Segment Your Shop to Reduce Stress
In the midst of an unorganized shop operating system at All Angles Collision Repair’s two locations in Wichita, Kan., general manager Ken Hunnell saw customers arriving to pick up their vehicles without knowing what repair work had been done. Information often flowed between technicians in the shop, but failed to reach the customer—which was key, Hunnell says.
His team neglected to inform customers if there was a delay in the process until the customer showed up at the original delivery date.
In turn, this created unhappy customers and less-than-satisfactory CSI surveys. And as the company expanded from one locations to three in mere months, Hunnell knew that trend was unsustainable.
Three to five customer reviews per month and a CSI score of little more than 80 percent simply wasn’t acceptable for Hunnell. He knew he needed to make process changes that would not only increase customer satisfaction, but would also be repeatable should the company continue to expand.
Hunnell started in the industry in 2001 as a parts manager. He focused all of his efforts on building the business, eventually creating a $2.5-million-per-year shop that was a staple in the community and joined All Angles Collision repair in 2009 as a general manager.
The shop had no plans to expand until he began hearing from customers and insurance agents that there was a lack of collision repair shops in other areas of Wichita. He noticed that customers were driving from far away to bring their cars to the shop, which sent him down a path of expansion. The business expanded to a new location in March 2015. Along the way, Hunnell sought to make sure each acquisition was a good fit for his team, the existing location’s owners and the insurance market.
Despite taking out loans to fund the additional locations, the investments paid off quickly. The shop’s second Wichita location was profitable within its first three months of operation. The operating locations now generate more than $9 million per year.
Yet, with more locations opening, he saw little customer feedback on the shop’s online surveys. He only received around four customer reviews per month, and noticed CSI numbers were dropping. In July 2016, the team reached a low of 83.7 percent. It was apparent to Hunnell that he had a customer service problem on his hands that originated from two different areas of the shop:
Front-of-the-house operations. In a traditional body shop, the estimator handles multiple tasks at once, Hunnell says, including damage analysis, audits, mapping and more. However, the “combo men” who could work multiple jobs with customer service have become fewer in the industry with time, he says, leading to things falling between the cracks when it comes to the customer experience, such as updating the customer.
Team members only updated the customers when they just remembered or were running behind in the work, Hunnell says.
Back-of-the-house operations. Hunnell says the back of the shop was organized chaos in 2015. Technicians were in charge of disassembly for their jobs while the estimators made sure they were done correctly. The old system led to many stops and delays because parts either weren’t ordered the first time or came in damaged. This added another day or more to the shop’s cycle time.
The outdated process also had the parts truck delivering parts to the front of the store. A team member would then transport the parts to the back of the shop to check them into the system. Overall, the process took around 15 minutes per delivery. Time wasted added up to about two hours a day, Hunnell says.
In June 2015, Hunnell introduced a segmented body shop. That process became the first step in reducing repair times and communicating more effectively with customers. Hunnell divided the 21,000-square-foot shop into “zones” that represent where the car is in the process for repair:
- Green for damage analysis
- Purple for pre-wash
- Red for hold-on parts or insurance authorization
- Blue for ready for body work
- Pink for paint
The zones make it possible for any team member to come into each step and know what work needs to be done on the vehicle.
Now due to the zones, disassembling a car leads to alerting the customer early in the week like on Tuesday versus on Friday when the customer wonders what is going on with his or her vehicle, Hunnell says. He says due to the nonverbal communication that the zones open, if one technician is sick and needs to take a day off, another can step into their work and know where they are in the process.
In addition to the segmented process, Hunnel has his team of one disassembly technican, two lead body technicians, a paint prepper, a lead painter and a reassembly technician on a team pay system versus the traditional flat rate. Hunnell has noticed technicians are more focused on getting all the work done correctly, rather than somebody neglecting one step because it wasn’t part of his or her specific job. Now, each location averages around 200 percent efficiency when flat rate hours are divided by the team’s clocked hours.
While segmenting his team, he also introduced new parts processes. Now, parts are delivered in the back of the shop, which cuts down on time wasted unloading and moving parts. The two hours throughout the day that were being used to move parts now go to repairing cars faster, Hunnell says.
Additionally, the shop implemented mirror matching, where technicians match old parts to new ones, which helps eliminate delays in categorizing parts. The shop has a virtually nonexistent supplement ratio after damage analysis, he says.
Part carts reduced the mistakes made in forgetting to order parts, which in return cuts down on delays in the repair zones, Hunnell says.
In September 2016, Hunnell decided to segment his front office, too. The concept resembles an assembly line, he says, but takes place in the front office: One team member is responsible for either consultations, customer updates, supplements, file audits or receivables. Team members call customers with updates every two business days. In total, only four employees work in the front office.
Hunnell says segmenting the customer’s experience has raised accountability in the shop. Now, instead of talking to three people when there is a customer service complaint, Hunnel only goes to the employee who is assigned the task of customer service. And, customers have a consistent point of reference at the shop, as well.
“We’re not going to settle for mediocre as a company,” he says. “If you’re not meeting that expectation, we’ll have a talk.”
Hunnell discusses each shop’s profitability and KPIs with the managers and team members at each location. Now, CSI scores stand at 96.9 percent on 347 returned surveys and he gets roughly six customer reviews per week.
“Data doesn’t lie and winners strive to be the best,” he says. “I believe that people who say they aren’t competitive are just making excuses for losing.”
In addition, cycle time has decreased to 7.3 days and touch time has increased to 2.7 hours and average monthly car count has risen to 375 cars.
Hunnell opened a third location in 2017 in Newton, Kan., and by using the same processes, hopes to double current sales within 18–24 months.
Now, the company is set to open a fourth location in Wichita by the end of the 2017. The fourth location will be the shop’s first build at around 9,600 square feet.
The increase in customer positivity, he says comes from cutting down on wasted time to pay it forward to the customer.
“I believe we can’t go anywhere without seeing waste and eliminating it,” Hunnell says.
He also meets with his team each week to check in for a process-only update. In this meeting, Hunnell and his team brainstorm on what they can further improve for customer satisfaction.