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Wednesday, 31 May 2006 17:00

Maximizing systems by team marketing to solicit more biz

Written by Tom Franklin

Successful shops step outside the existing business model to develop processes that improve productivity and profitability. Don Long's approach to productivity and profitability at Keyes Collision Center in Van Nuys, California, is an example of how the team concept can be enhanced to improve shop efficiency. 

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Whereas traditionally one technician is assigned to a vehicle, at Keyes an entire team of technicians can be assigned to one process. Long says his efficiency goes up between 175% and 200%, and his cost factor drops also. In new automobile manufacturing, team assembly has replaced traditional assembly line processes in many plants.

"The Wisdom of Teams," primarily authored by McKinsey & Co. consultant Jon Katzenbach is an excellent source on the subject. Katzenbach defines "team" as "a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable." Whether it's an athletic team, military team, sales team or production team, the same definition applies.

I've been in hundreds of body shops, but I've yet to see a real marketing team. Why is that?

The marketing team

First of all, there's an assumption that marketing is an outside activity. Shops that have a marketing guy or gal expect that person to be out calling on agents, insurance direct repair managers, dealership principals, fleet managers, and more. Yes, these people do spend time inside writing letters, making phone calls, and meeting with management, but the main focus is outside. So why might there be a need for a marketing team?

The fact is, there's a definite limitation on how much an outside marketing person can accomplish without highly focused support by personnel inside the shop. For example, an outside person might be calling on insurance agents to promote referrals. But imagine how much more effective those calls would be if he or she were carrying specific information on which completed jobs at the shop were cars owned by a local agent's policy holder customers. Even if not specifically referred by that agent, noting a repair job for the agent's satisfied customer increases the likelihood that agent will actually refer a customer in the future.

To make this information available to the outside marketer, front desk personnel or shop estimators will have to ask every customer who their agent is, note that information in the job record, and pass that information on to the outside marketing person. Typically inside personnel rarely take the time to ask for any information other than the bare essentials about the vehicle, vehicle owner or claimant, and insurance company or companies.

To prompt them to take the time to collect more information, shop management needs to recognize their importance as part of a marketing team, and build in some rewards accordingly.

Overcoming reluctance to ask

Other information available by asking shop customers could open up whole new avenues for marketing efforts, but estimators and front desk personnel may not want to be "pushy." They may feel uncomfortable asking a customer about his or her employer, whether or not they have company vehicles, etc. One way to overcome this is to provide the customer with an opportunity and form to contribute referral information.

A customer satisfaction questionnaire often includes the question, "Would you refer our shop to someone else?" More information can be obtained by adding the following lines: "Does your company or your employer have vehicles periodically needing body repair or refinishing? Please note who we may contact if you have been pleased with our service."


When estimators and front desk personnel don't consider themselves part of a marketing team, they may not think to pass this information on to the marketing person. Once again, adding that status to their job, and working out a way to reward them when their effort produces more business, will make them more aware of the importance of passing vital contact information on to the shop new business marketer.

Daily chances to solicit more business

Every person who drives in or walks into a shop has an entire world of personal and business contacts. All of those contacts can be potential repair referrals at one time or another. A brief conversation may result in a customer mentioning a friend, family member or personal vendor in need of vehicle repair. An alert estimator or customer service representative will follow-up on that lead and maybe bring in that business.

Because collision repair may occur only once every several years, customers may forget about the shop in the interim. During slow times, shop personnel could easily send postcards prompting referrals and offering a simple reward like a car-washing, detailing, or other desirable service.

As part of a marketing team, these extra tasks that would otherwise be considered an unwanted nuisance, could now be recognized as a way to help the shop thrive and perhaps add some additional revenue to their own paycheck.

Tom Franklin has been a sales and marketing representative and consultant for forty years and is the author of the books, "Business Battlefield Marketing for Body Shops," "Tom Franklin's Top 40 Marketing Tactics for Body Shops," and "Strategies for Greater Body Shop Growth." His marketing company now provides marketing solutions and services for body shops and other businesses. He can be reached for questions or comments at (323) 871-6862, by fax at (323) 465-2228, or by E-Mail: tbfranklin@aol.com.


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