Thinking About Certification? Here’s What You Need To Consider
In a quickly evolving collision repair industry, one of the best things you can do for your body shop is to make it stand out.
Becoming OEM-certified is one way of doing that, but there’s much to think about before you put in the time and money pursuing certification from the hottest new EV line, or your favorite luxury vehicle maker.
“There’s nothing guaranteed, like referrals, from being on a certification program, but it is something that can help separate your business as a repair professional from the body shop down the street,” says Tony Adams, who, prior to becoming a business services consultant for AkzoNobel Coatings, spent more than 30 years at Weaver’s Auto Center in Shawnee, Kansas, in a variety of administrative roles.
Before beginning a path toward certification, Adams says, shops need to consider the fleet of vehicles in their area, what capital investments they’d need to make, how to recoup their investment, and more.
Here’s what to consider when you’re considering certification.
As told to Mike Munzenrider
The first thing I would look at is the current fleet of vehicles that I’m working on–what brands come through my shop most often. If my No. 1 brand is Ford, then I’m looking into becoming part of the Ford Certified Collision Network. If my No. 2 brand is Nissan, I’m looking into Nissan certification, and so on.
Another angle is to see what opportunities are out there. Let’s say I have a strong relationship with the Volkswagen dealership down the road. Could I leverage that connection to get more business by becoming VW-certified?
If pursuing certification makes sense in terms of the cars on which you work, or there’s a clear opportunity, the next thing to consider is if there’s enough demand in the market for you to recoup your investment. If you’re in a market with lots of higher-end vehicles, maybe it can sustain another Jaguar-certified shop alongside a competitor who is already certified. If you’re in a different market, perhaps a rural area, probably not. Also, certified work may not be the same as your retail rate, you may need a specialty rate to make up the costs.
What costs need to be considered? There’s the investment in equipment and tooling, and there are strategic ways to approach it. Does your existing equipment align with the required equipment for a given certification? If I’m going to look into multiple certifications, I want to know if a particular squeeze-type resistance spot welder is going to work for all three in order to avoid buying multiple welders.
Training is another cost to consider. You need to determine who you’d want to train, their time away for that training, the ongoing costs for future training, and again, how you can recoup that cost. Remember, it’s not just an equipment investment, there's also an important human factor.
Here’s a big piece that shops often forget about: They put a lot of work into OEM certifications and they think the work is just going to come in the door, but you have to work and let consumers know that you have that specialized training and tooling for that specific automaker.
Mike Anderson at his events will often call a certified shop, tell them he needs work done for one of their OEs, and the person on the other end of the line never says the shop is certified! Shops really need to promote their certifications and their advanced training and everything else that comes with it.
Again, leverage dealer relationships too, communicate with those service departments, those service advisors, let them know you’re their certified shop.
There’s no rule of thumb or a formula to make sure certification makes sense for your shop, but if you consider your market, your investment and how to recoup it, and then promote the certification once you have it, your shop should benefit.