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The Easy Electronic Payment Method

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Collision repair customers at Friendly Chevrolet in Dallas were starting to get irritated with how long the lines were to pick up vehicles.

Then, faced with the option of handing over credit card information through the phone, customers had to decide whether they wanted the ease of payment that came with questions over whether the information was secure or not.

For Brent Pound, collision center director at the Dallas dealership, he knew he needed to find a new solution.

One type of service that’s becoming more common is offering an online payment form—which is an alternative method of payment for customers who want to pay outside the store but worry about things such as security measures—to customers.

Pound, who has been the collision repair center director for more than a decade, says electronic payment not only  has benefits for the shop’s customers but helps with streamlining the overall repair process.

Pound soon found offering additional ways to serve customers helped the shop grow at a steady pace and retain an annual revenue of $6 million.

 

The Backstory

Pound was introduced to the automotive industry in the same way he was introduced to online payment options: “weaseled” into it by a friend. He began his career as an estimator after a friend showed him the job was available.

He then worked his way to an assistant manager position and manager at an independent body shop. In 2008, he took over as the collision center director for Friendly Chevrolet in Dallas.

When he first started at the shop the facility was not producing enough revenue, had a high turnover rate and outdated equipment.

“Frankly, it was in pretty rough shape,” he says.

Since that time, through meetings with other managers in the company and improved processes, Pound was able to increase sales by 150 percent.

 

The Problem

The body shop was starting to witness some back-ups in the process of getting cars out to customers after the repair, Pound says.

After a few years of working for the dealership, he noticed that customers usually came to pick up their vehicle after 5 p.m., when the workday was over. Since this became a popular time for customers to enter the shop, the customers would have to wait in lines at the different credit card payment machines, he says.

Pound says he soon realized that not only were customers becoming agitated by the long wait times, but the process for vehicle repairs was also affected. Those 10–15 minutes of wait time made more of a difference than he anticipated.

“If you have 12 different people trying to pay at once, the staff can get quickly bogged down,” he says.

The body shop has five people who work in the front office and five pay stations accordingly.

 

The Solution

Seven years ago, the managers from each department in the dealership met at one of their monthly meetings to discuss how the processes could become more streamlined.

Out of that meeting and a simple brainstorm session, the managers formed the idea to utilize another payment option for customers, Pound says.

They decided to hire someone in-house because it was the easiest route, he says. The managers asked their in-house marketing person, who also had experience in web design, to create the new section on the website. The in-house hire was already creating ad campaigns through platforms like Google Ads for the dealership.

So, the in-house hire set up an extra tab on the dealership’s website in which a customer could click into and pay for a repair online. The form works for other types of dealership services as well, Pound says.

The process took several weeks to establish, Pound says. Once it was finished, the managers met once more and went over new features on the site to make sure everything was in working order. At the time, the page was set up as a convenience factor for the customers and the managers simply did not think of marketing it as a separate campaign.

While the body shop does not advertise the service to customers, Pound says that now when a customer comes in and would like to process a payment online, he can offer them that option to skip a longer wait.

 

The Aftermath

Pound says that it is a low percentage of customers that decide to take the e-pay route, but now the shop has a cycle time of 6.5 days.

Within the last three years, the shop was able to expand into a total of 25,000 square feet to keep up with the average monthly car count of roughly 150.

Pound has also noticed an increase in customers that are parents of college students, who are having vehicles repaired. Often, the parents will simply pay online for the repair or pay the deductible for the student.

 

The Takeaway

As e-pay increases in popularity, Pound says he has noticed an increase in customer trust for keeping information more secure than it would be over the phone and, in general, an increased interest in the option.

The average monthly payment is roughly $10,000 for processing credit cards in store, he says. In comparison with the online option, the monthly fees associated with offering an online form of payment for the customer are not excessive.

“More recently, in the past few years, costs associated with bank fees have increased and gotten very costly,” he says.

 

 

Expert Advice: Use Convenient Pay as a Tool

A shop has a way to make the whole interaction easier for a customer simply by offering him or her another way to pay for the repair.

Tony Passwater, founder of QuickBooks R Us,  is a firm believer that the more options for customers the better.

“There is nothing stopping shops from telling existing customers they have several options to pay, including e-pay,” he says.

Managers should be marketing this on multiple platforms, he says, including social media and the shop’s website and any advertisements in the community.

Passwater says that while offering customers another pay option is a benefit to a collision repair shop because it offers convenience, he says shop owners can improve the process by  researching the options available.

And, he says the process is relatively simple to set up as a customer service. The  shop creates a subdomain which is a website page that has a link on the company’s main page and the link takes the person to the second page which features another category. The page should include text greeting the customer and asking how they’d like to pay. The customer should have the option to input an invoice account number he or she is paying for and a method of payment like a credit card.

    

 

 

 

SHOP STATS: Friendly Chevrolet   Location: Dallas, Texas.  Operator: Mark Eddins  Average Monthly Car Count: 150-170  Staff Size: 20 (5 in the front office)  Shop Size: 25,000 square feet  Annual Revenue;$6 million 

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