MSO Focus: Future Forward
David Caulfield was priming a classic car for delivery at Fix Auto Anaheim North, a specialized collision repair center he owns and operates that separates the work performed on lighter hits and heavy-hit vehicles into two buildings, when something underneath the vehicle caught his eye.
While Caulfield works on the cutting edge of collision repair technology, a story about an older vehicle helps to explain his attention to detail.
Bill Taormina, a long-time, major property owner in Anaheim, was admiring his 1963 Falcon’s new paint job—a one-off ticket completed by Caulfield’s crew for his longtime associate and friend—thinking the car looked perfect when Caulfield dropped to the ground and looked up at the car’s rockers. He reached up and pulled off a piece of 3M Scotch tape that at best was the size of a fingernail.
“That tiny piece of tape never would have been seen by another human, but that’s a typical case for David,” Taormina says. “He has this almost savant ability that’s far and above any body-shop owner or entrepreneur that I’ve ever come across. In my 60 years in business, I’ve dealt with hundreds of entrepreneurs and he sits on the top of that list for integrity, innovative creativeness, and promise-keeping.”
Caulfield’s work in the collision repair industry now spans 45 years and in 2018 opened Fix Auto Anaheim North, considered by many to be the industry’s most innovative specialized collision repair center because of its separation of light collision repair work from heavy-hit vehicle repairs.
Caulfield also carved out enough time to innovate technology that’s now ubiquitous in the collision repair industry. He’s the founder of UpdatePromise and web-based application DataSpin for KPI data.
In 2019, he founded Flashback Forward, Inc., a company that designed what may be his crowning tech innovation, MyQCIQ.com, which gives body shops the ability to quickly view, verify, track, and grade in real-time every step of the repair process.
Sherwin Williams acquired the exclusive reseller and distribution rights for MyQCIQ.com in 2020. It is just now being launched in North America as part of Sherwin Williams’ “Collision Core” suite of cloud-based solutions. MyQCIQ has about 50 users as of this writing, and a soft launch is planned for the first quarter of 2022. The initial market target is collision repair shop owners who are early adopters of technology—those with a heightened awareness of the importance of standardizing the quality control process and who also have high expectations for CSI scores and standards.
“My reason for inventing a quality control app was to create a standardization of the QC process in the body shop industry that has been lacking for many years,” Caulfield says. “QC can be a very emotional process for some, many won’t admit it but some do, and I was trying to cure that and create something that measures and grades the quality and existence of products and services that a shop sells, and to be able to satisfy customers with a predicted, perceived-quality outcome. It allows shop owners to present a car and have the customer be wowed by it.”
Technology is the Future of QC
Many collision repair shop owners are wary of technology, a fact of the industry Caulfield tried to address with MyQCIQ’s design. Jim Huard, former long-time business partner of Caulfield’s and owner of Painters Collision Centers (a two-shop chain with locations in Queen Creek and Chandler, Ariz.), says the app is easy to use and picture-oriented, allowing his employees to take a photo of a vehicle, circle the sections of it being worked on that require attention, and send it in a matter of seconds to the person in charge of making the correction.
“That way, no one is wasting time walking around looking for someone in the shop,” Huard says. “What you need to communicate is right there and it creates documents that detail the progress from front to end. And it prints out a certificate of sorts at the end that shows customers what their vehicle went through during each step of the process.”
Caulfield believes the collision repair industry eventually will be 100 percent guided through technology. He says shop owners who still balk at implementing technology into day-to-day business plans may not realize they already heavily rely on tech to provide estimates and for marketing through social media. He says it takes two steps to adopt technology for shop-wide, daily use: No. 1, humbling up to entertaining the idea, and No. 2, demanding it.
Caulfield encourages shop owners to take a look at their technology tools and try to see their full potential. A program like Word of Excel, for example, might be used for simple word processing or bookkeeping, but the programs have so many untapped uses for most people. He says it’s like someone who owns a talented dog but just lets it sit around the house all day.
“You can train dogs to grow up and compete in performance arenas, drive sleds, do tricks,” Caulfield says. “What I’m getting at is that the dog is the technology and some people choose to use it in its most basic form and never get the pleasures of going that one step further and really understanding and learning and implementing its full capability.”
Customer Service, Cleanliness Remain Key
Caulfield loves wowing customers and one way he achieves this is by making cleanliness the number one priority of his shops.
“It’s marketing 101,” he says. “Cleanliness is marketing. It’s customer perception. First impressions. If you have a customer enter your shop and it looks clean and it’s organized, the happiness that individual feels stays with them throughout the repair process and makes for a good state of mind for the consumer. It’s super important to have that differentiator between your shop and someone else’s.”
Caulfield takes cleanliness so seriously, Chip Foose, former host of the Discovery Channel’s reality TV series “Overhaulin’,” compared Fix Auto Anaheim North’s shop hygiene to that of a hospital.
“He has a Zamboni that cleans the floor every day and it’s spotless,” Foose says. “The repair shops are separated in the showroom by glass so customers can see their car being repaired. Parts are kept in a separate area so there is no clutter. Cars are cleaned before they go into the shop. It’s impressive how clean and efficient he is in everything he does.”
The perception of some consumers that repair shops are bad, even perhaps corrupt, can be an issue for repair shop owners. Wherever it comes from, customers who have a bad experience can and do translate that into negative word-of-mouth and online reviews, justified or not.
Overcoming that image again comes down to owners assuring their shop’s image is satisfying to the consumer—from curb appeal to someone’s first approach—from the inside of a shop looking and feeling satisfying to the office and the working area, Caulfield says.
“When that is organized and clean and the customer can feel the process happening it puts their mind at ease, and at the end of the day when they pick up their vehicle and it meets their perception of quality, it can all change any negative image they might have had, but it’s going to take the shop owner to make those changes first,” he says. “Then, the consumer will get the message out there that these are good places and safe places. There are always going to be a few outliers but collision repair shops have so much power to change negative perceptions.
“Taking that initiative to do that absolutely leads to a great benefit, for the business, employees, sustainability, and to insurers looking at shops the same ways as consumers. If you present cleanliness and do right by quality control, the consumer will be more in tune with how they are treated and serviced, and that’s a very good formula for success.”
Correction: The original version of this article misstated the ownership of the MyQCiQ app and the ownership of UpdatePromise.