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Strap on Your Boots

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How do we succeed when there are no vehicles to repair? You could argue that’s a fair question, but I’d disagree. There are vehicles to repair these days. Claims counts are down around the country, but being down versus non-existent are two different scenarios.  

So, what can we do to be successful during these challenging times as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on?

First, we can do something we should always be doing: marketing so that our shop is always top of mind as first choice for potential customers when it comes to collision repair. Over the last few  years the collision repair pie was big, and it was easy to get a slice of it. But now the pie is even smaller, and some of us are dealing with crumbs. 

While the current environment is historically unique, most experts agree the collision repair “pie” is going to shrink over the next ten years. We just need to look at this time period as boot camp for dealing with what’s to come.  

What are you doing right now to stand out from your competitors? Have you clearly communicated that you offer contact-free estimates, drop-offs and pickups? Regardless of how you personally feel about this pandemic, there are people who are scared. If they need to get their vehicle repaired, they’ll choose a place that is taking this seriously and doing what they can to protect customers.  

Even for customers who think the pandemic is overblown, having safety procedures in place communicates to all customers that you’re professional and care about them.   

How about doing something to help out your community? Buy some lunches for front line workers. Donate PPE to establishments who are in need. Our shop bought lunch for our local grocery store employees and they were overwhelmed that someone thought of them. While we initially did it because we saw how fatigued they were, it turned out to be a great marketing tool.  

Caring for others always gets noticed.

Anything you do to set yourself apart in your market will have both short- and long-term benefits. This isn’t a strategy to deploy only during the pandemic; this should be a part of your long-term success plan.  

Another way to set yourself apart in any industry is to be one of three things:  the fastest, the cheapest, or the best. While our insurance partners would like us to be all three, that’s usually not sustainable. Domino’s Pizza became famous guaranteeing how quickly they could get your pizza to you.   I listened to one of their executives speak about how poor their product tasted, but that wasn’t important to their core customer: college students. Similarly, McDonalds built an empire on cheap hamburgers and never postured themselves as the best hamburger. 

So, which one are you? Do you offer the fastest repair in town? How do you know? When was the last time you asked your insurance partners for some data so you can see where you rank in keys-to-keys cycle time in your market? Do you offer the best repair in your area? Most of us think we do, but only one shop in each market can make that claim. Ask your sublet vendors where they would take their vehicle if it needed to be repaired. Even more telling, if you’ve never repaired vehicles for your sublet vendors, jobbers, etc. than you can pretty much surmise that you aren’t the best.  

As we all face our new reality, I would encourage you to do two things that will help you. Develop a marketing plan that helps you stand out as first choice for collision repair in your area. Secondly, determine how you can set yourself apart from competition regarding speed, pricing, or quality. Take advantage of the extra time you have, if you’re lacking vehicles, to involve your team in developing these strategies. If they are included in developing the strategy, they are more likely to take ownership and help maintain the details of the plan going forward.   

 Whether your sales are down, up, or flat, you can focus your energies to ensure success in the current environment and whatever comes your way down the road.

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