Creating a Lifelong Customer

Dec. 27, 2023
Focus on customer and employee satisfaction to secure repeat business

What turns a one-time customer into a lifelong customer? Is it the quality of work you put out? How friendly your staff is? The speed at which you address issues when they arise?

Yes, yes, and yes, say Shawn Moody — founder of Moody’s Collision Centers, operating multiple shops throughout Maine — and Chad Bijou, owner/president of Waconia 1Collision & Auto in Waconia, Minnesota.

Beyond that, by connecting with people on a deeper level — showing compassion, taking an active role in their concerns, and listening to their feedback — you build a relationship that yields loyal, lifetime customers who send their friends and family your way, too.

“Happy customers become your sales force,” says Moody. “Not only do they return; they refer others.”

Here’s how these shop owners foster a culture of customer appreciation in their businesses.

Let Customers’ Experiences Guide Future Operations

One of the most important tools in Moody’s business, he says, is their customer satisfaction survey, which is physically handed out to every customer at the conclusion of their repair.

Moody’s survey features just a handful of simple — yet telling — questions, things like:

What was your first impression of our shop?

How did you hear about us?

What made you select us for your repair work?

Would you use our repair facility again?

Would you refer us to friends and family?

He reviews every single survey response personally and uses the feedback he receives to hone and improve all areas of Moody’s business operations.

“Our customer service reps let every person they hand a survey to know that I read these things myself — that their feedback will be reviewed directly by the founder of the company,” he shared. “We emphasize that we want to hear people’s honest feedback, whatever that may be…good, bad, or indifferent, we want it. And I think that’s the key right there, to let them know we actually use the information they share to better our business.”

Moody isn’t the only one listening to what customers have to say, though.

“Every one of these surveys — and we've gotten some tough ones — ends up on the break table at the specific location it’s connected to. That drives accountability when you have your peers reviewing these surveys.”

Responses are tracked throughout the year, Moody says, and each location is scored according to how they’re performing.

“We send it to every one of our shops, what their customer satisfaction percentage is and their survey return rate,” he continued. “And again, that's all a part of being transparent, which is an extremely important value at Moody’s. So, every location sees that, and we run around a 97 to 98 percent customer satisfaction rating overall.”

During the annual awards banquet Moody’s puts on for its employees, the “Customer Satisfaction Award” is given to the shop location with the highest rating…and it’s the most coveted of all the awards handed out that night.

Another unique practice at Moody’s shop? They send a copy of any survey response received in conjunction with an insurance referral directly back to the insurance company with a thank you note — a “compelling” way to secure repeat business from insurers, Moody says.

Show Compassion and Empathy to Every Customer

Bijou — whose shop boasts an 80% customer return rate — says the importance of empathizing and showing compassion to every person who walks through your doors can’t be overstated, either.

“The fact of the matter is that being in contact with us is a major inconvenience and the majority (if not all) of our customers would rather not be at a body shop/collision center due to an accident…whether it be their fault or at the hands of someone else,” he says. “So being positive, kind, and compassionate is key to building a relationship, as that one relationship will flow up and down river to future customers.”

And while Bijou acknowledges that it can be hard to listen to accident stories from customers on repeat, he’s quick to add that it’s imperative that all customers feel as though they’re heard, understood, and treated with respect.

“I know every customer has a story, and we have heard them all — customer accident stories can be difficult to hear, especially when it’s the same one you’ve heard 100 times before,” he concedes. “But a good reminder to staff is that this may be the customer’s first time in this situation, and it’s important for them to share their story and for us to listen and engage with them about it.”

That, he says, is the key to securing repeat business.

Invest in Your Employees and They’ll Invest in Your Success

When you drill down to the heart of the matter, however, the people most responsible for your customers’ satisfaction are your employees. They’re the ones responsible for the quality of work your shop puts out, and depending on the size of the business and distribution of responsibilities, they’re likely the ones interacting directly with the customers, too.

That’s why, says Moody, it’s essential to invest in your team and make your shop a place people want to work.

Moody — and now his daughter, Danielle, who has taken over as president of the company — are industry leaders in this area. Moody’s is a fully co-worker-owned business, meaning that every employee has personal equity in the company.

“We operate under an employee stock ownership plan, or ESOP…our employees collectively own 54% of our company. So, when a customer comes through our door, they're talking to a shareholder, basically a stockholder technician working on their vehicles,” he says. “Danielle lives and breathes our ownership culture, which is so important. She promotes it and believes in it whole-heartedly.”

The difference in the dedication, loyalty, and quality of work their employees produce as a result is palpable. Moody’s has received the “Great Place to Work” award year after year — a reflection of the pay, leadership, culture, and safety of the shop — and a whopping 98% of their employees would recommend working at the shop to a friend.

“Because of our ESOP, we're able to attract and retain the best talent in the market, because people are looking for something more than just a job,” he continued. “They want to be a part of something special and something they can build some equity and retirement in. And, boy, it works. We’ve got close to 250 coworker owners now.”

Offering people a career — not just a job — is a must to keep the industry sustainable for the future, he says. Moody believes it’s every shop owners responsibility to invest in training the next generation of employees, and building long-term relationships that extend beyond a flat rate pay system. Providing things like benefits, profit sharing, and continuing education will go a long way toward strengthening the industry’s workforce for decades to come.

The Bottom Line

Find ways you can focus more on both customer and employee satisfaction, and watch your one-time customers turn into lifelong customers who drive your business forward.