Impress Customers with Video Updates
Bob Finkle has always loved computers and technology. The body shop manager of Faulkner Collision Center in Carlisle, Pa., which has 19 employees and $3.8 million in annual revenue, would often spend nights and weekends developing computer programs designed to improve a customer’s experience at the body shop.
He often noticed customers were confused by the complexity of their estimates or the repair process. This inspired him to develop a program aimed at improving customer service. In 2006, Finkle designed a new tool called Vstatus: a video email that gives collision repair customers a lights-camera-action kind of look at the status of their damaged vehicle. He explained his new idea to coworker and customer service manager Leonard Franklin, and the two partnered to form RDF Enterprises LLC, a company devoted to helping other shops learn about the program.
Though Vstatus is still in its infancy—currently, only a few shops in the Carlisle area have implemented it—the tool has been an instant hit at Faulkner. Customers love it and appreciate the ability to actually see their car being worked on at different stages during the repair process. Franklin now uses Vstatus to communicate with 75 to 80 percent of his customers, and it has also helped the shop build better relationships with customers while boosting repeat and referral business.
Customers at Faulkner’s are informed about Vstatus in one of two ways. If they’re referred by an insurance company, Franklin describes the service when they call or stop in for their estimate. If customers walk in, colorful bright signs announcing Vstatus greet them in the lobby. Sign-up sheets, as well as a brief description of how the service works, are conveniently located at the front desk. All that’s needed is the customer’s name and email address. From there, the shop takes care of the rest.
- Leonard Franklin, Customer Service Manager,
Faulkner Collision Center
Franklin uses a webcam to record 20- to 30-second videos of a customer’s car at different stages in the repair process. Customers then receive several email updates, complete with a video link and personalized message from Franklin. The first message they receive is a short video introducing Faulkner’s, and if their vehicle has been towed, letting them know their vehicle is at the shop. A second video update is emailed when their vehicle has been disassembled, showing damaged areas. Additional video messages are sent when parts arrive and repairs have begun, when the car is being painted and detailed, if supplemental work is needed (areas of the further damage are shown) and when the vehicle is finished.
Customers love the email updates. Franklin—who is able to track how many times each person views a video message—says it’s not uncommon for customers to view their videos six, eight or 10 times. “People are really, really impressed by getting a video of their car.” The service is so popular, in fact, that many customers sign up for Vstatus before they even receive their estimate. Others mention they wanted to come to Faulkner’s simply because they’d heard about the videos.
A production sheet helps Franklin keep track of each customer’s car in the shop. Recording videos has become a natural part of his workflow and only takes a few minutes. “I just work it seamlessly into my day,” he says. Before he goes home each evening, he organizes and emails the videos shot that day.
Aside from being a huge hit with customers, Vstatus has also brought a host of benefits to the shop:
Building customer relationships. Vstatus has been a great way to foster a stronger sense of trust with the shop’s customers. By enabling customers to see what is happening to their car during the repair process, they feel confident knowing their vehicle is in good hands. For example, after dropping off a customer’s car once, Franklin asked if she would like to see it first before paying her deductible. “She said, ‘No, I saw the videos. I trust you,’” he says. Another customer, notorious for being picky about his repairs, was suddenly mum during a second visit to the shop. When Franklin asked whether he was satisfied with their work, the customer praised the videos as being excellent. Franklin says the videos are a way to build a bond with each customer because it allows them to see where and how the technicians work on their vehicles.
Boosting referrals and repeat business. Customers who like Vstatus tell people about it. Franklin says one customer told him that he was so impressed with the videos that he forwarded them to his family and friends. Folks that have been told about the videos choose Faulkner’s specifically because of the service. “People come in and say, ‘We heard you do videos. I want that, and that’s why I’m here,’” Franklin says. Repeat business is a shoo-in. “They don’t even hesitate; they come back. They’ve already seen the videos and know what to expect,” he says. The shop’s customer service index (CSI) has jumped from 70 percent to 100 percent.
Establishing shop credibility. Franklin says Vstatus has helped the shop build a strong foundation of identity and integrity. By offering a unique service, Faulkner stands apart from the clutter of competitors. And since customers are allowed to see all areas of the shop by way of the videos, they are able to see that Faulkner prides itself on honest, good work. Vstatus has also helped the shop gain customers they probably wouldn’t have otherwise. “A guy with a Corvette [was nervous] to come in because [the car] had never been in a body shop,” Franklin says. “We offered him Vstatus. He said he’d take the chance and signed up. He said, ‘You folks give yourself credibility for letting us [customers] into your shop.’”
In addition to business-building benefits, Vstatus has played a big role in helping Faulkner become better organized. “One of the benefits for the office is avoiding someone dropping the ball,” Franklin says. The sign-up and production sheet keeps the staff on top of things. “Before Vstatus, you would get a phone call and someone would forget to jot down a note about the customer inquiring about their car. The receptionist would contact the estimator, the estimator would contact the technician and then back to the receptionist to notify the customer. Vstatus eliminates the confusion in the office.”
The unique service also provides an opportunity for the technicians to shine. The videos allow them to showcase their talent and hard work, which they appreciate. “It makes the technicians feel good about themselves,” Franklin says.
And customers feel good when they’re kept informed, so it’s a win-win all around. Franklin says the videos are important because they reflect the quality of the work at the shop: “When they’re getting videos constantly, they know we have nothing to hide, and they appreciate that.”