Some say the recession is over, but from my observations, that recovery hasn’t trickled down to most body shops yet. I see the large shops going after the incidental jobs that used to sustain smaller shops. When some of their DRP work slows down or dries up, they begin to look for ways to pick up jobs that normally went to their smaller competitors.
A while back, Ford used the following headline in their magazine ads: “Only Your Mother Cares More About Your Safety.” With the media today telling consumers about manufacturing defects and recalls, faulty repairs by shops, and even huge amounts of fraud, the prospective repair customer may fear for her and her children's lives if she chooses the wrong shop. Today many people are more motivated by fear than by positive motives. This may be a good time for a wise shop-owner to use this perception to his or her advantage.
I was recently helping a shop update their website, and checking out numerous other shop websites in the process. One characteristic stood out in most of them: their primary emphasis was on their QUALITY of work.
A local collision shop recently set up a table at a Volvo dealer’s Customer Car Care Clinic on a Saturday. While not the exclusive authorized repair facility for the Volvo dealer, the shop does a fair amount of repair work for the dealership’s customers.
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. He tried to fight back. An old military maxim says, “the best defense is a good offense,” but this shop owner felt he lacked the personnel and resources to really mount a good offense against this larger, multi-shop competitor.
In the 1940s, in the Spring the Missouri River, in the vicinity of Kansas City, would overflow from heavy Winter snows and Spring rains. The result was serious flooding of the surrounding land. One factor that made the flooding worse was the meandering nature of the river, and one of the worst meanders was locally called “Jackass Bend” where severe flooding was nearly an annual event. To resolve this situation, the U.S. Corps of Engineers dug a straight new channel several miles South of the old one called the Liberty Bend cutoff, and dammed up the old channel. And they built a new bridge across the new channel called the Liberty Bridge.
I recently learned that a shop owner in my area had dropped a couple of DRPs, including Farmers and 21st Century (which had been absorbed by AIG). I heard that he had decided that between his Toyota and BMW dealership relationships plus his many-year prior customers, he no longer needed the hassle of increasingly onerous demands and low profits from the insurance companies.
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.