How to Educate Customers on Supplements
Devin Fischer has always been upfront with his customers, especially when it comes to the time frame of repairs.
He can remember when he had a customer that took his or her work elsewhere, simply because Fischer could not guarantee the time frame in which the work would be done. Fischer scheduled five days, but wanted to inform the customer that additional damage may be found.
The customer, who ultimately went with another shop, didn’t like that. The other shop guaranteed five days, but ended up taking nine days, because of the same reason Fischer originally warned.
As the general manager of Fischer Body Shop, a two-location operation in Jefferson City and Eldon, Mo., he says that supplements are essentially inevitable, but that doesn’t mean it has to ruin the customer experience.
The shop, which has on average about two to three supplements per day, has an 86 percent supplement rate, which he calculates as the percentage of completed jobs with a supplement of some kind minus parts price increases. The Jefferson City location alone has an average monthly car count of 145, and very rarely is there a customer upset due to supplements.
Fischer shares why it’s important to inform your customer of the repair process, specifically with supplements.
Supplements are something that a lot of shops don’t explain very well to the customer. This is one thing that we’ve worked on a lot in the last year. Communicate with the customer ahead of time. Tell them, “Hey, this is what we can see, but I can’t guarantee anything.” It’s important to let them know that you could find more hidden damage, which could mean a longer repair.
A lot of customers don’t understand what supplements are, so it’s important to walk them through the process. A lot of the time, they think that supplement work means it’s out-of-pocket work, but reassure them you’re awaiting insurance approval. I still have customers that come in and say that our estimate is $200 more than an estimate from their insurer and think that the difference is out of pocket.
In the case of a supplement, we make sure that we have all of the information we need before we call the customer. We have a pink sheet for our technicians who do the teardowns. They’ll check their parts and fill out the sheet. At that point, the technician will turn it in to someone in the office handling that job. We’ll check in parts and get insurance approval. We take care of all of that before we inform the customer. We like to have all that information so the customer can have the full scope in one call. We like to do all of this as soon as possible; the process usually takes about one day.
The pink sheet is old school but it helps us stay organized. On the top of the sheet, there are spots for the technician’s name, date, RO number and make and model of the vehicle. The rest of the sheet is broken up into columns labeled the following:
- Item number
- ETA part
- Interrupt (process that should be moved to the front of the line)
- Date order
- Photo taken
This sheet makes sure we are covered and can act as documentation for us and the customer.
It’s important to explain to the customer that this is all you can do when it comes to a supplement. I always offer them that they are more than welcome to see the progress on their vehicle and the invoices, show them the dates parts were ordered, repairs were done, etc. When you explain to the customer that they’re more than welcome to come by, see everything and you lay it all out for them, most of the time, they’re fine.
Sometimes we made a mistake and miss something and we feel obligated to help them. We help work out transportation for them. We’ll put them in a rental car and take care of the costs for a couple days. We also have customers that didn’t have a rental, so we give them a discounted rate for a rental. We have a few customer courtesy vehicles that we’ve been known to let a customer borrow for a day or two. It’s a case-by-case basis, but we do whatever we can to take care of the customer and make sure they’re not stranded.