Make The Most Of Certifications
Since FenderBender spoke with Certified Collision Services a year ago (fenderbender.com/certified), the two-location shop has added Mercedes-Benz to its list of OEM programs, which also includes Acura, FCA, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Infiniti and Nissan.
“It’s an ongoing journey,” says Mark Tantillo, president of Certified Collision Services in Monroe, N.C.
Although obtaining OEM certification is a large investment, Tantillo says it pays off in the end.
“When I sit in on different seminars, a lot of people say they aren’t doing it because it’s costly,” says Tantillo. “It’s no different than the initial investment to first open your doors—there’s no guarantee ever that people are going to come in. Investments in training and equipment are not what drive my decisions when it comes to OEM certifications. I base it off of the fact that I feel that it is mandatory to provide customers with top-notch service.”
Tantillo, one of the first members of the Assured Performance Network, feels strongly about this. When FenderBender last spoke with Tantillo, he had invested $150,000 over four years to maintain his certifications. Since then, he’s invested an additional $168,000. Tantillo calls certifications and everything that goes along with them a “long-term investment.” For example, since becoming Honda and Nissan certified, he’s seen a 5-10 percent increase in work volume since the launch of their consumer-facing mobile apps and he believes that each of his OEM certification investments will be recouped within seven years.
OEM certifications can take businesses to the next level, but only if a shop owner knows how to make them count. Tantillo shares his tips for making the most out of OEM certifications.
Find What Works for Your Shop.
Tantillo would love to have every certification possible at both locations of his shop, but that’s just not possible. First, there’s a large initial investment for certifications and second, the OEs have say over how many approved shops can exist in a market. So, to a certain extent, Tantillo says that the available options depend on the market demand.
Once the market has been researched and a shop owner has been given his or her options, Tantillo says that moving forward, a shop should create a business plan and see what type of certifications would make sense for that plan.
“If you think the best option for you is to be certified for all Asian makes, go to those manufacturers and you’ll have a speciality within your market,” Tantillo says. “Personally, my decision was to acquire a variety of certifications so I wouldn’t have to tell customers, ‘I can’t do that.’”
Market Their Value.
Tantillo says that manufacturers and the media are doing a nice job of getting across the importance of certifications, but more can always be done. In his own locations, Tantillo makes sure that the certifications are displayed prominently and that there’s literature available for customers that informs them what the program is and what it means for the safety of their vehicles.
Tantillo has heard it before: Certifications are ideal, but the financial investment is just too much. Tantillo doesn’t disagree that it’s a lot of money, but he points out that certain equipment can be used for multiple certifications. So, even though he’s got a long list of certifications, he hasn’t had to invest in all new equipment for each one.
“I may have to pick up a piece or two, but a lot of what I have already works,” Tantillo says. “That’s an advantage of being multi-manufacturer certified. For example, if you’ve gone through the process of being Mercedes-Benz certified, you’ll probably have what it takes to pass for Honda or Ford.”
Stay Up to Date.
Sometimes, manufacturers will change their requirements for certifications. Tantillo says the OEs do a pretty good job of alerting certified shops on the changes directly from a staff member or through emails. Even so, Tantillo makes sure to attend seminars and says that groups like the Assured Performance Network have done a great job of making sure Tantillo knows what’s currently happening and what’s on the horizon.