Enclosed trailer pickup and delivery caters to customer needs

Aug. 31, 2020
With no direct repair programs funneling vehicles to his front door, James Wilson, principal owner of ICS Collision Center in Derby, Kan., instead differentiates his business by offering unique services to clients who see the value in what he offers.

With no direct repair programs funneling vehicles to his front door, James Wilson, principal owner of ICS Collision Center in Derby, Kan., instead differentiates his business by offering unique services to clients who see the value in what he offers. It was while reading the book, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars: Strive for Perfection, that he began to formulate his latest idea of a value-added service. For discerning customers, he now offers a concierge pickup service for collector, exotic, and other cars, using an enclosed car hauler.

“That is my mindset: constantly striving for perfection,” he said. “When I was really young, around seven or eight years old, I was drawn to cars. My first book was for classic vehicles: cars from the ‘30s and ‘40s from Duesenberg, Auburn-Cord, Bugatti, Bentley and Rolls-Royce. The old open coupes, things like that. And I was just blown away with the craftsmanship.

“Fast-forward to now, and this is still the mindset I have. Can we work on Kias, Nissans, Infinitis, and Fords? Yes, but I’m going straight to the top, and to me, that’s Rolls Royce, because they set the bar for everyone in the automotive industry. And that’s the level I want to achieve.”

Pandemic ramped up plans to implement concierge service
The service is so new that Wilson has not even settled on an official name, so far referring to it casually as his “concierge service,” but he said he first began planning the new service about a year ago.

“But it really kind of hit home with COVID, with the ‘no-touch keys-to-keys.’ We’ve got UPS drivers leaving boxes outside the door and then knocking on the glass, because everyone was in that weird, ‘How do we do what we do?’ mode. ‘Are we being safety conscious and safety-minded while still interacting?’”

Wilson said he at first considered offering a towing service, as he’s seen done by other shops: “‘We’ll send a wrecker to come to your house to get your car, and you don’t need to be there.’

“But you look at people with a car collection, for example, and they usually work a lot. And beyond that, when you have a collection, you don’t want to drive that on the streets every day. Most of them want to keep the mileage low. And then if you have inclement weather – you know, it doesn’t even have to be a thunderstorm; maybe it’s just misting outside. But the car may have never even been washed before. That’s how it came about. It’s just about bringing more value to what we already offer and not only meeting, but exceeding our clients’ expectations.”

To add the new service, Wilson traded in an open utility trailer and a smaller single-axle cargo trailer on a glistening new white 20-foot enclosed trailer. Complete with cabinets and LED lighting, this model had a few more bells and whistles than he’d originally budgeted for, but he found supply for new trailers to be limited, as manufacturers and dealers reopened and eased into a pre-pandemic pace.

The first client to use the service owns a collection of 15 Porsches and was bothered by some front end rock chips on his pristine Guards Red ‘83 911SC. Could ICS handle the refinishing duties? And when would he find the time to bring it to the shop?

“So I suggested to him, ‘We just added this service a week ago: I can come up there, you can help me load it, watch me strap it down, and make sure it’s secure. Once I get back to the shop, I’ll take photos of it before we unload it and after we unload it.’ It’s just a higher level of service to separate us.”

Wilson doesn’t charge extra for the service, and he drives the shop’s 2011 Mercedes-Benz GL550 SUV, also his daily driver, to tow the trailer, (well within its towing capacity, he said,) and he can also use the trailer to pick up time-critical parts at the dealership from time to time.

He’s attracted work from across the country, but he figures the main draw for this service will be roughly within a three-hour radius or so from the Wichita area, which includes Kansas City; Lawrence, and Topeka, Kansas; and Oklahoma City.

“I personally do the pickups, the deliveries, and all the photos, because I believe when you have clients who understand the value in that, they prefer to deal with the owner.”

Although he will soon be getting the shop’s shuttle-service car wrapped in bright graphics, this car hauler will remain more subdued.

“Many of our clients prefer to be more discreet, and I’m just driving a clean vehicle that’s towing a clean trailer down the road. People can get weird ideas in their heads when they see a logo: ‘It’s a company trailer. I wonder what’s inside?’ I don’t want to draw attention to the vehicle.”

Concierge service is part of a bigger plan
Wilson was listening to the “Strengths Based Leadership” audiobook, which featured interviews of business leaders, including the president of the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain.  

“He talked of how they grade themselves, and on a scale of one to 100, if they’re at a 96, they consider that to be in the red. They need to be at a 99 or higher to be considered to be performing well. And I want to see us take our business to that level of service.”

Within the Rolls-Royce website, Wilson read of a fleet of bespoke Phantoms built for The 13, a luxury hotel in Macau, used to shuttle guests to and from destinations such as the airport or shopping. The vehicles feature modifications such as a starlight headliner depicting how the night sky looked at the time of the hotel’s groundbreaking, a special touch to help the hotel stand out from its competitors.

“Our customers can choose to spend their disposable income wherever they want. What’s the differentiating factor between us and the other 99 shops in our Wichita area? We can all talk about safe and proper repairs, quality or color matches or whatever, but at the end of the day, it’s service. So that’s where our vision has taken our business, is to the very top. And little things like offering premium products and unique services such as concierge transit...that’s just part of what I should be doing for my clients.”

Wilson said he’s guided daily by one of his favorite quotes, from Dr. Ivan Misner, founder and chief visionary officer of Business Network International (BNI): “Why accept mediocrity, when excellence is an option?”

About the Author

Jay Sicht | Editor-in-Chief, FenderBender and ABRN

Jay Sicht is editor-in-chief of FenderBender and ABRN. He has worked in the automotive aftermarket for more than 28 years, including in a number of sales and technical roles in paint/parts distribution and service/repair. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Central Missouri with a minor in aviation, and as a writer and editor, he has covered all segments of the automotive aftermarket for more than 20 of those years, including formerly serving as editor-in-chief of Motor Age and Aftermarket Business World. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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