Within four weeks of making the conversion, the shop began seeing positive results. Color matching has become easier, there is better air quality in the shop, and they have been able to increased productivity by fifteen cars per month—now repairing over two hundred cars every month. Cortés says “my detailers say that this paint has made it easier for them to completely detail the car, spending less time wet-sanding and buffing. The paint flows better, and they see less dust in the paint,” reducing denibbing and other post-application problems.
Clarkstown prides itself on customer service, cleanliness and professionalism. According to Cortés, “we are often compared to a lawyer’s office, both for our appearance as well as our office staff.”
As part of their dedication to customer service, they utilize a car scanning and tracking system called “My CIC” which allows them to scan cars at each stage of the repair process using a barcode with which each car is labeled upon entering the shop. This information allows office staff to update customers easily when they call to check on the status of their repairs. According to Gene Cortés, it also “helps to speed up the repair process, cuts back on phone calls, and increases our productivity.”
Gene believes “customer service is dying and that is one area I’ve never compromised. Even in this digital age, I believe in face-to-fact contact, greeting the customer and hearing a friendly human voice on the phone. From the first day I opened my doors, I’ve had a friendly, professional person at the front desk and answering the phones. We refuse to have an electronic answering system during our open hours of operation. If the phone rings more than twice before it is answered, someone is not doing their job.” Clarkstown International Collision also uses the Customer Service Index to obtain customer feedback on their service and performance, and they react immediately to any negative feedback.
Clarkstown International Collision is also dedicated to staying current with technological advances. According to Gene, “computerized estimating, management, paint mixing, and Unibody measuring systems are all must-have programs for a 21st century shop. I still see shops doing it the old way… and those won’t make it unless they change their ways”.
Gene believes shop owners need to educate themselves constantly in order to stay up to date. “It is no longer a matter of just knowing a trade. You have to school yourself and be willing to spend the money in training for yourself and your staff.” This is important since the computer systems in vehicles are constantly becoming more challenging, especially in Hybrid cars.
Also, he believes modern customers are more educated about repairs than they were twenty years ago. Because customers are aware of aspects such as the differences between aftermarket parts, manufacturer parts and junkyard parts, shop owners and employees must be even more educated in order to deal with potential questions. At the same time, Gene points out that “insurance companies are now more than ever pushing after-market parts and more insurance companies are refusing to raise their labor rates, but they are requesting more from the body shop which cuts into our profit margin”.
Clarkstown International Collision was founded in 1992. Gene was an insurance adjuster before opening the shop, but as he felt had experience on both sides and the desire to own his own business, he and his wife opened the shop with a bodyman, a painter, and only $100 in the bank. After visiting many shops and analyzing how each operated, Gene applied the best practices of what he saw at each shop he visited. True to his belief of learning as much as possible, Cortés plans to attend NACE 2011 and SEMA. Though he has not attended in the past because he was too busy to leave the shop, he is looking forward to the events this year.
The shop is active in their community of Nanuet, NY. They are members of various non-profit organizations, including the Rotary Club, the Knights of Pythias, Rockland Business Association and the Nyack Chamber of Commerce. Clarkstown also donates funds to the Jesse J. Kaplan School for Special Needs and to local churches, in addition to hosting an annual community Christmas party for families to bring their children for a day of fun with Santa.
Clarkstown International Collision supports and is supported by thirty employees, eight of which are office personnel. They employ three frame technicians, two painters, one production foreman and four bodymen while the remainder of their employees work in preparation, detailing, maintenance and parts. The shop encompasses 12,000 square feet with an additional 2,000 square feet used for the office, and utilizes six Uni-Body benches, three MIG welders, an aluminum welder, two prep stations, two spray booths, and one paint mixing room.
Besides auto body work, Clarkstown also offers towing, paintless dent repair, glass repair and detailing. The shop is I-CAR certified, as well as Mercedes-Benz certified, and they are certified in aluminum repair. They do not participate in any direct repair programs by choice.
Clarkstown International Collision
95 Route 304
Nanuet, NY 109554