We live in an immediate gratification society. We want it fast, cheap and done right the first time. We’re so spoiled, in fact, that we get anxious at fast food drive thrus — "Fast food?" we exclaim while waiting in a line seven cars deep. "There’s nothing fast about it!"
Consumer impatience is the reason terms like "cycle time" have taken on a meaning other than the time it takes for your six-year-old to ride her bike around the block. It’s the reason shops across the country have begun analyzing, organizing and even industrializing. It’s the reason shop owners like Leonard Lassak think about cycle time even while cooking Sunday morning breakfast. "Clean as I go," says Lassak. "I can only ever fix as many cars as I can clean in a day. I practiced it with pancakes." (See pg. 16 for more on Lassak.) It’s also the reason we do this special issue every year, devoted to helping you make your shop more productive.
But how fast is too fast? At what point do you alienate the customer rather than please the customer?
Take customer service for example. Yeah, it’s great to deliver the repaired vehicle back ASAP, but customer service begins before that person is actually your customer. You might never even get the repair job if you don’t take the time to sell the consumer on your shop — and this includes explaining your estimate and any recommendations you might have for the repair.
For example, replacement parts. Telling the consumer, "You want OE parts because they fit better than aftermarket," writing your estimate for OE parts and then sending him on his way is about as helpful as pushing him out of a plane without telling him how to open his parachute. He’s got it on his back — he doesn’t have to plummet to his death, thanks to you — but, also thanks to you, he’s got no idea how to use it. Quite frankly, you might as well not have given him the parachute.
It’s like locking someone in a room with three cute little puppies and saying, "Two of them eat puppy chow. One of them eats people. Good luck."
Thanks … for nothing.
Sometimes a little knowledge is a bad thing. I say this because recently a consumer called our offices, asking for advice on how to get his insurer to pay for OE parts on his 10-year-old Lincoln Town Car. He’d hit a deer and had gone to three different shops for estimates. All three shops told him that he should use OE parts, all three shops told him A/M crash parts don’t fit as well as OE, all three shops wrote for OE, and all three sent him on his way — armed with just enough knowledge to make his life miserable.
To no one’s surprise — except the consumer’s — the insurance estimate called for A/M parts and was about $900 lower than all three shop estimates. But because the shops didn’t give this consumer any advice for handling the situation, he was clueless. He knew he was supposed to use OE — but he had no idea that his insurer might not want to. The shops hadn’t bothered to tell him that an insurer will be reluctant to use brand new OE parts on a 10-year-old car. They also hadn’t bothered to tell him that used OE parts could be an option. They hadn’t really bothered to tell him much (though I’m betting they thought they’d "done their duty").
At a complete loss, he went back to one of the shops, asking for advice.
So did this shop — which was being given a second chance to redeem itself — take the time to help this guy out (and, in the process, earn his trust and the repair job)?
You decide: The shop owner handed him an issue of BodyShop Business — and, for the second time, sent him on his way.
So he called us.
I don’t know for sure what will happen with this consumer, but I do know what won’t happen: that shop won’t get a third chance.