Shop Life

Going the Extra Mile When Delivering a Car

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Four minutes.

That short amount of time—240 seconds—is enough to make an impact.

In a similar vein, collision repairers also have limited time toward the end of repair work to leave a lasting impression with customers. It’s the time where you get to show the customer a car that is no longer damaged and shines like brand-new.  

In essence, that time at the end of the repair, when shops deliver a vehicle to the customer, is their time to make sure the customer’s mind is irrevocably altered.

Often, little touches at the end of the process stand out to the customer. Roses placed into the center console of every customer’s car, a sample-sized bottle of touch-up paint or a keychain with the shop’s name on it stand out to the customer, noting that your shop went above and beyond paying attention to details during the repair process.

For Ross Smith, owner of Kelly Paint & Body in Aiken, S.C., his team chooses to leave each customer with a small flashlight that holds the shop’s name on it. The flashlight is handed out as a way to keep the body shop’s name in front of the customer after he or she leaves the repair facility but also is a way for the shop to show it cares about the customer’s overall safety. After all,  if the customer ever endures a night time accident in a secluded area, a flashlight can come in handy.

Smith’s shop has a high, 4.5 star rating on Google and customers now consistently comment about how their car looked brand new upon pick up or how punctual the staff was in delivering the car.  One customer said the work was “A 10 amongst fives,” and another said “every business should follow their example of excellent customer service.”

However, making an “event” out of delivering the car for the customer involves more than just handing out a token of appreciation. The process can be made seamless and extraordinary from the moment the body shop calls the customer to inform him or her that the car is ready for pickup.

“When you first buy your car and you’re walking away,” Smith notes, “you tend to look back at it because you’re proud of it. But, after a couple of years you quit doing that. I like to say, we’ll make you look back at your car again.”

Go the extra mile when… scheduling the car

Give the customer plenty of advance time to pick up the car, Smith says. His team will notify the customer with at least half a day’s notice that the car is ready.

“We don’t call them at 4 o’clock and tell them they need to pick their car up at 5,” Smith says.

Basically, once the car is painted, the customer service representative will call and, depending on the size of the job, give an estimated finish time to the customer. A larger job might require giving the customer a two– to three–day lead on picking up the car.

Go the extra mile when… showcasing the car

Smith and his team will stage the car in an area separate from the body shop’s workspace. Since the collision repair shop is in a part of the south and the weather is usually warm, the team will stage the car outside the body shop. If the weather is inclement, then the team clears out a part of the shop that’s adjacent to the shop floor. The space is regularly used to store parts, but when showcasing the car the parts are all removed from that area.

When showing a car to the customer, the best way to show off the fresh paint is to use the most natural form of lighting. If the car is inside the shop, make sure the entire space surrounding the car is clear and the walls are a neutral color, Smith suggests. That way, all of the customer’s attention is focused on the vehicle.

Go the extra mile when… walking around the car

Make sure to have an employee bring the car to the customer and then walk around the car with the customer. This process should always be conducted before the customer pays for the repair.

“We’ve noticed that if customers ask for an extra item to be done like a paint touch-up, that’s the first item they go and look at it,” he says. “We try to leverage that and just take them around the car all the way.” 

Smith has one of his two customer service representatives bring the car to the customer and perform the walk-around.  There’s no “sales script” per se, but the CSR will point out certain aspects of the car every time. They’ll ask if the customer wants to go over and check out all the functions on the car to ensure they’re working properly, such as headlights, taillights, or blinkers.

Go the extra mile when… explaining the repair 

Smith says the team doesn’t follow a script to try to “sell” the customer his or her car again. Despite not having a script, his customer-service team knows that there are key phrases to use when talking about the repair.

One is to cover the warranty aspect of the repair. Let the customer know there is a lifetime warranty on the paint, repair and workmanship done on the car as long as they own the vehicle.

Secondly, the team points out the use of OEM standard parts on the car. Pointing out the use of recommended parts is a way to reinforce to the customer that the repair was done with his or her safety in mind. If the team sent the vehicle to an outside facility for a wheel alignment, they’ll hand the paperwork of that test to the customer. 

Lastly, the customer receives care instructions on how to handle the car to keep the repair intact. These instructions include advice on not waxing the car for a month, avoiding the wax option at car washes, and no use of Dawn-dishwashing liquid on the car. It’s also important to ask the customer if they have any concerns about the repair.

Go the extra mile when… offering services 

“We get paid to do the job and so does everybody else,” Smith says. “The truth of the matter is, though, a lot of the time there are little extra tasks we can do on the car for the customer that helps the look of the vehicle overall.”

When the customer has a specific request, the team makes a large, pink laminated-card that is then placed inside of the car. Each department in the shop knows to read the card and make sure the specified tasks are done. 

For instance, if the team is already replacing an old headlight on one side of the customer’s car, the other headlight can appear dull and faded in comparison. The team will then sand and clear-coat that headlight to make it look as good as new. That service is done at no cost to the customer.

Every car is touched up as it moves through the repair process. Paint transfer will be buffed off all around the car for the customer. Tires and rims can all be wiped down to look shinier, as well. In the end, those little touch-ups will present the car as if it went through a detailing process, Smith says.

Shop: Kelly Paint & Body    Owner: Ross Smith    Location: Aiken, S.C.    Staff Size: 19 Shop Size: 14,000 square feet     Average Monthly Car Count: 80   Annual Revenue: $3 million

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