While close to 70 percent of collision repair shop respondents in the 2019 FenderBender Industry Survey say they use an electronic management system, only 25 percent use a type of customer relationship management (CRM) software.
According to Invesp, conversion optimization and consulting organization, 60 percent of customers say no four times before saying yes and 48 percent of salespeople never make a single follow-up call.
Yet, collision repair shop operators have options to solve those issues.
CRMs are typically incorporated into management systems. For example, CCC has a CRM that helps a shop staff touch base with customers frequently throughout the repair process. ALLDATA Market helps shops receive customer reviews and retain clients with service reminders. Assured Performance Network offers ShopOps Business Operating System, which offers features like letting customers book appointments online.
Shop owner Casey Lund is part of the minority that uses their shop management’s CRM daily.
Lund, owner of Warrensburg (Mo.) Collision, entered the family business in 2004, when his dad underwent heart surgery and needed an extra set of hands in the shop. In 2012, after spending a significant amount of time running the business, Lund decided to “draw a line in the sand.” He decided to push the shop into the future, and part of doing so required utilizing all of the technology available to his team.
When Lund graduated high school, his father specifically told him, “don’t touch any tools and stay out of the collision repair business.” Lund’s father didn’t want Casey to feel like he had to join the family business out of duty or obligation.
So, Lund took the advice, went to school and got a business degree and his MBA, and then got a job at the University of Missouri, fundraising.
For a while, Lund worked in the body shop while keeping his job at the university. In 2012, he decided his feather needed more help. That prompted Lund to focus solely on his duties at the repair facility.
The body shop was not running smoothly. Lund was writing all the estimates, his father was repairing vehicles after his recovery and the only other employee was a painter.
Between 2004 and 2012, the shop actually lost $5,000 in annual revenue. Lund decided the shop needed a few drastic changes to bring in more customers. So, he started to look at management systems that could be seamlessly incorporated into Warrensburg Collision’s operations.
There was one main issue, though: the Missouri facility couldn’t afford a management system until it grew more.
In 2012, Lund made every effort to grow his family’s shop.
Lund implemented what he calls the “X-ray department” into the repair process. He started to have the team work on disassembling the car completely before beginning the repair process. Discovering all damage up front helped the team avoid parts supplements down the line, and it helped reduce the shop’s cycle time. By reducing cycle time, the team was able to work on more cars and bring in more money each month.
Lund also started to hire more employees and work on achieving OEM certifications. Today, the body shop has 17 OEM certifications.
Once revenue picked up, Lund discovered the shop needed a system that could manage not only the schedule of cars but the shop’s customers. He added the CCC management system into the shop. He wanted a system that could consolidate all repair information and documents at once and also save notes about customers in each repair document.
Lund’s team can even search for OEM repair procedures through the management software, he says.
As the years passed, Lund added modules to the system so that he could contact customers effortlessly throughout repairs (See Sidebar: How to Get the Most Out of the CRM). He recently added Podium to the system, which was an additional $500 per month. One other additional module allowed the CRM to contact the customer to know the car is ready for pickup.
“I like that any employee can step in for each other and pull up the customer’s file to find all the information about a repair,” Lund says.
To keep repair documents as thorough as possible, Lund has each member of his team write down notes about every conversation they have with customers.
“I’ve learned that transparency goes a long way with building customer loyalty,” he says. “People like having the option to have access to more information.”
Not only has the CRM helped Lund communicate with customers more frequently, but it also helps eliminate some steps of the repair process. At the end of the repair, when the car is paid for and delivered, the team can transfer that data and payment details to QuickBooks simply by pressing a button.
Lund discovered fairly quickly that the best use of the CRM is to use it to have multiple touchpoints with customers.
At minimum, the system reminds a staff member to call the client two times during the repair process. The customer receives a phone call update after the “X-ray” portion of the repair, and once the parts are ordered and the team creates the week’s schedule, the customer receives a second phone call explaining how long the repair is expected to take.
Then, during the repair process, the customer might receive automatic text updates from the CRM and then one final phone call notifying them about the car’s delivery.
Simply using a management system and keeping a detailed record of the repair process helped Lund’s shop reduce its cycle time from 11 days to 6.3 days.
While most of the CRM features increase customer loyalty and work well, Lund says he wishes he could have the option to text a customer whenever he wants through the system. Right now, Lund’s CRM only allows him to send text messages to customers after they drop off their vehicle at the shop. Yet, it’d be helpful to text a reminder about the drop-off appointment.
Yet, despite the one small hiccup, Lund was able to increase the body shop’s revenue to its current $3.4 million. Today, the shop operates with 20 employees in a facility that is 13,600 square feet.
SHOP STATS: Warrensburg Collision Location: Warrensburg, Mo. Average Monthly Car Count: 120 cars Staff Size: 20 (11 back end/ 9 in administration) Shop Size: 13,600 sq. ft. Annual Revenue: $3.4 million