In an industry faced with declining claim frequency and intense competition, retaining past customers and cultivating referrals is essential. Today’s shops have to provide exceptional service to establish relationships, trust and memorable experiences. That’s what keeps customers coming back, and raving to others between visits.
One of the best ways to find out how to improve customer service is to ask the customers themselves. So, we tracked down four (unfortunate) repeat customers at different shops to find out what it took to earn their business. There are some trends in their feedback—an emphasis on communication and the need for shops to listen, care, and above all, get the repair right. Use their insight to exceed your own customers’ expectations, build loyalty, and earn new work.
Orey’s main concern when getting his vehicle repaired is being taken advantage of, so he looks for shops that demonstrate ethical business practices and empathy toward his situation.
Orey says Champion CARSTAR doesn’t offer any extra loyalty programs post-repair.
The shop simply delivers the professional service he needs, which is why he brought four jobs to the shop in the last six years. He has also made several referrals.
“I look for repair shops that can handle the basics of the repair in the smoothest possible way,” Orey says. “The shop is always fair, honest and open throughout the process. Those things carry more weight than anything, and that’s all it takes to get me to come back.”
He highlights a few examples:
Communication. Orey says the shop’s staff is always proactive and forthright when communicating information during the repair process. They “give it to me straight and don’t beat around the bush” when mistakes or delays occur, he says.
“If they run into a problem, they immediately inform me and my insurance company of the issue,” Orey says. “The repair might be delayed by a couple days, but I really don’t care as long as I’m proactively informed.”
Personal attention. The shop gives Orey all the time he needs to ask questions and the staff walks him through the process. He says the collision repair and claims process can be confusing, and it means a lot when repair professionals offer proper guidance without making him feel rushed.
Empathy. Orey says Champion CARSTAR’s ability to be empathetic toward his situations has proven that he won’t be taken advantage of.
For example, Orey was in a hit-and-run accident a few years back. He attempted to drive the vehicle home with significant front-end damage, but the hood popped open on the way and smashed the windshield. The insurance company required two separate claims, and Orey was faced with paying two $500 deductibles. Champion CARSTAR offered to split the cost in half.
“They go out of their way to do anything possible to satisfy me every time, even with things I would never ask for or expect,” Orey says.
When it comes to automotive repair, convenience is the key, Urie says. He wants the repair experience to be smooth, with as little interaction and disruption as possible.
Urie says Baker’s Collision offers several features that make the collision repair experience hassle-free. He outlines the key offerings that have caused him to refer the shop to seven other people since his first experience:
Insurance assistance. The shop offers assistance with the claims process to limit the number of conversations with Urie’s insurance carrier.
Rental cars. The shop has Enterprise Rent-A-Car onsite so Urie can quickly and easily arrange for a rental vehicle.
Education. Urie says Baker’s Collision also spends a lot of time discussing the repair with him up front to avoid additional questions and discussions once the repair process begins. For example, the shop always makes sure to discuss part choices with him. They explain the pros and cons of using OEM, reconditioned, recycled or used parts so Urie can make the best financial and safety-related decisions for his repair.
Technology. Urie says Baker’s Collision utilizes AutoWatch, a service that allows him to track the status of his repair and monitor work quality through online photos.
He can login to the shop’s website and look at real-time photos of the progress on his car.
“I enjoy those new techniques. That functionality is really important to me,” Urie says. “It’s really frustrating to have to call repair shops all the time to find out what the status is on my job. Now I get those updates from home without making any phone calls or emails. That’s one of the biggest factors that raises my satisfaction with the shop.”
A shop can produce the highest quality work in the world, but it doesn’t matter at all if they’re not respectful along the way, Dickinson says. Receiving fair and respectful treatment is Dickinson’s biggest concern. She looks for shops that are courteous to their customers regardless of their gender or level of automotive knowledge.
“I have been in situations with auto repairs when I was treated disrespectfully. And I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m a woman. I don’t know a lot about cars and I don’t want to know a lot about cars. But that doesn’t mean I should be treated poorly,” Dickinson says.
Dickinson says D&M has demonstrated high levels of respect and professionalism during her four visits to the shop.
She cites a few examples:
Repair explanations. The shop understands that Dickinson doesn’t know much about vehicles or repairs, and it takes the time she needs to thoroughly explain the process.
“They do so by explaining the situation and treating me intelligently,” Dickinson says. “They never imply that I’m silly, frivolous, or that I don’t know what I’m talking about. Even if I have what some might consider a basic or stupid question, the shop takes the time to really listen to me, listen to my concerns, understand my wants and needs, and give me the individual attention I need.”
Prompt communication. When Dickinson has a question, she gets connected, gets emails and gets answers quickly to stay informed without jumping through a bunch of hoops.
“The worst crime of businesses from a customer’s perspective is putting them on hold to finish something else—trying to multitask,” Dickinson says. “Shops really need to give customers one-on-one attention when they need it to make customers feel like they’re the most important thing at that time.”
Professionalism. Shops need to be professional, Dickinson says. Meaning, they need to be polite, use proper tone of voice, body language, facial expressions and language.
“I’m not somebody you want to cuss around like a sailor. I don’t want to walk into a place and have a bunch of problems with language and inappropriate jokes,” Dickinson says. “Behavior does matter.”
Appearance. D&M’s staff is very clean and presentable during their customer dealings, Dickinson says.
“I understand they’re working on cars, but it is much more pleasant to deal with shop employees when they’re not filthy,” Dickinson says.
“None of these elements of customer service cost any real money. It’s almost all attitude. Customers want you to be nice, courteous, genuine and trustworthy while producing quality work.
That’s all they want,” Dickinson says.
Bingham thinks the collision repair process is too complicated for any shop to get 100 percent right on the first try.
“When my car goes into a body shop, the chances of it coming out the first time without any problems are not very good,” Bingham says. “I just don’t think there’s any way a body shop can get everything perfect the first time around.”
Bingham admits he’s not the easiest customer to serve. He’s extremely picky about the final product, and he looks for shops that are able to get things right no matter what. But comeback issues don’t necessarily detract from Bingham’s confidence in the shop.
Accommodation. There is one key to his satisfaction: Doing whatever it takes. Exhibition Automotive CARSTAR’s willingness to do whatever is necessary—even if it’s admitting and correcting mistakes—is the main reason he’s been back to the shop four times in seven years. Bingham says going above and beyond to address his concerns makes him feel comfortable, develops trust and credibility with the shop, and relieves stress from the repair experience.
“I’m extremely particular about my automobiles, and I’ve taken my car back before. The shop always works with me and finds a way to satisfy my needs,” Bingham says. “Their willingness to help shows that their employees carry the same need for perfection. They want things done right, not quick and sloppy, no matter what it takes.”