The top body shop owners in the country know that customer service needs to be paramount if they want to have a chance at succeeding. Some shops know how to fix cars to their pre-accident condition, and the work is pure craftsmanship – unfortunately these same shops fumble in customer service, thus making the consumer not feel they had a quality experience.
The collision repair industry is unlike almost any other business, because when a customer enters your shop, they’re either mad (if someone hit them) or embarrassed and generally stressed (if they hit someone else). Imagine how a restaurant owner would react if all his diners came into his establishment already in a foul mood? Placating and getting your customer to relax and take a deep breath is the first thing you need to do.
So, here are some basic suggestions we’d like to offer, because maybe you just need to sharpen your customer service skills rather than completely renovating that aspect of your business.
- Being Nice is Always in Vogue: A positive attitude goes a long way today, because too many receptionists are now specializing in rolling their eyes, incessantly chewing gum and saying “whatever”. Greet every customer with a big hello and don’t leave them sitting there while your front people are watching cat videos on YouTube. When a customer comes into your shop, anyone who isn’t busy should treat that individual like royalty.
- Get Them in the Chill Zone: Before launching into the details about the accident and getting into the repairs needed, try to make things less stressful for the customer. Provide them with a comfortable chair and offer refreshments like water, soda, coffee, or tea to put your customers in a more relaxed state of mind.
- You Listen, You Learn: By asking questions, the customer will be able to tell you their story. Inquiring about the accident is a good way to learn about the collision while also showing compassion for their situation. Take notes and write down all the details from their perspective, so that you can better learn how to serve them. When the customer sees you taking notes, it shows that you are actively listening, and paying close attention to their needs and building trust.
- You Talk, You Teach: Educate the customer, because most consumers don’t know what a DRP is and they surely don’t know the difference between OEM and aftermarket parts. By taking the role of a teacher, customers will feel more at ease and depend on you more easily.
- Because You Care: By placing yourself in the customer’s shoes, you can relate to the various feelings that a person goes through after an accident. A true professional truly cares for their customer and by showing empathy, it goes a long way. Look at it like this—you’re a car doctor and the customer is your patient. When it comes to this part of customer service, always be genuine. Don’t overdo it or be phony, because most people can detect that almost instantly.
- Keep Them in the Loop: Some people want to know every stage their car goes through during the repair process while others just want to know when it’s done. Find out what their needs are in this regard and provide the level of communication and follow thorough they desire. That way, they won’t feel like you’re either bugging them or ignoring them, depending on the scenario.
- See It and Document It: Conducting a walk around of the customer’s vehicle while they are present to show that you are thoroughly checking out all of the damage is essential. Record everything, including all of the vehicle’s options, features, mileage, lights, and take a series of digital images to document the damage. Mark down all the damage related to the accident and ask the customer if they want any unrelated damages that you find fixed as well. In many cases, you can make more money by repairing a customer’s bumper or side mirror, for instance, just by asking.
- Don’t Commit Until You Know: Normally, the first thing that a customer will want to know is when their car will be ready. An estimator should never give a customer a false deadline to make them happy. A completion date can’t be firm until everything is researched and all the parts are available. This is where keeping the customer in the loop is so imperative. Most people will respond favorably as long as they feel like they’re not being ignored, so check in with them via phone, email or text often and make sure they have all the information they need.
Customer service is not something that you need one day and not the next. By instilling a culture in your shop based on the theory that the customer is always #1, you will flourish in your market and truly stand out from the competition.
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Ed has been a professional writer for more than 35 years and his specialties include B2B reporting, blogging, ad copywriting, public relations and general editorial.