Boggs: Raise Expectations
Are you old enough to remember when tennis star Andre Agassi broke onto the tennis scene and ran his iconic Canon commercials with the tagline “image is everything?”
Agassi stood out in a sport in which every player wore all white clothes by wearing jean shorts and bold colored shirts with crazy patterns. He also had long hair, wore an earring, and shared his emotions on the court. Today, most of us would not remember Agassi for his image if it hadn’t been for his eight major wins, but the combination made him one of the most recognizable athletes in the world, while playing a game on the fringe of the sports world.
What is the image of your collision center? It’s easy to meet customers’ expectations because their image of our industry isn’t very high. They expect a dusty, poorly lit facility when they show up. Are you meeting their expectations with that description? How about your attire? Most customers expect to be greeted by someone who looks like they just rolled out from under the car off their creeper.
If you are meeting customer’s expectations in either of these area’s you are setting yourself up for failure. The reason is that our industry also has a reputation of doing substandard repairs. So, when you give the customer what they expect up front, with your image (or brand), then it’s easy for them to expect you will continue to meet their expectations with the final product, which may cause them to choose a competitor for their repairs.
Take a look at your facility from the customer’s viewpoint. How clean is your office? Is it organized, or is there clutter? Do you eat meals and snacks in your office and leave the evidence around, like your office also operates as the break room? Does the customer have a place to sit that looks inviting?
If any of those questions were answered in the negative, the good news is it doesn’t require much effort or cost to change that. If you’re not the cleaning type, hire a professional cleaning service to come in and do a thorough cleaning. You might be surprised at how your office smells after that. Take some time to go through the paperwork piles on your desk and remove what isn’t necessary to be there, or stop by an office supply store and get some organizers to sort the papers in an orderly fashion.
What are you wearing to work each day? If someone saw you in the coffee shop on the way to work and you asked them, what do I look dressed for today, what would they answer? For the first 20 years of my career in the industry I wore dress pants to work every day. I’ll never forget the reactions of customers when they found out I was the one who was going to write the estimate. I could feel the confidence level rise in the customers as they felt they were dealing with a professional. Of course, I’m not saying that dressing well will get you more customers.
Remember what I said about Agassi, we wouldn’t remember him if his play on the court didn’t hold up. But I can tell you from experience that setting yourself apart in how you present yourself to customers will get a positive reaction almost every time.
How about the image of your building? Does it resemble a warehouse or a doctor’s office? Most customers expect to see a concrete building with no landscaping. The majority of body shops don’t look inviting. My dad was taught by a business owner early in his career to always have a little grass and landscaping at your building. It goes a long way in how a customer initially perceives you. His first 3,500-square-foot building always had a patch of grass out front and some flowers. And the current shop has enough lawn to throw a BBQ and there’s several flower beds on the property. The place to park for estimates has pavers instead of asphalt. Many customers comment that they feel they’ve arrived at a doctor’s office or hotel when they pull up. Now how do you think the initial trust level is when they have that first impression? I’m convinced we have obtained first time customers due to the appearance of our building alone.
Now I’m just out of space here, but the last and maybe most important aspect of putting forth a strong professional image is to attract new techs to our industry. The old image of a collision center will not attract most young adults looking to get into a trade. But if your place is modern, well lit, and looks professional, you will give yourself a leg up in recruiting young techs.
Andre Agassi was a great tennis player, ranking ninth on the all-time majors win list. But there are players who won more and are remembered less. If you want to be top-of-mind to customers and technicians looking for a place to work, it might be time to rebrand your image.