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For nearly 40 years, the Jamieson family has taken their cars to Sharp Auto Body. It started, Jim Jamieson says, with his parents' vehicles. Then, when Jim got to high school and had a car of his own, he took his vehicle there. Now, Jim takes his kids’ vehicles there. Most recently, he recommended the shop to his daughter's best friend. 

“He treats us like we are family. It might as well be our family business, that’s how it feels,” Jim said. 

In the collision repair world, capitalizing on repeat customers can be difficult. Unlike the mechanical industry, regular check-ups are not ingrained in the business model. And situations outside of a body shop’s control, like a negative experience between a customer and his or her insurance company, can indirectly hurt a body shop. 

So what can a body shop do to increase the likelihood of customers coming back? FenderBender went straight to the source, talking to longtime customers of some of the industry’s best body shops, like Jim from Sharp Auto Body, and asked them one simple question: “Why do you come back?”

“They are fussy about what they do.”

The Customer: Randy Johnson

Shop of Choice: Jerry’s Body Shop

Location: Mankato, Minn. 

Years of Loyalty: 10 Years


Randy Johnson, a Mankato, Minn., native, considers himself a car guy. Maybe not in a room full of mechanics, but for an “average joe,” he thinks he knows his stuff. Johnson knows the different types of drying methods in a paint booth and has brought in several vehicles for dent repair and detail work over the past 10 years. As such, when he takes his car to Jerry’s Body Shop in Mankato, his attention to detail is heightened to that of a regular customer.

“I’ve had a defective paint job on a recall from the local dealer,” he says, recalling what he called an “orange peel” finish that was rough and unintentionally textures, “so I’m picky about the finish when it’s done.”

In 10 years taking multiple cars to Jerry’s, the finishes have always been exactly how he’d like them. That quality is key for Johnson, and it’s the reason he keeps coming back. He sees the shop’s attention to detail matches his own. They are hyper-focused on making sure his car looks exactly like he asks.

“They are fussy about what they do,” he says, noting the entire staff is adamant about getting the job done right. “I don’t know them personally but I feel confident that when I bring the vehicle in there, they are going to do a good job.”

Among nearly all the customers that FenderBender spoke to, quality was a top priority.

“They’ve always treated us right.”

The Customer: Matt Clark

Shop of Choice: Heppner’s Auto Body

Location: St. Paul, Minn. 

Years of Loyalty: 5 years


The Customer: Mark Smith

Shop of Choice: Heppner’s Auto Body

Location: St. Paul, Minn. 

Years of Loyalty: 30+ years


The Customer: Jim Jamieson

Shop of Choice: Sharp Auto Body

Location: Island Lake, Ill. 

Years of Loyalty: ~40 years

Unlucky and clumsy. 

That’s how Matt Clark, a St. Paul, Minn. resident, describes himself. Add in having a family of six, with multiple cars going to multiple places all the time, having a trusty body shop on hand, Heppner’s Auto Body, has been a must for Clark. 

Clark is comfortable calling himself “a clutz,” but for many, walking into a body shop is an intimidating experience. They’re nervous, they’re embarrassed. What’s always been impressive about Heppner’s, Clark says, is those feelings quickly go away. He’s always quickly addressed upon entering the shop, the employees are empathetic to his situation and they never talk down to him.

“Their friendliness at the front door gets them a long way,” he says.

Mark Smith also takes his vehicle to Heppner’s. Smith knew the original owner of the shop, Bill Heppner, dating back more than 30 years. He’s brought his car there ever since. But his loyalty goes beyond his own car. Smith works in the auto insurance industry for American Family Insurance. Heppner’s is where he recommends all of his clients to. 

“If I recommend someone and they are not being taken care of, I may lose that business,” he says. “So it goes beyond my own vehicle.”

To Smith, treating the customer right is among the top factors for recommending Heppner’s. He knows the car is going to be fixed well but he also knows the experience is going to be top notch. The most common response he gets from customers is that they felt “special.” From the moment they stepped in the shop, they had the full attention and empathy from the staff. The customers didn’t feel like just one of many, Smith says. 

“We’ve all been in the situation when you take your car in and there’s no eye contact from employees. You feel like you’re not important. It feels chaotic. I’ve never felt that way at Heppner’s,” Clark says, recounting a similar situation to what Smith describes.

Jamieson feels similarly about Sharp Auto Body. Quality of work and reliability are the name of the game, he says, and anytime he’s had any questions, the Sharp Auto Body staff has a swift response.

“Anything you need, they help. Selling a car, fixing a car, they will always help, even when it’s not something they do,” he says. 

“They fixed their mistakes.”

No business is perfect. Mistakes happen. Several of the customers FenderBender spoke to recounted experiences where their longtime body shop made a mistake. However, none of them were pushed away from their body shop because of how the business responded. In fact it made them feel better about their shop. 

Johnson recalls an experience with his ‘97 Toyota. Jerry’s Auto Body accidentally put a small hole in a headliner it was repairing. Because of the year of the vehicle, the shop couldn’t replace it, so they gave Johnson money to make up for the error. The hole was barely noticeable, Johnson says, and he wasn’t expecting any monetary compensation or repair. But he got it. 

“They go out of their way on customer appreciation,” says Johnson.

Because of his excellent experiences with the shop, he even thought to ask the owners to donate to a bike fundraiser he was participating in. He knew how invested they became in his vehicle and thought they may consider donating. Sure enough, he quickly received a check from the shop. 

Clark recounted an experience with Heppner’s where a glass repair of a side window wasn’t done correctly. The shop came out immediately and corrected it and was very apologetic.

“The faster you acknowledge the event, the better everyone else is,” Clark says.

For Johnson and Clark, the mistakes actually instilled more confidence in their respective shops. Both knew if any little thing went wrong, that the shop was going to go overboard to make sure their issue was rectified. The response was more pivotal than the mistake. 

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