From the Desk of Mike Anderson: Can You Meet Collision Repair Shop Customers’ Changing Expectations of Service?

From the Desk of Mike Anderson: Can You Meet Collision Repair Shop Customers’ Changing Expectations of Service?

I recently had the opportunity to meet in person with many of my 20 Group clients, and one of the things that came up was collision repair customers are not as patient as they used to be.

At the beginning of the pandemic, if you told a customer a part was on backorder, or a part would take longer to arrive because the supplier had reduced how frequently they were doing deliveries, they were pretty understanding.

What I’m hearing from auto body shops around the country is those same customers today are much more demanding, and they’re not so patient. They don’t care about supply chain issues or the shortage of employees. They just want their car repaired and back to them.

And I hate to say it, but unfortunately I believe that’s only going to get worse.

Which brings me to the topic of liquid expectations. You’ve probably heard that term. It basically describes that customer expectations in terms of service from a business are really shaped by their experiences with other companies.

If I can use the Starbucks app to order and pay for my coffee and have it ready and hot on the counter for me when I walk in, why can’t the local coffee shop around the corner offer me similar convenience and service?

In terms of our industry, I’ve been thinking about things I used to go get that now get delivered to my door. Take groceries. I may spend $100 on groceries, maybe $300 sometimes. Either way, my local grocery store delivers that to my house for free.

I get a prescription filled that costs me $7.99. My local pharmacy delivers that to my house. For free. No delivery charge.

I believe it’s just a matter of time before customers are going to start saying: "I spent $4,000 with you, and I have to leave my job early to come pick up my car?" I think it’s just a matter of time before they’re going to want the same type of pick-up and delivery service they are getting from all types of other businesses.

Now understand: I’m not saying I agree with this. I’m not saying it’s something we have to do or should be doing. But I believe collision repair customers are starting to want and could start to expect and demand a “white glove” or “concierge” type of service experience from us.

I was on a call recently with an insurer who said they’re seeing that sort of expectation from customers in terms of the insurer’s DRP shops.

So what would that mean for your body shop? Well, it means having another one or two people, right? We need to make sure they have a clean driving record and can have good interactions with customers. We’ll have some added liability if we’re driving customers’ vehicles back and forth.

We’re going to need to be profitable enough that we can offer that type of services. That goes back to a previous article of mine about employee wages where I said either labor rates have to change, or shops have got to be paid for more not-included operations, or some combination of the two.

Alternatively, it may also be something we could have a fee for. You pay $6.99 for a delivery by DoorDash. People spend that. So maybe it’s time we start offering pick-up and delivery for a certain dollar amount.

Either way, it also means we’re going to need to do much better in terms of quality control inspections of vehicles, because we don’t want to get a repair vehicle out to the customer’s home and only then discover an issue.

As I said, suggesting yet another challenge for collision repair shop operators isn’t something I like. But I just see this as one of the ways customer expectations are changing which we need to consider.

Related article from Mike Anderson:Are You Upgrading Your Shop’s Customer Service Experience?

Mike Anderson

Mike Anderson is a columnist for Autobody News and president of Collision Advice, a consulting company for the auto body/collision repair industry.

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