From the Desk of Mike Anderson: Creating an Extraordinary Customer Experience Before, During and After Collision Repairs


In an earlier column, I shared part of a conversation I had with one of my teammates at Collision Advice, Sheryl Driggers, about what she sees it takes to create an extraordinary customer experience at your auto body shop. 

The customer experience is about more than just “customer service.” Those are individual moments, but are only part of the customer’s overall experience of interacting with your brand start to finish, not just during the time spent interacting with your employees. Our conversation was based on our belief that customers won’t really notice a “normal" experience with your shop, only an "extraordinary" one. Here’s more of what Sheryl and I discussed.

Mike: Sheryl, we talked previously about what goes into creating an extraordinary customer experience prior to them even arriving at the shop. Now let’s talk more about what else needs to happen prior to repairs.
Sheryl: Sure. So once we have the customer in front of us, in our office, how do we communicate the value of choosing our shop? No one likes to go somewhere and be “sold.” No one wants that pushy, aggressive salesperson just trying to sell them something. So I always say: We don't have to sell; we just have to communicate the value of our shop to customers. 

Sheryl Driggers of Collision Advice.

As I’d mentioned, talk about the shop certifications you have, and why that certification matters to them. Show not just that you have advanced training and equipment to repair the vehicle back to when it was when it was manufactured, but also explain how that helps maintain the vehicle warranty.

Mike: What else should go on during that conversation?

Sheryl: Talk to the customer about being their advocate throughout the claims and repair process. Give them a designated person to be able to contact. At our shops, we designated a person who was the contact for each customer, the one responsible for contacting that customer every other business day. The customer had that person’s email address and cell phone numbers so they could call or text if they had questions in between those updates. 

Another one of the most important things that I think that shops often do not communicate clearly is the value of their shop’s warranty. Early on, talk about what that warranty includes, what that means for the customer. Often you hear insurance companies talk customers into going to their preferred network or their DRP shop because of the warranty. So it's important that shops talk about their warranty early on, and explain even in that first in-person repair consultation what it means to the customer.

Mike: So after that is it just about fixing the car correctly?

Sheryl: No, there’s more to it. We want to treat customers as if they are our VIPs, so when we give them that extraordinary experience, they then become brand evangelists. Sure, you have to fix the car the way that the manufacturer says it should to be fixed, using the repair guidelines from the manufacturer. But you're supposed to do that. So that's average. That's normal. 

You have to look for opportunities to be extraordinary. You have to look for opportunities to be generous with your customers, to do things that they do not expect. Maybe the customer’s car has a scratch on the other side of the vehicle that you are able to buff out. When you are generous with the customer, you help create an extraordinary experience.

Mike: What else do you see going into that process?

Sheryl: Well, one of the most important things that we can do with that customer during repair is always overcommunicate. Mike, you wrote a column once citing that quote from author Jon Gordon who said, “Where there is a void in communication, negativity will fill it.” So communicate to avoid those voids, even from the beginning, through the disassembly phase, through writing a complete repair plan. Keep the customer informed on what is going on. Even if you're waiting for someone else---maybe on the bill payer to approve a supplement---make sure that the customer is in the loop during the entire process. 

And you have to be responsive. We have to respond to the customer quicker than they expect. One of the things we asked our customer service team at our shops to do was to always have the customer updates done before 10 a.m. Because if a customer is expecting a phone call from you today, if they don't hear from you before lunch, they’ll automatically assume you're not going to call. So it’s important to always respond quicker than they expect.

Mike: So does that bring us to the vehicle delivery process after repairs?

Sheryl: That’s right. We've got to finish strong. And so one of the things that we did was we set up delivery appointments in order to make sure we were prepared and had the time we needed to spend with that customer. The first thing that we did at the delivery appointment was review the repairs with the customer at the car. We were proud of the work that we did. We weren't trying to hide anything. So we reviewed the repairs with the customer, while at the same time talked again about the warranty. We talked about the CSI survey that they’d be receiving in a couple of days, stressing that we value their feedback. And then after all of that is done, that is at the point where we will collect any kind of payment or insurance check that we needed from the customer.

Mike: Is there more about the payment process that can help create an extraordinary customer experience?

Sheryl: Yes, we would send the customer the final bill electronically, and offer them the option to pay electronically if they wanted. We could send them a link before they even showed up at the shop for the delivery appointment to take care of that, if they wanted. Some people want to do everything on paper, while others want to do everything electronically. So giving customers options is important.

Mike: Sheryl, I can’t thank you enough for sharing your expertise with me on creating an extraordinary customer experience---so that I can share it with the readers of my column. I’m proud to work with you.

So, readers, what goes into creating an out-of-the-ordinary experience for the customers at your shop? I’d really love to hear your ideas. Shoot me an email!

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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