Colorado, but in five years, its expansion may venture beyond the state’s borders. As long as investment persists, so will the company’s business.
“You’ve got to be prepared to invest. And ultimately, that will attract better technicians,” said Lilley.