It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Yet, with today’s digital cameras in cell phones, even, pictures are worth less than a dime a dozen. Yesterday’s promotional pieces, flyers, brochures and even website pages, all may have nice photos, but people are less impressed with them these days. To really make an impact on a potential source of referral business, you need to get them to come to the shop and see the real thing. One live contact is easily worth more than a thousand pictures.
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With spring arriving, this could be a good time to spruce up the shop and push for some live visits by referral coordinators you’ve been chasing. Over the winter some aspects of your shop may have fallen into disrepair or worse. Getting an entire shop showcase-ready is generally not an easy task. Spare parts storage and the paint mixing room may have become major eyesores. Walk through the shop and imagine you have an insurance executive or dealership owner walking along with you. Try looking at your place from his or her eyes and take some notes. These could be the improvements that make the difference in how your shop is valued as a place to refer customers.
A few standard interior-decorating measures can make a major difference in how your shop is perceived. If you often have spare parts or some other eyesore in your office or waiting area, a useful device to hide that kind of thing is the room divider. These are generally just a couple of free-standing 2’x 6’ or 3’x 6’ panels hinged together, but depending on how they’re painted or covered with fabric or used to display promotional posters, they can be a significant visual asset in an otherwise drab room. If the office or waiting area is uncomfortably small, a mirrored wall gives an illusion of larger space and also reflects light to brighten a dimly lit room.
Although a body shop is in the automotive painting business, it’s surprising how many shops fail to adequately paint their buildings, driveways and equipment. Just painting the spray booth doors makes them look newer and better maintained at a glance. The same is true of the paint storage room. Older equipment like ancient frame machines and welding equipment can be spruced up quickly with a coat of the metallic paint you use on vehicles every day. Dealership shops are more likely to have identifying signs over bays indicating body work, frame work, welding, etc.
Dealership driveways also usually have painted lines to direct customers to various parts of the facility. But an independent shop can add a perspective of professionalism by adding a few signs around to designate how various bays are used and perhaps some painted lines on driveways. These simple cosmetic measures will make a major difference to visitors accustomed to well organized and generally very clean offices.
While these improvements might be made to impress an insurance executive or dealership owner, other changes might be added for more specific visitors. Some shops have begun to take advantage of the “baby boom generation” achieving the status of “seniors,” and looking for ways to alleviate physical problems that can come with aging. Special handicap access elements around the shop can assist an older person taking a shop tour and the shop could profit from offering and installing handicap-assistance devices like power running boards. Driving schools have begun to multiply as public schools drop driver training classes. Some shops invite student drivers in to look at heavy hits to alert them to what can result from hazardous driving. A shop showcase might add a display to that effect. Also a shop that caters a bit to mothers and parents should consider adding some child-entertainment items that could be emphasized when showing a mother or parent around the shop. This kind of convenience can make a major difference when a prospect is comparing competitor shops in your area.
While all of these improvements would significantly help sell your shop to prospective referral source visitors, the impact on shop personnel shouldn’t be overlooked. Sprucing up a work bay and perhaps making some improvement in the appearance of standard worker clothing tells a technician his or her work is valued and especially appreciated at this time. This same technician is likely to also present a better P.R. image when people are coming through on a tour. Efficiency studies have shown that personnel in general perform better in well organized, attractive spaces. You may have started out to simply make improvements to impress anyone coming through on a shop tour, but you could also be pleasantly surprised to find that your improvements have reduced cycle time and made a major difference in your financial bottom line.