A shop in my area recently experienced an attack by a competitor. One of the competitor’s reps was trying to get one of the shop’s dealership “authorized collision repair” status. At the same time they tried to hire away one of his best technicians, and some nasty “black P.R.” was employed to hurt his reputation with local insurance agents.
The New Year is well under way and by now most of us have probably forgotten our New Year’s resolutions—that is, if we even bothered to write any.
The collision industry in my area is divided into two camps: The big guys and the smaller independent shops. The big multi-location or consolidator-owned shops have a huge advantage over the smaller shops. In addition to more revenue to hire top-rate repair technicians, they can also afford many more administrative people to enter data into the computer and do follow-up mail, e-mail and phone calls.
I recently spoke to an insurance agent who said that in this tough economy they have had to shift their strategy. He said during normal years they had about a 15 percent attrition of customers, but they were generally able to attract at least 15-to-20 percent new customers to make up the difference. Now, he said, attracting new customers seems all but impossible, but fortunately the attrition rate is way down and by stepping up service they have almost been able to retain all of their existing customers.
The California Autobody Association Glendale Foothill Chapter meeting, on April 28th, featured speakers from three major providers of Refinish Materials Calculators. Wayne Krause and Brian Bragg from Mitchell presented Mitchell RMC. Bob Klem, president of PaintEx, presented PaintEx. Richard Palmer, President and CEO of Computer Logic, presented PMCLogic. Mr. Palmer traveled the farthest, coming from their headquarters in Macon, Georgia.
Many science fiction films speculate on what it would be like for outer space aliens to make first contact with humans. Some jokingly suggest a humorous encounter with an animal assumed to be our most intelligent species, but the message is clear: That first encounter can set expectations for all that will follow.
I recently checked out the websites of a few current and past body shop clients. In all but a few, there were virtually no changes from the last time I looked nearly a year ago.
Driving around and noticing which shops are still somewhat busy during this economic downturn is very revealing. One common denominator that I’ve noticed is the way these busy shops persist with their marketing programs even when they’ve had to lay off some technicians and make other cuts in expenses.
I recently spotted a local mechanic going on-site to do some customer repairs. He had his ASE emblem in his truck window and a magnetic sign on the door advertising “Auto repairs at your home or office.” With the recent downturn in the economy, many technicians have been laid off. Most of those who can’t find another job go on unemployment until business improves. But there are a few enterprising guys like the mechanic I saw. He went out and hustled his own business.