As a child, Peter Reszczynski recalls often spending time at an auto body shop located on the northwest side of Chicago.
In 1984, he started a business with his parents, Import Auto Repair. When they retired, Reszczynski took over as owner and has managed the 9,500-square foot facility since then with a team of 22.
In 2014, Reszczynski aligned his shop with the body shop network Fix Auto USA, becoming Fix Auto Chicago. Reszczynski also joined the network’s Franchise Advisory Board, representing the Midwest region.
Since then, Fix Auto USA has named Reszczynski the brand’s 2017 Franchisee of the Year for his market-leading performance, forward-thinking vision and leadership throughout the franchise system.
“It was probably one of the best decisions I made,” said Reszczynski. “I strongly believe body shop owners who join together within a common platform can provide a higher value to consumers and insurance providers. By being a part of something bigger than themselves, operators have better growth opportunities to succeed long-term.”
Fix Auto Chicago is a VerifFacts VQ medallion shop, a designation provided by VeriFacts Automotive to top-tier body shops that demonstrate high-quality service and repairs.
In 2019, VeriFacts Automotive distinguished Reszczynski with the March Taylor Award for Outstanding Leadership as a Shop Manager.
Autobody News talked to Reszczynski about the practices his collision repair facility has focused on over the last year to ensure the business’s future success.
Were there any new practices you implemented due to COVID-19?
Many of the practices that may have seemed unique for shops during the pandemic we have been doing for quite some time. They just happened to fit into the reality of what things have been like.
One example is photo estimating, which we had been doing before COVID-19, but it has escalated over the last 15 months. We use photo estimating during the intake process to triage the vehicle, often before it arrives, to help determine the level of damage, prepare the repair order and potentially pre-order parts.
This helps maximize efficiency and lower cycle time. It also helps clients decide if they want to file a claim. Many try to pay out-of-pocket and it helps give them a general idea of the costs and processes involved.
Kazimierz Rodak disassembles a car for repair planning.
Our employees love it. It has helped us align production much better and our staff is very pleased with that.
Another example is the concierge service we provide for our Chicago clients. This was common practice before the pandemic, but more shops are doing it now. For us, it has taken on a different proportion.
During the pandemic, Fix Auto USA owners worked together to develop a process for transferring customer vehicles without having them travel to the facility, so it is a little safer and easier for them.
It involves customer service representatives (CSRs) traveling to the potential client and providing them with a rental car on the spot and then returning with their vehicle after it is repaired. Depending on their comfort level, clients can come in and pick up the car at the shop or take delivery of it at their home or place of business.
There are quite a few who have taken advantage of the program and they are very appreciative, but it is not for everybody. Many still prefer physical interaction with the facility.
What were some of the other ways Fix Auto USA supported franchises during the pandemic?
Fix Auto USA provided many tips with us through the company’s website. Not only have we been able to share those tips with staff, but we’ve also communicated to clients through our social media platforms. We’re part of Driven Brands now, and the entire Driven Brands' communication was COVID-19-sensitive and customer-centric.
Fix Auto Chicago has always prided itself on having strong cleaning and detailing practices. As a result of the tips shared, we added a disinfection step, which our customers appreciated.
Physically, we provided spaced seating arrangements and additional safety protocols were implemented in the office and for employees.
We found it much easier to ramp up our current practices rather than implement them from scratch. If we had not prepared for that, our sales would have potentially suffered a little more than they have.
Joanna Najdala, CSR-estimator, at Fix Auto Chicago.
How did COVID-19 affect your business financially?
In 2020, we ended the year 19% under what our numbers were in 2019. We had expected a 30% drop due to COVID-19, so we felt we closed the year stronger than anticipated.
Although we had to furlough some employees, we have since recovered and are operating with a full staff. Traffic patterns have picked up over the last several months and people are traveling again; that will likely provide additional claims.
To what do you attribute your company’s success?
From the beginning, we strategically set up our shop as a higher-end facility that was forward-thinking. Training has always been our priority.
Through my involvement in performance groups, we implemented lean production solutions and improved cycle times. At a very early stage, we also earned OEM certifications and have adhered to those standards for quite some time.
As a result, we have built a sterling reputation. We are known for offering high-quality repairs, that are done efficiently, at a very cost-effective rate and in compliance with OEM standards---a win-win for the consumer.
What are your plans and expectations for 2021?
We will continue with the current practices we had before the pandemic and those recently implemented in 2020. We plan to emphasize our concierge service and additional safety steps for customers, even coming out of the pandemic. I think they have become accustomed to that now and expect it in the future.
Our involvement with auto manufacturers continues as well. In addition to being part of many OEM certified repair programs, Fix Auto Chicago was certified in March 2021 as a Lexus Authorized Collision Center, a direct Lexus OE certification for independently owned body shops. We were the third shop in the U.S. to achieve this recognition.