Fix Auto Yorba Linda

Dec. 30, 2010
What your shop can do to increase shop communication, streamline the repair process and keep the customer happy.

The Shop: Fix Auto Yorba Linda

The Transformation: Two Departments, one shop, all about the customer

Dave Caulfield has been in the industry for 33 years, and it shows. He owns Fix Auto Yorba Linda in Yorba Linda, Calif., and not only has he invented his own software for updating customers about the status of their car (, but he’s created his own kind of lean model: Two departments in one shop.

Yorba Linda has a customer care department and a plant department (where the cars are actually repaired), says Caulfield. “Every vehicle comes in through customer care and every vehicle goes out through customer care.” With a six to eight day cycle time and $3.2 million in annual revenue, the two-department system has kept those numbers consistent, says Caulfield. Aside from cycle time improvement, Caulfield sees a clear improvement in shop communication and customer satisfaction.

Here’s how it works:

• A customer comes into the customer care department and is greeted immediately by a customer care hostess, says Caulfield. The customers rarely have to wait. The hostesses are often new to collision repair, but what matters most is that they identify with the customer. “Body shop people aren’t like the [general] public,” says Caulfield. “I have the highest probability of having a customer pass out from me overwhelming them with information about the nuts and bolts of the repair.”

• After the hostess takes the initial information, she calls a “lane runner.” That runner is assigned to a particular lane in the shop. The runner takes the car back, gets it estimated, brings the car back to the front with the windshield clean and everything ready to go, says Caulfield.

• The hostess goes over the estimate with the customer. “99.9 percent of the time the customers are extremely receptive to dealing with someone on their own level,” says Caulfield. And if they want to talk to someone who can get down to the nuts and bolts of the repair, it’s as simple as saying: “Fantastic, let me get you someone who can answer those questions for you,” says Caulfield. Then the customer talks with someone from the plant department. The plant person then brings the customer back to the hostess and says: “The customer care hostess will continue to be your contact should you have other questions,” says Caulfield. That way there is no confusion as to who is the one contact for the customer.

• The hostess sends the car with the paperwork to the plant, where it’s repaired.

• After the car is repaired, the plant calls customer care. “Customer care is the ‘customer before the customer,’” says Caulfield. “The plant only has one customer now for life, and that’s customer care.” Customer care is trained to accept the car as a customer, but also has a checklist to approve every repair and paperwork in-depth. “Every part that’s been replaced is viewed, everything that’s been painted is viewed, and then customer care can accept or not accept the car from the plant.”

• Once the car is accepted as done, customer care is called in to the plant for the acceptance process. If they do not accept it, it stays in the plant for corrections, says Caulfield. It was tough at first for co-workers to send cars back for additional work, but after some training and mutual understanding, everyone got on board with the procedure. It goes smoothly now, says Caulfield.

• The hostess calls the customer. When the customer comes in to pick up the car, she goes over all the paperwork with the customer—from the warranty to the final billing, says Caulfield.

“We fix between 110 and 125 cars a month. I can’t tell you that we get more work done from this two-department model, and I can’t tell you that we get less,” says Caulfield. But customers are responding well. The shop’s CSi numbers remain very high and customers are more forgiving when mistakes are made.

In a situation where they might, say, accidentally miss a minor scuff or small detail item, the customer seems to be more forgiving because they had a good experience. “If they didn’t have an overall good experience they would point out that scuff right away.”

Caulfield is always looking to outperform the competition. “Always assume the competition is the best performer, or you won’t outperform the competition,” says Caulfield. (That said, Caulfield has helped two other California shops implement his two-department model.)

“Consensus is, morale is up. There is more clarity as to what everyone’s duties are. It’s a change that needed to take place to keep people wanting to go to work in the industry,” says Caulfield.

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