Does your shop have a customer first mindset?

Are you practicing what you advertise?…

Is your customer really #1?…

Are you serving the “right” customer? (DRPs/Insurance carriers or vehicle owners)

From what I see out there, although we may talk a great game, sometimes we overlook the concept of providing a “customer-first” business model or culture.

It seems many shops focus on pleasing the insurance carriers or DRP “partnerships” (and I use that word fictitiously) they serve, over the actual vehicle owners.

I’ve also witnessed more times than you would think, very busy shops, with multiple DRPs, treat their customers… the vehicle owners… like parts of the assembly process or just another checkmark in the constant production of repairs… an entity to be “managed”, instead of their #1 reason to even be in business, to employ others, to open their shop doors every morning for.

Hopefully the message I share today will help re-open some eyes, shine a fresh light on, and help direct the focus back on what is the #1 most important aspect of any service-based business… treating the “customer”, like the most important person in the world… first time, every time!

There’s a great quote about this, from someone I didn’t expect:

Ray Kroc, the founder of the McDonald’s empire.

“If you work just for money, you’ll never make it, but if you love what you’re doing and you always put the customer first, success will be yours.” 

I’m quite sure if Ray were still alive, and visited one of those locations today, he would surely be impressed with the long drive-thru lines, but might be less than excited about the whole “putting the customer first” thing?

I’m not knocking any particular fast-food brand, but the whole industry (with a few exceptions) is not being very customer-focused, we just seem to be cogs in the wheel of their money machines… and unfortunately, I see the same thing happening in other sectors of service-based businesses… including collision shops!

Recently one morning, as much as I despise myself for it, I was going through a drive-true for something quick and my total was $4.74 and when I handed the window-jockey (sorry, don’t know the exact title for that position?) a $5 bill, he actually asked me if I wanted the change back??… really?…. are you kidding? I mean I know it’s only .26, and I’m not a tight-wad or miser, but isn’t providing correct change back part of their job at the drive-thru window?

It wasn’t a “do you want to donate to Ronald McDonald house” or some other charity (I would have said “sure”)… NOPE… just “did you want your change back?”

Have I gone back, yep… do I remember that every time I pull up to the window…? You bet your ass I do!

Then there’s the cable & internet provider industry… THERE’S a customer-focused business, huh?

I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to call the cable company (and that’s a call we all love to make, right?) trying to get through an automated phone tree maze, that’s so complicated, that a rocket scientist couldn’t figure out, just trying to get an actual HUMAN to talk to… end up in some weird directory-loop until I finally start pounding the “0” key yelling “CUSTOMER SERVICE REPRESENTATIVE” …. Feeling like their best customer yet?… no?… well wait, there’s more…

You finally get connected to someone to talk to, set up a service appointment, and they give you a 4-hour window you need to commit to being home, but they never make the window… you re-arranged your life to accommodate them, not the other way around… and they still can’t come through!…

Talking about no-call/ no-shows, what about other service industries or the trades, contractors & sub-contractors?

Ever try to get someone out to repair your AC or furnace, fix an electrical problem, give you a quote for new roofing, siding, construction work or landscape repairs?… you’ll get some kind of time frame… but it’s a crap-shoot most every time. They may claim to provide great customer service, but where the rubber meets the road, they often fall short, and leave you waiting around for hours & often disappointed.

Now I hate to have to say it, and you probably don’t want to hear it, but the facts are the facts, I’ve dealt with hundreds of shops over the years, from mega-dealers to little two-man shops, and the collision industry as a whole, doesn’t fare much better when it comes to providing a customer-first experience, or fostering a customer-focused culture within their business.

While I know many shops that understand this concept, have excellent customer service and reap the benefits of treating the customer right, there are so many more that just simply don’t.

The concept of what “world-class” customer service is has changed over the years, and is now morphed into something called “the customer experience”.

To achieve high customer satisfaction and, in turn, repeat customers, you must place a strong emphasis on treating your customers well. In today’s lingo, it’s called Customer Experience, and organizations throughout the world have transformed it from a simple tagline to something that can be tracked, analyzed and objectively improved.

As customer service guru Shep Hyken says, “Your customers no longer compare you to your competitor. They compare you to the best service they ever had… from anyone.”

That means, although your customer may be experiencing a vehicle repair process, they are measuring it against other purchasing experiences, like getting a coffee from Starbucks, Chick-Fil-A, In & Out Burger or ordering something from Amazon!

In today’s marketplace, the customer experience is paramount.

According to Sébastien Ricard, founder of LumApps:

  • 90% of American consumers use customer service to make purchasing decisions.
  • 84% of businesses that focus on improving their customer experience have better financial outcomes than their competition.
  • Companies with the best customer experience see nearly six times more revenue than those with poor customer service
  • Organizations with formal initiatives to make their customer experience better, see an average of 20% higher employee engagement.
  • Despite generational differences, today’s consumers share one thing in common–the majority (82%) report being disappointed or upset by brands, and those feelings are more pronounced among Gen Zers and Millennials. Consumers have high expectations, and companies aren’t always performing well enough.
  • Consumers value their experience, and they’re putting their money where their mouths are. Four out of 10 respondents are willing to pay as much as 20% more for an impressive customer experience.
  • 88% of consumers trust shopping recommendations from people they know

I ran across a great article by Oracle & Jeanne Bliss (I’ll include a link in the show notes) that had some great insights on this, and here’s a couple additional statistics worth noting:

Personalization is yet another way a company can put its customers first.

That’s because personalization shows how much you care and that you want to walk another mile to provide more than expected.

What’s interesting, this can not only impact your bottom line thanks to higher customer satisfaction which often correlates with better retention rate but can also justify the price of whatever you’re offering (especially if you’re targeting Gen Z audience).

·         According to the recent Oracle report CX: One Size Doesn’t Fit All, four out of 10 respondents are willing to pay as much as 20% more for an impressive customer experience.

·         Also, 58% of Gen Z customers are more likely to buy from a company that offers novel ways to experience its product or services.

·         Younger consumers are more likely to give their business to companies that offer new ways to experience products and services than those that don’t. They value novelty, and are constantly reimagining the world around them. Consequently, how your products and services fit in that picture will determine your brand’s worth.

·         And, at the same time, 68% of the consumers say tailored experiences based on their tastes and preferences are important to them.

Taking all of these statistics into consideration, it’s hard to overlook the importance of personalized experiences. Going one step further and tailoring what your customers get to perfectly suit their needs is one of the best ways to put them first.

These things really don’t require you to reinvent the wheel, just make some small adjustments… infuse a little creativity, in how you provide a better experience.

Discover upfront, what forms and frequency of contact & updates they prefer during the complete repair process… text, email, phone or SM status updates.

Provide no-update updates:” Hi Mrs. Smith, I know it’s only been 2 days since our last update, but just wanted to let you know we are still waiting on 2 parts to complete the reassembly before your Corolla goes to final detail.”

Don’t promise a delivery date you can’t accurately predict, there is nothing worse than planning on getting your vehicle back on Tuesday afternoon and then finding out Tuesday morning it may be another couple days… if you keep timely & honest updates through-out the process, and let them know for sure (not hopefully, or maybe) that they can pick-up their vehicle on a specific day & time-range, the customer satisfaction level will be much better.

Leave a small personalized “thank you for choosing xyz Body Shop” note in their console, maybe a small bag of treats or even a $10 gift card for a local coffee shop or restaurant on the passenger seat before delivery.

During COVID lockdowns & restrictions, many repair shops figured out how to provide “touchless” delivery to the customers workplace or home (if close enough to your shop).

Maybe give them a shout-out on your SM page… everybody likes to see their name in print!

Follow-up 2-5 days after delivery to thank them for their business and ask if they had any additional questions or concerns.

There are many other ways to personalize that customer experience, you just have to put in a little thought & effort into it.

Let me be clear on this, before you can be successful with making any changes and improvements in the customer experience you provide for YOUR customers, you need to be clear on exactly WHO your customer is?

Many shops have one or more DRP relationships, but even the ones that don’t, sometimes don’t realize it, but they are working hard to appease their “insurance partners” … let’s be crystal-clear on this point… they are not your “partners”, they have no investment in your building, employees, equipment or financial health & wellbeing!

Although you may have some great relationships with certain adjusters or supervisors, don’t lose sight of the fact that their goal is reduce the amount they have to pay you for every single claim… that’s their job… that’s what their bosses expect from them!

They also pray on the fact that you operate daily with the fear of not upsetting the insurance company, and getting kicked off their program!

I’ve heard thousands of times “I can’t ask them for this, or charge for that, I’ll make them mad, or I don’t want to lose that DRP or I’ll get dinged for that”… right?

When that customer enters your front door, that is YOUR customer, yes, they have that insurance company covering some (not all) of that claim, but it is YOUR customer, and how you repair that vehicle, the liability of an incomplete & proper repair, and how their customer experience is, is all on YOU & YOUR shop!

Don’t ever lose sight of that… the vehicle owner is your customer, they are the ones that can promote or punish your business.

They can brag about how great of a job your shop did and how they were treated, driving friends & family to use your shop if they ever have an accident…or they can sink your business with a lawsuit, because you only did what your “insurance partner” would cover on the RO, only what they thought was ‘reasonable & necessary” to repair that vehicle, not what it really required to be put safely back on the road.

I had a stark reminder of that fact as I viewed the infamous “John Eagle” Honda on display at a collision conference this past weekend, an improperly repaired job that resulted in a $42 million dollar lawsuit.

As I wrap this up, I just want to remind you that although you may feel you already provide “world-class” service & you believe you treat your customers like they are #1… I urge you to take another look… ask someone you trust to “mystery shop” your business to see how they are treated, or have someone call your shop while on speakerphone, so you can hear how the customer’s first impression by phone really is?

If it’s what you expect & are happy with, awesome!… great job!

But if leaves something to be desired, hopefully I’ve given some food for thought!


There’s a great quote from Maya Angelou

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”

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