If he was still alive today, Joe Carubba knows exactly what his father would say to him.
“He’d think I was crazy,” Carubba laughs.
That’s because his father, Anthony, didn’t have huge aspirations in 1955 when he opened his small, 5,500-square-foot shop in Amherst, N.Y. A humble, hard-working technician/owner, Anthony never envisioned Carubba Collision to be much larger than what it was.
But his son had his sights set much higher.
After his father passed away in 1990, Carubba took over the family business. And now, just 25 years later, Carubba Collision has exploded in the Buffalo, N.Y., area with 10 locations, 200-plus employees and over $30 million in total sales.
The best part? He isn’t even close to satisfied—after adding three new shops in November, he pushed his footprint into Central New York in April, investing $2 million in his first location in Syracuse. He’s also adding two more Buffalo shops by the end of the year, his 11th and 12th locations.
“We've always been customer focused, and then when I took over, we became very DRP friendly,” Carubba says. “That's really fueled our growth.”
As he sets his sights on even more locations during a period of rapid growth, the owner shares how his strategic approaches for improving customer service and DRP relations has fueled Carubba Collision’s rapid expansion.
A PRESENCE IN BUFFALO
As Carubba opens his 10th production facility in Syracuse, he’s expertly mapped out his reach over the Buffalo area. With one location in the city and several others covering the surrounding suburbs and townships, Carubba Collision has at least one shop within seven miles of another.
While the owner carefully spaces out his stores, he said he doesn’t exactly study the demographics in each area he moves to.
“Everyone drives a vehicle these days,” he says. “I usually look for well populated areas in towns where zoning isn’t an issue.”
However, he is sure to make his shop’s presence known in any given suburb or township through social media, local advertising and donating to local municipalities—Carubba donated $17,000 to equip the local K9 police dog force.
The owner’s most profitable and eye-catching marketing venture has been his sponsorship of local professional sports teams. If you tune in to a Buffalo Sabres hockey game, at some point you’ll see the “Carubba Collision of the Game,” as the shop is the “official collision repair center” of the NHL team. It also has sponsorship programs with the Buffalo Bills (NFL), the Buffalo Bandits (National Lacrosse League), and, in the near future, the University of Syracuse’s various college programs.
“Giving back to the community helps us [and] makes us feel good,” he says. “The population appreciates the fact that we do give back.”
BUILDING A CALL CENTER
If you’re waiting in the lobby of one of Carubba Collision’s eight offices, you won’t hear the constant ringing of phones or the incessant clangor of customers inquiring about their vehicles—as Carubba puts it, “the phones just ain’t ringing.”
“That's because of our call center,” he says. “We think that face-to-face interaction and then outbound phone calls or texts or emails is the way to go. We don't want to have our customer service people answer phones. It's a friendly atmosphere.”
Carubba says the call center runs just like he envisioned 14 years ago: The staff of three handles incoming DRP assignments and incoming repair inquiries, allowing his counter representatives and estimators to spend uninterrupted face-to-face time with customers.
“The call center evolved into more as time went on,” he says. “After we settled into the concept and had the right people in place, we were able to load level work between the stores. The call center will dispatch work to the store that needs the work, it gets the vehicle in quicker and it helps with cycle time.”
The owner’s biggest struggle was keeping repair plan updates timely and accurate. In order for the call center staff to answer questions, everyone at the store level must log all conversations and repair statuses religiously into the shop’s CCC ONE management system.
“Our people are very religious about making sure that all the customer information is available in our software program, so that when somebody calls in to our call center, they can be told anything about their vehicle without having to call the store itself,” Carubba says.
IMPROVING DRP RELATIONS
Not only has the call center allowed the company to streamline repair plan issues, but it has also contributed to Carubba’s most crucial undertaking in expansion: beneficial DRP relationships.
While DRPs were in their infancy years ago and not a concern of his father’s, he has predicated his growth on not only forming those
relationships, but also training his staff to keep in constant contact, improving the communication between shops and insurance companies and keeping track of DRP assignments.
“It’s a thing of beauty when an insurer and us have a common goal,” he says. “To make a safe repair, make it happen fast, keep the guests in the loop and make it really convenient for them.”
Carubba realized how important it was to improve his company’s relationship with DRPs back in 2004—a time, he says, when cycle time and touch time became a hot button topic with insurers.
Key to key, the shop averaged 9.4 cycle days 11 years ago. By partnering with more DRPs, Carubba was able to add adjusters on site and improve his parts usage criteria and estimate approval time. The owner credits these changes to the shop’s current average of 6.5 cycle days for all DRPs, and sometimes as low as 2.9 cycle days for others.
“Eighty percent of our work is DRP, and they are all measuring us on CSI, cycle time, supplement
percentage, estimate accuracy, quality and NPS,” he says. “I always like the fact that to be part of a DRP, you are held to a higher standard; it keeps us on our toes.”
As Carubba’s Collision has grown in size, expanding his relationships with his existing DRPs has become easier as he spreads the company’s notable, quality customer service into more areas of Buffalo. And having several insurance companies on-site at the shops allows customers to meet with their insurance
representatives and talk about their policies and procedures.
“It gives the customer some comfort as to knowing their insurance company is here, we don't have to get on the phone and call somebody,” he says. “The answer is right there with us.
AN EXCESS OF SPACE
Carubba studies various KPIs that are integral to his company’s growth, but first and foremost, CSI reports are the most important and have fueled the strategies implemented at new shops.
As the company has expanded into more areas of New York, he’s been able to test out various systems that have become the standard. Perhaps the most crucial is the layout of the shop itself: a clean welcoming area and an excess of space in the shop to create an open and honest atmosphere. And because of the call center, there are no phones ringing in waiting area—just a friendly face, ready to help.
“Our largest store is 25,000 square feet and has 22 bays, and I want my customers to be able see all 22 of them,” Carubba says. “Our process is we take the customer right onto the floor after the car has been washed and we go over new damage, old damage, and there's a large emphasis on making sure the customer expectation is understood.
“It's very different to find a prime location that has enough square footage to meet all my requirements for a shop. So our way around it is to have an area where the customer can take the car, get it dropped off, do the car rental, do the disassembly, and then load the cars to other production facilities.”
Having an excess of space on the shop floor has led to the owner’s strategy of having more production facilities than offices. While the offices are designed around customer service, extra work is shipped off to surrounding production facilities placed strategically between the eight offices.
Carubba’s Amherst location is a small kiosk manned by two alternating full-time estimators, dedicated to sending work to various production shops based on capacity.
“Within 24 hours, after the car is disassembled, we can give a promise date and a price, and we pride ourselves on not changing either of those,” he says. “All of our locations have a staff of people dedicated to getting the estimate right. It takes a lot of resources working together to do that—a disassembler, a parts person, an estimator. We dedicate a quarter of our shop to getting the estimate right. That's different from a lot of shops.”
From having insurance representatives on-site to featuring Enterprise car rentals at each office, Carubba has
focused on making every experience surrounding the actual repair process as comforting as possible.
Having several locations has appealed to Enterprise’s deal with the company—especially since Carubba offers to pay for insurance if the customer chooses to opt out.
The owner is also adamant about offering several other tested-and approved incentives to the customer,
including free AAA memberships with repairs, lifetime warranties, and free defensive driving classes.
With even more shops on the horizon, Carubba plans on implementing newer, better strategies that will keep the customers streaming in for years. His father might say he’s “crazy,” but for Carubba? He’s just living the dream.
“I think he would say I've taken on too much and a glutton for punishment,” he says of his father. “We’ve worked a lot of hours to get where we are. But for me, it's fun.”