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The Power Of Perception

It’s been said that the way people are dressed or how they look will make a difference with how they’re treated.

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Take the area of car sales, for example: A woman walks into a
dealership, and she’s dressed in a business suit with her hair
neatly pulled up. Customer No. 2, also a woman, walks in. She’s
dressed in jeans, a sweatshirt and is wearing a baseball cap.

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Who do you think will be taken more seriously?

The key here is perception. The ball-capped
woman may well be more knowledgeable about cars, but because the
woman in a suit is perceived as being more intelligent and having
more money, she’ll receive a different kind of consideration by
the car salesperson.

Think about it.

Have you ever felt less intimidated by a man
in a flannel shirt than by a man in a three-piece suit? Have you
ever treated a customer differently because of how you perceived
him or her? A man in a suit, for instance, is usually perceived
as someone who has authority – and someone with authority is more
likely to demand quality work and service.

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Perception is powerful – and not only on this
side of the coin. The flip side is how consumers perceive you
and your business. Top shops, you can bet, are perceived in a
positive light by their customers.

See What They See

Although many collision-repair surveys polling
shop owners have been conducted, the results of this survey, commissioned
by the Yellow Pages Publishers Association for the Automotive
Service Association (ASA), focus on how consumers perceive the
industry. These results allow you, the collision-repair specialists,
to see what’s most important to your customers.

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The Automotive Body Repair Advertising &
Perceptions Study was conducted to provide ASA with an objective
perspective on how consumers view various automotive body-repair
and painting outlets. Specifically, it:

  • Compares attitudes toward autobody facilities,
  • Explores ways in which the independent neighborhood facilities
    might be able to improve their image among

  • consumers,
  • Determines why consumers use body repair services and how
    often,

  • Examines the level of satisfaction with these experiences,
  • Identifies sources consumers rely on to help select autobody
    outlets, and

  • Measures the likelihood of using specified sources to choose
    a specific type of outlet in the future.

Ratings were obtained and tabulated using a 10-point scale where
"1" is "very unfavorable" and "10"
is "very favorable."

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General Attitudes

As a whole, consumers rated independent neighborhood repair shops
higher than other outlets with a mean score of 7.40. This score
is significantly higher than those for dealerships (6.73) and
franchises (5.45).

Using the same 10-point scale, independent neighborhood

autobody facilities also were viewed more favorably on five of
six attributes, including honesty/integrity, responsiveness to
satisfaction, answering questions, friendliness and overall management.

Independents were rated lowest on cleanliness/appearance (6.66),
while new-car dealerships appear to have an advantage regarding
the cleanliness/appearance of their facilities (7.91). Independents
scored highest on friendliness with a 7.87 (note "Important
Factors" in the following section).

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Experience and Satisfaction

When asked about the type of outlet used for their most recent
collision repair, 70 percent of consumers said they used independent
shops versus new-car dealerships (25 percent) and franchise outlets
(4 percent).

What important factors did they look for when choosing a shop?
Using a 10-point scale where "1" is "not important"
and "10" is "very important," respondents
were asked to rate 13 elements in selecting an autobody-repair
service. The quality of repair, a satisfaction guarantee and communication
during the repair process were ranked highest in importance. Each
of these averaged above a "9" rating on the scale: quality
– 9.66, guarantee – 9.59 and communication – 9.04.

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Conversely, cleanliness of the facility was the least important
factor (7.63). Many shop owners nowadays – in trying to eliminate
the "grease-monkey" image – pay a lot of attention to
shop appearance. Not to say this isn’t important, but make sure
your time and energy are spent and shared on the other, higher-ranking
factors, too.

Each of the remaining variables was of significant importance
to the repair-service selection process, as evidenced by average
scores above "8" on the scale.

When asked about their overall satisfaction with the service provided
by autobody-repair facilities – regardless of the type used –
85 percent of the respondents were totally or mostly satisfied
with the service received. Only 6 percent stated they were not
at all satisfied.

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Looking at the satisfaction levels by type of outlet used, independent
facilities and new-car dealerships faired better than franchises,
with independents receiving the highest satisfaction score.

When asked if they would return to the same service outlet, 83
percent of the respondents replied they would. Those who would
not return (15 percent) most often cited poor quality, a perceived
lack of truthfulness and a lack of shops standing behind their
work as reasons for not returning.

What sources do consumers rely on to select an autobody repair
shop? Based on a 10-point scale where "1" is "not
at all likely" and "10" is "very likely,"
the top three sources were reported as being a repair facility
used in the past (8.62), word of mouth (7.90) and an insurance
referral service (6.21).

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Pump Up Perception

Although quality work is a monumental part of your shop’s success,
consumer perceptions can be just as important. If a consumer perceives
you and your business in an unfavorable way, it doesn’t matter
what reality is – you’ve still lost a customer.

Don’t be a T-shirt-and-jeans shop. Take heed of what consumers
think is important to make sure your shop is perceived as one
in a three-piece suit.

Says Who?

The population for this research project was defined as male or
female household heads 18 years old or older currently residing
within the continental United States who had autobody work done
in the last six months.

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Gender:

male – 51 percent, female – 49 percent

Age Group:
fairly distributed among age groups

Education Level:
some college/technical education or college graduate or beyond
– 78 percent

Household Income:
fairly distributed among households

Marital Status:
married – 66 percent

Licensed Drivers:
households having two or more licensed drivers – 85 percent

Vehicles Owned:
households owning two or more vehicles – 83 percent

The person who decided where to take the vehicle for the repair
was interviewed (a total of 200 telephone interviews were completed
for this study).

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