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Stacey Phillips

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Stacey Phillips is an award-winning writer for the automotive industry based in Southern California. She has more than 25 years of experience as an editor and writer and has assisted a wide range of businesses and fields. In addition, Stacey has co-authored two books.

 

She can be reached at stacey@radiantwriting.com. 

 
Wednesday, 07 September 2022 09:26

Shop Strategies: Florida ‘Shop of the Future’ Focuses on OEM Certifications, Building a Culture & Customer Reviews

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The team at Collision Care Xpress in Pompano Beach, FL. The team at Collision Care Xpress in Pompano Beach, FL.

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Robert and Christina Molina, owners of Collision Care Xpress, often tell customers no job is too big or too small. They take pride in building trust with customers and offering the latest auto body repair and paint technology at their Florida facility. 

Robert has always had a passion for cars. In 2008, during the Great Recession, he worked as a body shop manager for Cadillac and Hummer outside of Ft. Lauderdale, FL.  
 
“The whole world was on fire back then,” recalled Robert. “I thought it was a great time to open a shop of my own.”  
 
In 2010, Robert and Christina found a location in Pompano Beach, FL, just north of Fort Lauderdale, to open their body shop. For the first few years, Robert was a one-man show. “I did everything, including estimating, body repairs, welding, pulling, painting and dealing with insurance companies,” he said.  

 

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Collision Care Xpress’s four buildings each have a different focus: DRP, electric vehicle repairs, combustible engine repairs and fleet repairs.
 
Christina was a nurse at the time.  
 
“Those first years, she was concerned that I had left my job to open my own business,” recalled Robert. “I told her it’s going to be something special one day.” 
 
The shop focused on custom restoration work, which helped them get through the early years until they built up the collision side of the business. 
 
“Christina paid the bills and kept me alive there,” said Robert. “With her support, I was able to continue chasing my dream and was determined not to give up.” 
 
I talked to Robert and Christina about their focus on OEM certifications, building a culture and other initiatives that have made the business successful over the years.  
 
How did you begin building the business to what it is today? 
 
Christina: In 2015, I had just given birth to our second child, and instead of returning to nursing, I decided to stay on board and help Robert run and grow the business. 
 
Working there was a natural feeling because my dad was a mechanic for 40 years and I was always at his shop or at the drag races with my family. I have photos of myself in a diaper with grease from head to toe.  
 
Robert and I purchased our first freestanding building in 2016, about a mile from our original location. It was really scary. We were promised...


...that a DRP would come in and they never did. We looked at each other and said, "What did we get ourselves into?"  
 
Looking back, it was probably the best thing that could have happened because it made us not be dependent on a DRP for a steady flow of work. We had to think outside the box and focus on our marketing and social media to succeed.  
 
Robert: We went from having about 3,000 square feet of shop space to 16,500. I thought we had made a huge mistake by listening to a DRP, but as Christina said, it was a blessing in disguise. We were able to figure out how to market and grow our company.  
 
An essential part of your business is focusing on OEM certifications. Why is this important?  
 
Christina: Our marketing efforts made us realize that we wanted to focus on OEM certifications. As an OEM-certified shop, we have a great working relationship with all major insurance companies. Because we are an independent shop, we never deviate from factory-mandated restoration procedures and are always able to keep the best interest and safety of our customers as the top priority.

 

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The facility has 90,000 square feet of air-conditioned repair space, called the campus compound.

 

With our OEM certifications, we have the expertise and resources to provide insurers with documentation and procedures to justify the necessary repairs, and that aids the insurance estimator to properly value the repair.
 
To be a high-caliber facility, we believe you have to be OEM certified and repair vehicles the way the OEM specifies. Over the years, we’ve worked hard to hire high-caliber technicians and then train them to always check the OEM procedures.
 
About a year after opening the new facility, we had the opportunity to work with Tesla and were one of the first shops in Florida that was Tesla certified.  
 
Robert: We’re proud to say that as of today, we have more than 20 OEM certifications. That goes a long way with customers. We find they put a lot more trust in us and feel they are bringing their vehicle into a shop that is well-versed in repairs.  
 
What is the importance of customer service and reviews? 
 
Robert: We can’t afford to have a customer come in and not do a good job. After every repair, I follow up to find out if there was anything more I could do to help. We have thousands of five-star reviews, which isn’t common in our industry. 
 
From the beginning of running the business, every time we finished a job, we asked customers to go online and leave a review about our company on Google or Yelp. That wasn’t as common back then as it is now, but it’s what started growing the company. We began picking up traction and...


...getting more business because of those reviews. 
 
We’re customer-centric and want to ensure our customers are happy. If we receive one star due to a situation we couldn’t control, we work hard to convert it into five stars. Some managers or operators don’t want to reach out to a disgruntled customer but we can’t afford that. Instead, we take the time to work things out. I believe that we learn and grow tenfold by working with that one disgruntled customer until they are satisfied and refer their friends and family to us.
 
Christina: We always tell customers that we want them to have the best possible experience. Many think of a body shop as a dirty dark space where their car gets lost in a black hole. We want customers to know we hold a higher standard than that and they can feel comfortable bringing their cars here and know they are fixed properly for their families.  
 
We're serious with our technicians and ensure that they do the right thing with every repair, especially when no one's looking. We repair about 250-300 cars a month and neither Robert nor I can personally check every car.  
 
What training do you implement with employees? 
 
Robert: In addition to manufacturers’ training, we also coordinate a lot of outside training and bring in speakers nearly every week during staff meetings.   
 
Christina: We find a variety of speakers so it’s a different topic every time. One week we might focus on team building or estimating and the next, we could have a financial planner who can give our staff pointers for their own personal financial planning.
 
Robert: We’ve even had a company chaplain come in and talk to them; some guys love being able to talk to somebody like that.  
 
How do you encourage teamwork? 
 
Robert: We think outside the box. We have an on-site gym with a shower, an arcade, a recreation room for our 60 employees, and several employee lounge areas. Each offers a different setting from communal dining, to relaxed seating with a large screen TV, to a quiet space with comfortable seating for individual "down time." 
 
Christina: We also hold a lot of parties and events. Most recently, the team went to a hockey game and an evening of bowling… that got a little competitive! We find these gatherings help...


...build a culture and lead to happy employees who want to come to work and be together. When you have happy employees, you get wonderful results. Unhappy employees are disgruntled and unlikely to put out a great product.   
 
Robert: Customers can sense that. It’s like when you walk into a restaurant and know the servers are upset. You’re uncomfortable. It’s important to ensure our staff is happy because they will radiate that to customers. It’s a critical part of being successful. 
 
Not only do we do this with employees, but we also include their families when appropriate. We’re planning a family camping trip in October so they can share the experience with their loved ones.  
 
How does this help with recruiting and training?  
 
Christina: It makes a huge difference. The only time we have a problem hiring staff is when we grow. Most of our team has been employed here since day one. We’re getting ready to hire more employees because we’re getting busier. It’s a great problem to have.  
 
What are your plans for the business? 
 
Robert: We’ve purchased a new building almost every year since opening and are expanding again. We have more than 90,000 square feet of air-conditioned repair space and call it our campus compound. It’s a shop of the future that customers can drive their cars into and is gorgeous.   
 
There are four buildings set up and each has a different focus and customer base we market to: DRP, electric vehicle repairs, combustible engine repairs and fleet repairs. By breaking up and focusing on each part of our business, it is easier to coordinate employee training, offer better service and be more efficient.  
 
We recognize the industry is changing and we can no longer repair everything the same way. We have to divide and conquer and provide customers with the best options.   
 
Christina: Using this system, we’ve found our business is more organized. It allows us to spend time with employees and offer specialized training, especially with EVs. Every car is eventually going to be an EV. If you aren’t focusing on OEM certifications and learning about EVs, you aren’t going to have a shop in the future. You don’t have an option anymore, so it’s important to be forward-thinking.  
 
Robert: Another development is the creation of a human-less valet system that moves cars automatically through the shop. This will help with repair planning and be more efficient when moving from station to station. That’s the future of the collision business---less human and more interactive with computers.  

 

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