Your Shop's Key Relationships
It was a day like many others. Tim Beal finished his shift at the collision repair shop he was working for and took his paycheck to the bank to deposit his weekly wages.
“Except this time, the check bounced,” says Beal.
With two newborn babies at home and his wife still in college, Beal couldn’t afford to not be paid. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Until then, Beal had been doing side work out of a garage that he rented for $20 a day. While moonlighting, he made it a point to never say no to a customer, a mentality that has taken him far in life.
“When my paycheck bounced, I realized that I had enough side work to go out on my own,” Beal says. “So I left the shop I was working for and decided to take a chance on myself.”
Beal walked into his employer’s office the next day and said, “I’m done. Instead of working for you and not getting paid, I can work for myself and not get paid.”
“That was the last time I ever worked for someone besides myself,” says Beal. He soon went on to start his own shop, Beal’s Autobody and Paint in Prescott, Ariz.
Little did he know that he would find so much success on his own, as he anticipates topping more than $4.5 million in sales for 2021.
Asked what the secret is, Beal says “it was the relationships that I built with the dealerships, service centers, and my own customers in Prescott.”
Oftentimes the relationships that shop owners create with those around them form the lifeblood of their business. What are these key relationships and how do you form them? Beal offers the secrets to his.
As Told to Caleb Brooks
That story took place in 1988, almost 35 years ago. When I went out on my own, I really focused on building these close relationships with the dealerships and service centers around Prescott.
I found a niche that wasn’t being filled doing custom work and fixing used cars for local dealerships. It was only a matter of time before these dealers would then refer work out to me when somebody messed up in their departments.
Always performing quality work and never saying no to a request from them went a long way. Before long, I had built up trust with the dealerships, which translated into receiving referrals from the Chevy, Ford, and Honda dealerships.
This was occurring so often that the insurance companies added me to their DRPs. Then my new shop really took off.
Building these relationships with the dealerships in Prescott is really what created my business. We would never tell them no, we offered same-day repairs on dings, dents, and scratches for them, and we would do the best job possible.
I took care of them, so they took very good care of me. This is the power that building strong relationships has over your shop.
As I sit and reflect on my experiences in the industry, I realized over the past 30 years that the relationship between my shop and our customers is the most important. This should ring true in every shop as well.
Everyone knows that word of mouth advertising is the most effective way to advertise your shop. So I view our customers as an extension of the staff, effectively adding them as employees.
The best way to do this is through a frameshift of this question: would you refer this shop? But the correct version of this question is will you refer this shop? A yes to the first question doesn’t guarantee anything, but a yes to the second does.
Take Care of Them
To get the “yes” that we want, we go above and beyond for the customer. Our key-to-key cycle time is six days. We never say no to any job, especially little fixes such as dings, scratches, or scrape repair.
At the end of the job, we spend 20 minutes with the customer explaining what we did. This is so the customer knows that we offer efficient, reliable, and all-around service.
According to my marketing consultants, Phoenix Solutions, from the day that a customer’s car is fixed, there is an 87 percent chance that they will know someone in need of a collision service center within the next two years.
These are the people that we want our customers to refer to us.
To virtually ensure this happens, we send every customer three postcards following the completion of their car.
The first at six months, the second at 12 months, and the third at 18 months. We thank them for their business, remind them of our lifetime warranty, and in return they remember us within that two year period.
This system is so effective that my shop has dropped from being in 12 DRPs to only two, and we anticipate moving to one by the end of the year. We simply do not need them because our word of mouth advertising is so strong.
So strong in fact, that I spend no money on advertising. We take care of our customers and in return they take care of us. The relationship that we build with these customers is so important. It is important to my shop and I guarantee you that it is important to yours. Making sales people out of your customers is a decision that you will never regret. But it is only possible by building that trusting and confident relationship with them. Treating them like family, giving them the best possible service, and reaching out to them when the job is done.