How to shop for a good auto body repair shop online.

by Tom Zoebelein - Thu, Jan 16, 2014 3:30 PM

Just because your insurance company threw out a couple names of “preferred” or “direct repair” shops, it does not guarantee that you are going to get a great auto body repair. Just because a particular shop has hundreds of locations, it does not guarantee that you will have a great repair experience. Even the big shops get so busy that they make mistakes.

Your car, regardless of the age, is most often the second largest purchase we make in terms of dollars spent. So why not take a little extra precaution and fully investigate a few shops before finally picking one? I’ll break down how to make a smart decision in three steps.

 Here is what I recommend that you look for when researching auto body repair shops online:

 #1. The Auto Body Shop Website.

I work with auto body repair shops every day. I’ll be honest most of them have terrible websites. Now just because a shop has a terrible website, it doesn’t mean they do a terrible job with your car, but it does mean in my opinion that they are not a progressive auto body shop.

There are plenty of body shops out there who are forward thinking, thoroughly modern, who understand the needs of their customers, and who invest heavily in meeting those needs. This is the type of shop who is at the top of their game and not likely to cut corners.

Is the autobody shop website current?- I always look for a shop with a fully modern, well designed website with customer information, a great blog that is constantly updated and addresses all of your questions, and a website that has tools to allow you to schedule your repair and communicate with the shop online.

Does the body shop include staff bios and pictures- I love it when a shop takes the time to allow you to get to know the staff. We do business with people and not buildings. So when a body shop takes the time to introduce you to the staff, and makes contact information readily available, they are proud of the people who work for them. A company is nothing without its people.

Does the auto body shop include any certifications?- Almost every body shop says their techs are Icar cerified which is the education body which guides this industry. What you want to see are current ICar Gold certifications. You also want to check and see if they have any certifications for the type of car that you drive. Many do, though it might not be on the website.

Can you take an online tour of the Facility?- Can you take a quick tour of the shop through photos? If you can, please take the time to do that. What you want to look for is the paint booth, the lobby and the overall cleanliness and organization of the shop in the photos. Auto body repair is a messy business, and dirt is to be expected, however sloppy shops do sloppy work, and the last thing you want is for all that dirt and dust to be in your paint.

# 2  Is the autobody shop active on Social Media?

 Is this shop active on Facebook? Does it have a ton of likes? Are people engaged with this shop? Are there positive reviews or “atta boys” on there? If they are just posting pictures of cats and “have a nice Friday”, then this shop doesn’t realize yet what social media is actually for.  Great shops have just as compelling of a presence on social media as they do in person.

 # 3.  Check the autobody shop’s Online Reputation.

There are a lot of review sites out there now. Angie’s list, Yelp, and yes, even just to name a few. Not every autobody shop has reviews on our site yet. Usually this just means that they haven’t signed up with us yet. But I can tell you that there are shops with reviews in nearly every major market.

Yelp has come under fire recently from claims that they purposely hide positive reviews if the business does not pay for advertising. There are also instances where the reviews are just plain fake, which is another thing Yelp is trying to fix. Our reviews only come from real people who have just used the shop. It is part of the post delivery customer satisfaction survey that most insurers require. We get the reviews from there. We also do not filter them good or bad. What you see is an actual live stream of reviews from recent customers. My advice with Yelp is to take what you read with a grain of salt. If there are a lot of reviews, it is probably safe to say that these reviews are legitimate, and it also means the shop has a system for getting their customers to post a review. You can also look them up on our site and see if the reviews are similar in nature. Ours come from real people.

Every body has their own criteria for what makes an experience a good one or a bad one, but personally the ones I would look for are timeliness, correctness, and quality of the staff. You don’t want to have to take your car back to get the repair fixed, so pay attention to the number of customers who say they had to keep coming back to fix mistakes.

I also like to check out websites like the better business bureau and rip off

So after you have spent some time doing a little research and have determined who you might want to take your car to, the next step is to visit the shop in person. Tune in next week and I’ll walk you through what to look for on an in person visit.