Treating the Customer First
Customers know that if they walk into Jose Gutierrez’s shop, “damage meets its demise.”
The slogan scrolls across Sudden Impact Auto Body & Collision Repair Specialists’ computer screens, televisions and is heard on the radio. Customers know the phrase because they’ve seen it repeatedly. Alongside that website logo, they also see the phrase, “We believe in treating the customer first.”
And the advertising pays off in the end.
For a shop that only has one DRP, the majority of customers come into the facility after seeing its advertisements throughout Las Vegas.
Gutierrez bought the shop in 2002. And, over the years, Gutierrez says he’s seen DRPs become a trend of the past. He now feels that shops like his should focus on gaining OEM certifications to market their business as effectively as possible.
“I thought [DRPs] were the way to go back in the day, but since then things have changed, as well as vehicles,” Gutierrez says. “ There is a lot of training and investment that goes with certifications and it’s all so we can be more knowledgeable and fix vehicles back to factory specifications. Since then, we’ve leaned on OEM certifications for about 7 years.”
Switching from a DRP-oriented process was only made possible when he figured out a way to keep profits flowing through impactful advertising.
Roughly seven years ago, Gutierrez “weaned” his body shop off DRPs and started working toward OEM certifications. Today, the shop has about 15 certifications.
The shop still has one DRP and that relationship remains because that company continues to put family and customer values first in its business interactions, Gutierrez says.
The Las Vegas facility received roughly 80 percent of its work from DRPs and only saw a need to advertise the business three times per week on television and radio.
“Advertising at the time was just about supplementing brand recognition,” Gutierrez says.
During the time when most body shops focused on DRPs to build their customer bases, Gutierrez followed suit. Yet, as time went on, he realized that the best way to bring in business, and go above and beyond for quality repairs, was by becoming a customer-focused shop.
He realized he should move away from DRPs when the companies started to become more focused on saving money and not helping the customer, he says. For instance, he began noticing that some insurance companies would not pay for a complete paint job if it was done after the car had dings or scratches, he says. He was concerned that the insurance companies didn’t care about the quality of the repair.
Before Gutierrez ever owned a shop, he worked as a painter in the collision repair industry for 18 years. He loved that work because, at the end of the day, he was able to personally see the customer pick up the car and see how happy it made him or her.
And, as a painter, he was able to play a critical role in the repair process and decide if a repair needed to be sent back in the process to be fixed or moved forward.
When he thought back to that time, Gutierrez realized he needed to take a similar approach as owner of his body shop and move the shop forward.
First, he needed to find a way to still bring in revenue, even without the relationships he had with insurance companies. At the time, the business had an average repair order of $1,500 and an average monthly car count of about 90 cars. He decided to focus the shop’s advertising around a core component: the family.
The business started following a simple motto: Let our family serve your family.
Gutierrez’s first key step was educating customers about repair work. As one of the only members of the team in the front office, Gutierrez personally greets customers and takes extra time to explain the repair process to them.
He tells the customer, “We’re a family-owned business and we stand behind everything we do.”
If the customer comes in with an insurance estimate, he’ll go through each step with the customer and might explain an area of damage that the company missed. Then, after the customer’s car is scheduled and begins the repair process, Gutierrez has his team contact the customer twice per week to update them on the repair.
He recommends that other shop owners also give shop tours to clients. If the customer asks to see progress on the vehicle, the owner should show him or her the car.
Gutierrez also personally posts the shop’s social media messages in order to tailor the advertising message. The shop’s main forms of advertising come from posts on Facebook and Instagram. He feels a shop should try to post content that illustrates the education process inside the facility. In other words, content that’s helpful to the customer, light and funny, and also includes photos of what’s happening inside the shop.
In order to stay relevant and right in front of the customer with his shop’s name, Gutierrez posts roughly three times per week. For example, he often posts a picture of his team working on a car or a short video of a worker with emojis within it. One of the shop’s July videos shows a painter dancing and then asks, “Who says you can’t have fun?” At the end of the posts, Gutierrez make sure to add the shop’s contact information.
Every day, Gutierrez monitors the shop’s reviews on Google and Yelp. Right now, the shop has remained between 4.5 and 5 stars consistently. If there’s a negative review, he’ll respond to the customer promptly, and attempt to get the client back in the shop.
At the end of the day, Gutierrez showcases his endeavors via an advertising campaign (See sidebar “Steps to Media Advertising”) on local radio stations. He shows potential customers that while his staff is ready to help them, it’s their choice where they take their car.
While the shop’s cycle time is a bit longer because they wait on insurance companies now, Gutierrez says his current average repair order is about $3,000. The shop works on about 140 cars per month.
On average, the shop has increased its supplement rate by about one extra supplement per job. Before switching to DRPs, the shop was doing about two supplements and now averages about three supplements.
And, Gutierrez eventually realized he needed to get his staff on board with the move away from DRPs. He decided to implement a motivation system for his team.
Randomly, he’ll walk into the shop floor and pull out the staff time cards. If someone has been consistently on time, he’ll reward them with a bonus.
The business has grown because the heart and hub of it is the family behind it, Gutierrez says.
“When customers see we’re a family-owned business and that we stand behind everything we do, it creates a trust factor between us,” he says.
Since switching from DRPs, the shop’s CSI score is between 96 percent and 98 percent.