The Amazonification of Collision Repair

Feb. 14, 2023
Businesses can help meet the demands of the modern consumer

When you need to buy something for your home or life, you'll likely check Amazon first. The company offers an easy-to-use website and app, great prices, quick delivery and a smooth customer experience. You know what you'll get when you do business with Amazon.  

Amazon is one of the largest companies in the world, with net estimated sales of $127.1 billion in the third quarter of 2022, according to data from Statista. They've grown into a large and profitable business through the modernization of its operations.  

The seamless experience a retailer like Amazon has created is something that customers have grown accustomed to when doing business. While collision repair shops aren’t able to deliver door-to-door repairs in two days, they can mimic some of the benefits users experience with a modern company like Amazon. That experience can help build a modern collision repair shop.  

"When it comes down to it, customers want the ability to know and control what's going on with their vehicle. They want a smooth shop repair experience," says Ryan Marrinan, an application engineer with 3M's aftermarket auto division and also a former collision repair specialist with 20 years of experience working in two auto body shops in Minnesota. "The way the world is going requires a more modern approach for shops. We must realize the last eight years have become much more accelerated, moving toward an online experience. If shops don't evolve and modernize, they'll be left behind. The customer is different, and cars are more advanced; it's up to shops to keep up, and using an Amazonification approach could help."  

Customers today are used to instant results based on the offerings of online retailers, and you can offer services to help meet current expectations. Here are a few places to start. 

Set Up and Use 24/7 Online Scheduling 

Having to call a shop to schedule an appointment is one more point of irritation for your customer. The good news is that today's online software makes the process easier and creates a better customer experience.  

You can eliminate some of the "human" elements of this process by setting up online scheduling with software such as Acuity Scheduling, Orderry, Marketing 360, Fullbay, ARI, Kukui and many others.  

With scheduling software, customers can conveniently go online and schedule or change appointments. Your customer service team can go online and see what activity is happening with appointments.  

You can customize this software to whatever makes the most sense for your shop. You can add automated appointment reminders through text and email so customers always know what's happening.  

Your customers don't want to call to check, change, or get updates about their appointments—setting up online scheduling software is a relatively easy way to provide an Amazon-type experience.  

Have Extended Hours When It Makes Sense  

Amazon is extensive with its ability to deliver to its customers worldwide and do so quickly. Online retailers are obviously open at all hours, able to cater to a customer at any time.  

Today, your customers have a busy life. They have work, family, businesses, and more. Your customer would love to be able to schedule an appointment and or drop off their vehicle during regular hours, but that's not always possible. Offering extended hours where it makes sense can capture more of these customers. You could elect to extend hours during the holiday season, the summer or when you expect the shop to be busier than other times.  

You don't have to offer 24/7 hours all the time, but if you did a time audit, you'd probably find opportunities to offer extended hours and make your customers happier.  

Provide Photo Updates 

There's something to be said about building trust with your customers. One way to build trust is by demonstrating to the customer your efficiency in a way they understand. People are visual in nature, and providing photo estimates is an incredible way to build trust.  

Showing your customers what repairs are needed and why through photo estimates builds trust. There's clarity for the customer, and the extra touch of having photos separates your shop from others. 

People purchase on Amazon at an accelerated rate because of the visualness of the platform. Customers can not only see multiple photos of items but can even see photo reviews from customers. It's built trust and is a strategy shop owners can add to the processes.  

"The visual appeal is what customers today are looking for. Auto body repair is still a visual business, and customers want to see what's going on," says Marrinan.  

Set Up Automated Communication 

Communication makes or breaks a business. The way and frequency at which your shop communicates will make all the difference and determine whether you have lifelong customers. Just like customers are able to track packages to their doorstep, they might like to track their vehicle through its repair process as well. 

"Some customers like to have daily updates," says Marrinan. "How you communicate is important. You need a system and software that's open to communicating with the customers as they expect. Communication is often more important than speed. Communicating that with customers will go a longer way than you getting their vehicle back quicker."  

Marrinan notes that his own vehicle was in a repair shop recently, and the text and email communication the shop provided made him want to recommend the shop to others. He says it was a great customer experience.  

You can create a better communication experience using automated systems and software. The ability to schedule appointments is one part of a good communication strategy, but it's more than that.  

Customers want updates on where their vehicle is in the process, any unexpected circumstances that add more time, any unique situations that arise during repair, changes in charges, and anything else they'd like to know. All of this communication could be set up and managed with software.  

"It's not rocket science; communication with your customers is crucial. Take a look at the reviews on our site, and you'll see how and why we prioritize good communication," says Ron Perretta, owner of Professionals Auto Body. "It's ridiculous for a customer to have the call the business that they are spending money with just to find out the status of their car. Sadly, that's what's typical in our industry."  

Modernize Your Shop  

"Some other ways worth mentioning include proper training for shop staff, management of the overall repair process and billable materials, and having the products required to repair vehicles per OEM recommendations," says Marrinan.  

The bottom line is that using Amazon's customer experience principles can help collision repair shops build stronger businesses. Your customers will have a better experience, making them become word-of-mouth marketing for your shop.  

See which of these strategies you can implement in your shop, and it will improve efficiency.  

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