Procedures for Maintaining Customer Communication During Repairs

Aug. 14, 2018
In order to communicate with today's collision repair customer, your staff must use multiple means, such as video calling. Here are some other ways one dealership fixed its inadequate and inefficient communication process.

When customers stop in to Daniel Ham’s workplace these days, conversations flow freely. Ham makes sure that the body shop staff at Barnes Crossing Hyundai educates customers on the repair process, and thoroughly explains any potential obstacles with a repair.

Ham, the collision repair center’s manager, is even willing to reach out to a client via Facetime or Skype, if necessary, to smooth over any frustrations. That’s just part of the job in 2018, he notes.

“We reach out, personally,” he says. “We want to reach out and explain the situation and any obstacles that we’re overcoming, whether it’s a [repair] setback, or a parts delivery.”

Five years ago, shortly before Ham’s arrival at the Hyundai dealership in Tupelo, Miss., communicating with customers wasn’t such a smooth process. In fact, it was often inadequate and inefficient.

“Customers weren’t being notified as far as how the repair process was, and the time frames,” Ham explains. “They were left in the dark. So they weren’t happy at that point.”

He wanted both clients and insurers to respect his facility. But, in order for that to happen, his first few months on the job would be spent mending fences.

Communication Breakdown.

When Ham arrived at Barnes Crossing a few years back, he received a fairly chilly reception from customers. While it’s understood that few people like spending money on car repairs, the clients in Tupelo seemed especially frustrated.

Customers weren’t eager to return to Barnes Crossing because of how they were treated in the past, Ham says. All too often, the body shop failed to respect the time of either customers or insurers.

“You had nobody that was scheduling with the customer,” Ham explains. Customers “would drop the car off and they wouldn’t know if the parts were here. They wouldn’t know if the repairs were beginning that day or the next week.

“And, when they would try and call, nobody would return their calls.”

Lackadaisical scheduling especially seemed to be holding the body shop back. Vehicles often sat for two or three days before receiving any work.

Back in 2014, Ham often heard complaints from customers and insurers alike.

“I was hearing negative comments from both sides,” he notes. “So, we took the initiative to turn all these negatives into a positive.”

Message Sent.

The first step to getting Barnes Crossing’s body shop back on track: getting back in insurers’ good graces. In that respect, Ham and his staff made a concerted effort to be as transparent as possible.

“You have to have the communication—not only with the customer, but with the insurance company that you’re providing the work for,” Ham explains.

And, at times back in 2014, Ham barely heard from insurers at all.

In response, he canvassed the area, having as many face-to-face sitdowns as possible.

“I took lunch breaks, went out and visited the insurance offices, and handed out business cards,” Ham recalls. “I sat down with them one on one and let them know that we’re here to take care of their customers and their needs.”

Additionally, he established new procedures, with an end goal of rebuilding customer trust. These days, Barnes Crossing’s eight-person body shop staff communicates with customers often during the repair process—prior to a repair, after parts arrive, and once repairs begin, for example. Instead of playing phone tag with the department’s employees, customers now receive text and email updates frequently (at least every couple days, depending on the particular repair job).

Ham aims to let his customers know that their vehicle won’t be returned to them until it’s repaired thoroughly and safely. That’s an initiative he stresses to his employees during regular meetings, too.  

“We want the work done correctly, as if it were [an employee’s personal] vehicle, or their mother’s,” Ham explains. “We don’t want to just do the minimum.”

Message Received.

Now, when a repair at Barnes Crossing reaches the paint department or re-assembly stage, customers are informed promptly, typically by Ham’s assistant manager. Clients are well aware of when they can expect to pick up their vehicle. Customers are reached via phone call, email, text message, or even the occasional video call.

“Educating the customers on the repair process makes things a lot easier,” Ham explains, “because they have more understanding, when they leave, of what to expect.”

Ham says the body shop’s CSI score is in the upper 90s, and, annual revenue has increased, projecting to nearly $1.6 million this year. In April 2018 alone, Barnes Crossing’s collision repair center addressed 696 repair orders.

And, Ham says he hasn’t heard many complaints from customers over the last four years, especially with regard to the shop’s communication methods.

“We don’t have any negative customers,” he says. “We try to go to all ends to make them happy.”

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