Editor's Letter: Crash Course
Well, I write to you this month from a different perspective than usual: that of the customer.
Last weekend I was leisurely driving around one of Minnesota’s many lakes on a beautiful summer day when the car in front of me stopped to let a pedestrian cross and I just … didn’t stop in time.
My first thought? “That did not just happen.” It had never happened in all my years of driving! But as I got out of my car and glanced at its crumpled hood, it became obvious that it very much had happened.
What surprised me next was how embarrassed I felt. We weren’t driving on icy roads, there was no quick stop, we weren’t in bumper-to-bumper traffic. There was no good reason why I failed to stop in time except, of course, that I’m human.
Cut to me apologizing so profusely that he actually consoled me and we hugged before parting ways (that’s normal, right?). Thankfully, we were both fine and so was his car, actually, though mine had certainly seen better days.
That’s when the stress set in. Even though we were both going 15 miles per hour, we both kept a (relatively) level head, and we were both able to drive away—any accident is still overwhelming. It’s difficult not to be immediately stressed by thoughts of how much it might cost you, whether your car will be totaled, and what your policy even covers.
So, I’m not exaggerating when I say that it was a genuine relief to have a few body shops in my back pocket. Ones that I know well, no less—where I know the manager, the estimator, the technicians, the painter. I had good people on my team, and that made the whole song and dance of having to spend the next day on the phone with various departments at my insurance company, completing a mobile estimate, and trying to convince them not to put aftermarket parts on the estimate far less stressful.
The whole experience has been a humbling reminder of not only who this industry serves, but also the mindset of customers who walk into your businesses every day. I’m certain there is so much your shop does well throughout the repair process, but if those customers aren’t thinking, “Thank god I can call XYZ Auto Body” after an accident, you can’t be that guiding light for them. Don’t underestimate the value of having a follow-up process in place, or of reaching out even years later. That top-of-mind customer awareness just might win you a customer for life.
For now, you can catch me around town in my Dodge Caravan rental, easily the safest vehicle I’ll ever drive.