Technology as a Marketing Tool - BodyShop Business
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Technology as a Marketing Tool

As a shop owner, you want state-of-the-art diagnostic and repair equipment to help you provide your customers with high-quality, cost-effective, efficient repairs. The value of advanced technology here is obvious.

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But, what about tapping the value of technology
to increase the number of vehicles entering your door in the first
place? In today’s technology-driven world, using the latest advances
to market your shop to both insurance companies and consumers
will not only distinguish you from the competition, but may determine
the long-term success of your operation.

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The Insurance Connection

With a significant portion of collision-repair
volume coming from insurers, the ability to "connect"
electronically with this important customer is critical. With
an automated shop comprising a range of functionality – from collision
estimating with digital imaging and networked communications to
a variety of shop-management applications – you become a better
partner to your insurance customers.

An automated shop allows you to:

  • provide comprehensive, accurate estimates in record time;
  • accelerate the repair process and expedite payments;
  • communicate key information quickly and efficiently;
  • track your performance; and
  • improve overall customer satisfaction.

Some features of an automated shop include:

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Automated, procedure-page logic collision-estimating systems –
These are becoming a requirement with a number of insurers. In
addition to generating estimates, shop systems should also offer
a secure, easy means to electronically receive assignments and
transmit estimates, supplements or other information. At a minimum,
an automated estimating system with electronic-communications
capability is required to begin competing for the attention of
this important customer segment.

Flexibility – When you invest in a system, be sure it provides
you with a platform that will meet those dynamic market needs
and grow with your business. Today, a stand-alone estimating workstation
may be sufficient, but eventually, your system may need to accommodate
multiple, linked workstations. Having a system with the flexibility
to run in stand-alone mode or on a local area network is key.

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Modularity that lets you add functionality – Being able to do
this as you need it – and as your business is ready for it – is
another important element of your system investment. For example,
the growing trend is for insurers to request digital-imaging capabilities
to help assess damages and settle claims. For many shops, the
time and inefficiencies associated with the old, labor-intensive
and paper-based process – along with the cost of film, processing
and overnight delivery – add up. With the capability to attach
a digital image to your estimate and to transfer those images
in a complete electronic "file," you save time and money,
as well as improve your relationship with your insurance customer.

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Electronic mail – Through e-mail you have the ability to exchange
additional information about repair status – quickly and efficiently.
This becomes another means to maintain an open dialogue between
you and the insurer.

Automated systems – In addition to a smoother, more efficient
repair process, these systems provide an electronic audit trail.
Either directly or through independent third parties, this information
can be used to solicit feedback from consumers on their repair
experiences. This level of feedback is vital to shop owners dedicated
to continuous performance improvements and increased satisfaction.
And capturing this information is an automatic by-product of the
electronic estimating process. It just "happens."

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In total, this broad range of technology-based functionality not
only streamlines the repair process, but grows with your business,
helping distinguish you as a viable, long-term trading partner
in the eyes of your insurance customer.

Technology for Customer Care

While insurance companies are an important source of business,
true success still comes from serving the individual who enters
your shop. Many of the same benefits you get from automated systems
when you do business with insurers also apply to marketing directly
to the consumer – a more professional image, faster turnaround,
better service and higher customer satisfaction, to name a few.

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In sharp contrast to the handwritten estimate of old, a detailed,
computer-generated estimate offers the consumer a higher level
of confidence in the repair provider, while allowing you to increase
accuracy and eliminate potential costly errors. In the event that
during a post-accident inspection of the consumer’s vehicle you
note unrelated prior damage, your estimating system should allow
you to easily generate an incremental repair estimate for that
insured customer. While the consumer will incur some additional
out-of-pocket costs, having all the repairs identified and completed
at one time may prove the most efficient means of restoring the
vehicle. As a result, you increase revenue while improving your
customer-satisfaction ratings.

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Some systems also can provide you with a range of additional "customer-care"
capabilities. For example, your system can be used to create personalized
letters to prospective customers shortly after they’ve visited
your shop for an estimate, thanking them for considering your
facility and reinforcing your shop’s advantages. Or, use the data-base
capabilities to re-establish contact with previous customers,
perhaps by sending a note on repair "specials." Additionally,
you could use your system’s marketing-letter templates to generate
customer-appointment confirmations, thank-you letters or even
a questionnaire to survey customer perceptions of their repair
experiences. This type of professional communication affirms your
commitment to service and tells consumers that their business
is important to you.

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Such a proactive stance toward obtaining feedback from your customers
also allows you to better understand customers perceptions of
your service and to manage your business more effectively. And
since word of mouth is an important part of garnering new business
in the body shop industry, "news" of your attention
to customer service generate additional referrals.

Meeting Expectations

You need to ensure that your business is well-positioned to take
advantage of technology. Customer expectations for increased accuracy
and efficiency, performance accountability and a high degree of
communication require technological capabilities that go far beyond
the old ways of conducting your business with a telephone and
a fax. Positioning your shop at the forefront of the industry
requires on-site, cutting-edge technology that makes you an attractive,
long-term business partner for both consumers and insurers.

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Check It Out

The ability to market your shop to target customers – both insurance
companies and consumers – using the latest advances not only distinguishes
you from the competition, but may determine the long-term success
of your operation. To do this:

  • Consider automating your shop for a range of functionality
    – from collision estimating with digital imaging and networked
    communications to a variety of shop-management applications.

  • An automated shop allows you to provide comprehensive, accurate
    estimates in record time; accelerate the repair process and expedite
    payments; communicate key information quickly and efficiently;
    track your performance; and improve overall customer satisfaction.
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  • Many of the same benefits you get from automated systems when
    you do business with insurers also apply to marketing to the consumer
    directly – a more professional image, faster turnaround, better
    service and higher customer satisfaction, to name a few.

  • A computer-generated estimate offers the consumer a higher
    level of confidence in the repair provider, while allowing you
    to increase accuracy and eliminate potential costly errors.

  • Some systems can provide you with a range of additional "customer-care"
    capabilities, such as personalized letters to customers, a customer-appointment
    confirmation, a "thank-you-for-your-business" letter
    and even a questionnaire to survey customers perceptions of their
    repair experiences.

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    Net Profits

    One of the most promising new technology-based marketing tools
    is the Internet. Like all other business owners, collision repairers
    are currently exploring ways to exploit this new marketing medium
    as a way to increase awareness and generate revenue.

    Forward-looking shop owners have a number of options, depending
    on their comfort level and access to technology. Some repairers
    are developing their own home pages as an alternative advertising
    and promotion channel – highlighting important customer information,
    such as convenient location, extended shop hours, service capabilities
    and repair "specials." Others are participating with
    associations or other repairer networks to establish group pages,
    a less costly solution with potential for consumer-base penetration.

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