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Morris: The ‘VOC’ You Can’t Ignore

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I remember many years ago, when VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) were a hot topic in the collision repair industry. 

Federal, state and local governmental agencies were drafting and passing regulations to reduce the amount of VOC content and emissions in the painting and coating processes. Paint companies came up with new and innovative solutions to meet the reduced targets for allowable VOC content. Body shops learned to use new tools and application processes to become compliant with the regulations. Over a relatively short period of time, the mission to reduce VOCs was accomplished, and nobody gives much thought to this topic any longer. 

VOCs are still around, but they’re largely forgotten.

Today, a new kind of VOC is taking its turn in the limelight of our business. The VOC I am referring to stands for the Voice of the Customer. 

The VOC is a critical component of operational excellence. It is, in part, the process we use to gain an understanding of customers’ needs and wants so that we can have detailed information that is useful for designing or redesigning our products and services. 

Many companies utilize end-of-service or completion-of-purchase events to generate a survey that seeks feedback from the customer about their level of satisfaction with the service they received and the quality of the product they purchased. In the collision repair world, there has been a steadily increasing proliferation of post-repair customer satisfaction surveys that are generated by many of the stakeholders in the repair process. 

Customers receive surveys from the body shop. They may receive a separate survey from the insurance company. They may also receive another survey from the rental car company that provided a replacement vehicle during the repair. These surveys may come to the customer via text message, email, or a phone call depending on their preference and the ability of the service providers to accommodate that preference. All of this is commonplace in our industry today.

The thing about surveys that are done after the repair experience is that some of the feedback is looked at as either good or bad but little to no action is taken on either outcome. It is almost like there is a feeling of resignation, thinking that it’s too late to turn the customer around when there is negative feedback. 

What do we do as repair shop operators when we receive positive feedback from a customer survey? Do we make a big deal over it and do a forensic dive into what caused the customer to first take the survey and then give high marks on the survey?

Dissecting the results of your customer satisfaction results has major value and we can talk about how to go about that in a future column, but I believe these post-repair surveys are not the complete voice of the customer. 

Survey, Then Repair 

What if you added a step in your quest for understanding the wants and needs of the customer before you even started the repair experience? Do you think it would help to get early feedback from the customer rather than wait until the end of the repair to see how you did? What would that process look like and how could you deploy it to improve your operational excellence?

I have talked in the past about using a client questionnaire at the time of drop-off to understand more clearly the wants and needs of the customer. I have recommended that you meet with your team to review your current CSI results and then develop your own questionnaire for your shop. Let’s say you want to improve your results in the category of “kept informed.” This document should be your road map to not only understand the facts of the loss, but to know things like:

  • Who should be receiving updates on repair progress?

  • How often should those updates be given?

  • How does the customer want to be kept informed?

Don’t assume that the person dropping off the car is the one expecting the progress updates. Often, a spouse does the drop-off, but the other spouse is managing the repair and dealing with the shop, insurance company and rental agency. Use the phrase “keeping you informed” every time you communicate with the customer and be sure your customer experience representative keeps the promise of communicating as often and in the manner the customer desires.

Refer to my previous columns for other ideas of what to have on your own questionnaire and be sure that your customer-facing person is the one completing the questionnaire. Do not hand it to the customer and ask them to fill it out. Make it a conversational exchange which allows for some bonding between the customer and your team member.  

Over the last year and a half, we have gone through very challenging and frustrating times. This is more reason to listen to this VOC (voice of the customer) and meet or exceed their expectations. You can do it!  

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