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Keeping customers coming back can be tough in the auto repair industry. A customer's first impression begins once they drive into your facility. Things like whether the front drive is clean and organized, whether the building is clean and presentable or whether parking is accessible start the experience for the customer before they walk into the facility.

Getting It Right

Starting a customer's visit with a professional greeting and eye contact is important. Maintaining a professional dress code and giving the customer a friendly and professional environment is a good idea.

The process starts before technicians even start looking at a vehicle as well. Everything throughout the experience is important, starting at the very beginning with a clean office and an organized front desk. Keeping things organized will make it easier to help customers immediately, especially if they have a reservation.

Customer service starts at the beginning. It's important to communicate with the customer by using terminology they understand. Like any service industry, customers won't always be experts at vehicle repair.

Someone who knows well about the process is freelance consultant Chris Maimone. He is hired to help repair shops with various process-oriented things.

"I would go into an auto collision center, and I would look at their process and give recommendations accordingly," Maimone says. "Mainly, a lot of things through the method of repair, seeing if there's different areas that can be enhanced … finding holes that I can possibly fill that can enhance the organization."

While the car is on the floor, Maimone stresses that having a quality-oriented culture is important. It starts from the top and will feed through the organization. Everyone will believe in one common goal. Maimone says the benefits of this mindset will help your organization in many ways. Your KPI scores will increase, your referral work will increase, you will have fewer delays while vehicles are in process and your customer retention will increase.

Maimone has worked and been in several shops with an in-process quality assurance form that follows each vehicle through the repair method. Maimone says having this form in place helps confirm that each department inspects its repairs and that those repairs are completed per the estimate. More saves will be made, which will help as the car reaches the final inspection department.

Final inspection

Maimone says the final inspection department is the most important department in many ways. This department assures that repairs were completed and that the vehicle is thoroughly inspected before the vehicle is set up for delivery. Maimone says during the final inspection process, it's important to have a set checklist that must be used on each vehicle, no matter the size of the repair.

Final delivery

As a consultant, Maimone runs into problems caused by a lack of proper communication with the customer and organization.

A big issue he has run into is how some collision centers hand the keys back to the customer. While listing what you've done is a good first step, you must show customers everything to build trust.

"Where I came from at Marco's Collision Center, we did a delivery process where we would run through the car with the customer, run through the lights, run through every single area of the vehicle," Maimone says. "The reason why you do that is you're creating customer comfort, you're creating trust, and you're also making saves because customers are going to identify things, and you can take care of it."

With delivery processes, you're selling the CSI. So show customers the inside of their cars are clean, everything is still there and everything that has been fixed. This ties into an important practice that Maimone stresses.

Maimone also thinks that an error of some shops is not doing test drives. Making sure things run smoothly in the car can also be confirmed with test drives. This process is important because if the customer finds issues and the issues are addressed, there's a good chance customers will still give a good CSI because they won't have to return.

"I encourage shops to do test drives with the customer, especially on bigger repairs," Maimone says. "When they drove the car to the body shop, they might have heard the fender liner making all that clicking noise, and now they're more aware of their surroundings. A lot of times, if you don't do the test drive before the final inspection, you're gonna hear the clicking noise."

This is an example Maimone likes to give as something that could be noticed and fixed with a test drive. Issues like these can be avoided, and Maimone says he understands that sometimes shops don't have the personnel to deliver on test drives all the time, but he is adamant that they're an important step. If something like a clicking noise is still a problem after final inspection, customers can see that and complain about it.

And to finish everything off, make sure the customer is happy by giving them a follow-up call in the next couple of days. Making sure everything is going well with the repaired vehicle and ensuring that the customer feels secure is vital.

In an ongoing podcast series, Chris Maimone goes into details about inspection checklists, final checklists, and so much more in the repair process. Head to fenderbender.com/podcasts to listen.

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