Professional-Looking Uniforms Are No Longer an Option

Professional-Looking Uniforms Are No Longer an Option

I was in a large shop recently talking to a couple of technicians and I was impressed by their knowledge and commitment to the industry.

Two of them were I-CAR Platinum Level certified and the other one was on his way to achieving the same. We were discussing things like aluminum repairs and the value of training, but I could not help but stare at them.

None of them were dressed the same, and all of them wore different baseball hats, representing the San Francisco Giants, Oakland Raiders and even another shop, which I found interesting. Two of them had uniform shirts that looked like they were older than me, and the third gentleman was donning a t-shirt advertising a band called the Insane Clown Posse.

Wow, these guys are smart; they communicate well and they're obviously dedicated to what they're doing, so why are they dressed so poorly? That's why I decided to write my column this month about shop uniforms and how they can help (or hurt) your company's image.

Ted Stein, the state president of the California Autobody Association (CAA) and the fixed operations director at Penske Ford in La Mesa, CA has a total of 38 years in the industry, so he knows the importance of uniforms in a shop environment. "We are very picky about our uniforms, and we make them a priority," Stein said. "They are an extension of your business, and if your people look sloppy, that reflects on the entire company. Your uniforms are a definite form of branding, so whether they are t-shirts with your logo on them or something more formal, people are going to see them outside of the shop, when your crew is out having lunch, etc. Image is so important in this industry, because the consumers are relying on us for being honest, approachable and responsible for fixing their vehicles, so we need to look the part."

The days of technicians and counter people wearing their own clothing at work are long gone. While many companies now have more and more casual dress days, automotive repair companies are gravitating away from this trend. If you want to run a professional business, it all starts with what the consumer is going to see. Uniforms that are clean and neat will make the customer more confident and comfortable and will contribute to making the entire process easier overall.

Many businesses have discovered that having uniforms in the workplace helps to strengthen and support a cohesive team spirit. A more focused and unified workforce often leads to improved productivity and superior company performance overall. Seeing is believing, and making a good impression goes a long way. That's why collision repairers see the results of featuring clean uniforms on their crew every day.

To find out the effectiveness of uniforms for your crew, experts at J.D. Power and Associates polled consumers as well as employees and the results are compelling:

•Three out of every four consumers prefer employees in uniform.
•97 percent of the people polled said that uniforms help to make your crew more recognizable.
•Seven out of every 10 people said that uniforms make your employees look more professional and easier to approach.

Other people polled about uniforms said things such as:

•"Uniforms give the company a better image."
•"Employees in uniform look more professional and appear to be better trained than those not in uniforms."
•"They look like a team with uniforms, because no one stands out and everyone looks neat and presentable."

Employees asked about their uniforms stated the following:
•"We project a quality image with uniforms, and the customers are more confident in our ability to do a good job by wearing them."
•"It creates good morale, because if we look good, we will logically feel good as well."
•"Uniforms allow us to focus more intently on our work, because we never have to worry about what to wear to work."

Your crew is an extension of you and how you run your business, so uniforms are an ideal way for you to create the image you're looking for. Today's consumers are a lot more discerning and know so much more about customer service, transparency and branding. To placate the average customer, you need to create a positive image in every aspect of the repair process, and clean and neat uniforms can be an integral part of that.

So if you're currently not using uniforms or need new ones, make it a priority, because body shops all over the country are using uniforms as part of their formula for success and it's working.

Ed Attanasio

Ed Attanasio is an automotive journalist and Autobody News columnist based in San Francisco.

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