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Cropper: Work Your Certs

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Accomplished industry veterans like Mike Anderson share their thoughts on the future of aluminum repair certifications.

During my time in the collision repair industry, I’ve learned that as a general rule, people who complain the most about OEM certifications not being worth it are, frankly speaking, expecting something that is not going to happen. They often think to themselves, “OK, I’m (insert specific OEM here) certified now, so they’re going to send me a ton of work. The fact is that it just doesn’t work like that.

OEM certifications are definitely a marketing tool more than anything else. If someone calls and you’re Honda certified, for example, there is such a lack of awareness at the CSR level where if someone calls and says, “I have a Honda,” for example, and your shop is Honda certified, almost never do the CSRs say, “I’m so sorry, but you’re in really good hands because we are a Honda certified shop, and we’re the only ones who have advanced training for your car.” 

Your goal should be to sell that certification from the first phone conversation all the way to the end of the repair process. The shop owners who aren’t doing that are the ones who I hear complain the most, because they believe having that plaque on the wall should result in big-time returns.

Unless they have highly restricted parts, which most of them don’t, you need to expect that the OEM isn’t going to just hand you business. The manufacturer isn't necessarily going to send you anything. You might be on a website locator or something like that, but you have to make sure that your insurance companies are aware, as well. For example, an insurance company might list on their website what certifications you have, but again, too many shop owners think that just having that plaque on the wall will get it done, and that just isn’t the case. 

When you get certified, it’s often the case that the OEM requires a shop owner to buy tools that they rarely use. Tesla, for instance, makes a dealer purchase all kinds of stuff that you’ll likely never utilize. For my shops, we have Teslas in here every day, and they make us buy stuff for a one-off scenario that rarely happens, and we end up having these tools that are hardly ever utilized. When I was an owner, I had a locked room where we stored all the OEM tools, and a few people had access to a key and if we needed something we’d pull it out. And to be frank, a lot of the stuff are things a shop should have on hand anyways, regardless of the vehicle make or model.

I do believe this is going to change in the future, however, especially if manufacturers begin to restrict parts. That’s really what an OEM certified shop wants, because then that certification brings more value because they’re the only ones who can get quick access to the parts others have to wait for.

If you’re on the edge deciding whether to make that jump and become certified for a certain brand, make sure you commit to using the certification to your advantage as much as you can. If you and your staff aren’t prepared to do that, it’s going to be tough to have any ROI. 

From what I’ve seen, the industry isn’t adding more locations, and in fact there are fewer body shops which makes it more competitive, so anything you can do to be in tune with this industry is still worthwhile. 

I wouldn’t say, however, that the smart move is the more certifications means a better return. You really have to look at your market. If you’re in a market, for example, that doesn’t have many luxury cars and the cost of certification is expensive, I’d give that a hard look before deciding one way or the other. Another important aspect to consider is if a certification is restricted to how many shops can be on it. In those cases it makes a lot of sense to get the certification if you know there aren’t other shops in your area that have it. If there are no restrictions on a certification and you know every shop in the area has them, I’d be likely to shy away from that. 

In short, don’t put on the blinders and just look at the dollars and cents. Make the right decision based on the research you’ve done for your market. Regardless of the certification you have, the key to success is that you have to work your certifications for whatever you want to get out of them. Nothing is just going to come to you business-wise because you have that plaque. If your customer has a vehicle you are certified in, it should be brought up so many times during the repair process that a customer feels so comfortable in your expertise with their cars that they believe they have no other choice but to get it fixed with no one but you.


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