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4 Keys for Improving Your Work Capture Ratio

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The role of a body shop estimator has evolved immeasurably in recent years. Steve Trapp knows that better than most. 

Trapp, the North American Strategic Accounts Manager for Axalta, started one of the first value-added body shop programs 30 years ago. And, in his experience, capturing body shop customers nowadays might be harder than ever. 

“It used to be that body work was done largely by people that were very good with their hands,” Trapp notes. “Now, you still have to have that still, but you also have to [learn] accident-avoidance systems, recalibrations, electronics. It’s very different now for estimators.” 

Longtime Pennsylvania shop operator and consultant Ron Perretta agrees. He feels it takes a careful, well-considered approach to win over the vast majority of collision repair customers these days. 

“I don’t care what type of business you’re in, you have to position yourself in your market, 

create a niche, or become a commodity,” says Perretta, the owner of Professionals Auto Body. “If a shop doesn’t have a good product in the eyes of the consumer, and if you aren’t on their side in the eyes of the consumer, closing the sale is difficult.” 

In order to post a great work capture ratio, shops must take the following steps.

UNDERSTAND THE MATH INVOLVED. 

While Perretta no longer has his employees write estimates, historically his staff produced capture ratios around 75 percent, which is widely considered a solid benchmark. But before fellow shop owners can achieve such a performance metric, they must first grasp how to monitor it. 

And capture ratios, in essence, can be monitored multiple ways. Depending on the type of work a body shop often sees, such as fleet work, staff members may want to perform the following calculations: 

  • Capture ratio: Number of ROs divided by the number of estimates written 
  • Total closing ratio: Money from ROs closed divided by money from estimates written 
  • Customer paid closing ratio: customer paid ROs divided by number of customer paid estimates 
  • DRP/dealer/fleet closing ratio: DRP/dealer/fleet ROs divided by number of DRP/dealer/fleet estimates

WATCH YOUR TONE. 

When trying to convert today’s body shop customers, it’s important to remember that, most likely, they haven’t been in an accident in nearly a decade. And vehicle technology, obviously, has evolved by leaps and bounds since then. 

Because of that evolution in technology, potential customers require a bit of hand holding when they first arrive at a body shop. 

“If you can become the consumer’s advisor, and your tone becomes advisory instead of selling, you’re going to have more success,” Trapp says. “First [ask consumers] ‘What are you hoping to accomplish on your car, and what are your personal needs?’” 

When initially conversing with customers, Trapp suggests that shop staffs focus on the following: 

Actively listen, by speaking with the customer at length before even approaching the customer’s vehicle. 

Avoid using jargon and automotive terminology that someone outside of the industry is unlikely to understand, and explain acronyms like ‘ADAS.’  

OFFER MULTIPLE OPTIONS. 

One thing hasn’t changed about vehicle owners over the years: few of them possess intimate knowledge of their insurance policy. That’s why Trapp feels it’s imperative for shop staffs to explain the financial implications involved with most repair work. 

And, he suggests accomplishing that by presenting each potential collision repair customer with all of the available options at a shop. Trapp thinks of it as presenting customers with “packages.” 

“Let’s take a typical RO—say a $2,500 repair, on the borderline of customer-pay versus insurance-pay,” Trapp says. “The first thing we have to do is educate a customer on how to make that decision. So, we could say ‘Okay, based on what I’m seeing today, this is definitely more than your deductible, and the cost of your insurance is going to go up by generally 15-20 percent if you report that claim.” 

In general, Trapp suggests presenting customers with the following options upon arrival to a body shop:

Claim, no claim: First, determine if a customer wishes to make an insurance claim. 

While you’re here: Inform customers of work your shop can do relatively quickly, while they’re on-site. “Say, ‘Hey, I’ve got the paint in the gun, the car’s in the booth, I’ve washed it, and I’ve got a repair order going,’” Trapp says. “I can do parts of that repair a heck of a lot cheaper today if I can fix it while it’s here.” 

Sell small jobs: If a customer clearly looks like they’re driving an otherwise well-maintained vehicle that they take pride in, Trapp suggests body shop staffs attempt to make additional, small sales such as detail work. 

DON’T FORGET TO FOLLOW UP. 

In Perretta’s experience, persistence with consumers pays. For instance, his shop once made an informational CD that it gave to customers who decided to take their business elsewhere, and then the staff eventually followed up with those consumers to ask if they had any further questions. 

More than once, those individuals eventually gave Professionals Auto Body their business down the line. 

Similarly, Perretta has his staff provide customers with the following: 

Daily updates on repair work, even noting the progress of how their insurer is handling their claim. 

A delivery closing in which customers receive a thorough explanation of all work that was done on their vehicle, including elements like the maintenance of the paint. 

Taking small, extra steps like that, the longtine shop owner says, “helps turn customers into a sales force for the future.” 

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