Serving a Routine

Feb. 20, 2019
Josh Wilson, body shop manager for Fortune Collision Centre, shares what has helped his business offer a streamlined and uniform customer service experience in every location.

Fortune Collision Centre is all about the customer first and foremost, says Josh Wilson, body shop manager. Wilson grew up at the collision center as a kid and had the opportunity to observe the inner workings of a body shop by watching his father, who also used to be a body shop manager for the same one, and through helping to wash cars and shadow estimators.

Fortune Collision Centre has five locations in Kentucky including Georgetown, Lexington, Nicholasville, Frankfurt and Fortune Commercial Collision.

To be able to offer a service for the customer that is the same whether the customer steps through the doors of the Georgetown location or goes to the Frankfurt location, Wilson’s business needed a standard procedure that could be taught to every employee.

Body shops do not operate like a Starbucks but one thing shop owners might want to emulate is Starbucks’ customer service. Customers expect the same quality of service at every Starbucks location they walk into.

So, if Starbucks can develop a widely known brand and standardized customer service experience, can a body shop as well?

Wilson says that while there might be many locations, each shop location does its best to repair the vehicle back to pre-accident condition for the customer. Since Wilson is physically unable to be at every location at once and observe the training process, the shop has perfected the art of standardized operating procedures to provide the best service for the customers—and it uses 17 customer service representatives to do so.

Wilson outlines four tips any body shop can start doing in their business to create a custom, yet uniform experience for everyone that walks in the door.

As told to Melissa Steinken

Tip No.1: Train Staff Internally

Employees at each location go through our standard training process. We’ve never had to hire outside of the shop for estimators because we use our apprentices. Every estimator we have at the moment has come in as an apprentice.

When we hire these apprentices, we look for character and a willingness to do whatever it takes to repair the car safely. You can train somebody on how to write an estimate but you can’t train someone on how to simply care and want to help the customers.

There is a growth plan for the apprentice. The apprentice shadows an estimator for a total of 30 days. Then, the apprentice learns how the shop operates and how to interact with the customer and the customer’s vehicle in the process. It can take as long as 6 months to a year before someone who was apprentice is asked work and write estimates.

Tip No.2: Script Some Interactions

At each location, the customer service representative, which is usually the estimator, will answer the phones in the same way. For example, we thank the customer for calling, state our shop name and then ask, “How may we serve you?”

Then, the estimators and the trainees practice customer service situations through role-playing the scenarios. You know, sometimes if a customer walks in and has an issue with the repair process or the finished vehicle, it might have been a mistake on the paint department’s behalf or the insurance company but you have to remember that, at the end of the day, all the customer sees is the body shop.

Tip. No.3: Quality Check the Process

First, we have a growth plan for our apprentices. For the first 30 days, they’re shadowing and they don’t touch a vehicle at all. They’re not even writing estimates. This is the time that the employee learns how to interact with the customer and who our customers are.

We’re not letting this new person lose in the shop until the whole team at that location feels ready. While I can’t personally check this individual’s progress, I do let every new hire know that there is never a dumb question. I want them to ask questions so they can learn and not just assume about the process later on.

On Friday mornings, we have a logistics meeting with all the managers. At the end of the week is a great time to meet and see what issues arose throughout the beginning of the week and what we can do to fix some of them. We also make sure all the processes are running the same. We decided to have these meetings on Fridays instead of Mondays because we’re closed on the weekend. If we were to meet on Mondays, nothing would have happened yet.

Tip No.4: Establish SOPs for Every Location

Our marketing team created our website and made it very cohesive for the customer. The customer is able to go online, request an estimate, fill out four or five different fields of information and then send it to the shop.

Our customer service representatives at each location use the same type of customer relationship management system. The front office staff can see who sent in a request and whether someone responded to the customer.

All documentation of the customer’s vehicle’s repair is located in the notes section of the management system. The staff can search for the customer’s name and it’s located under the customer’s ticket.  

We also have standard operating procedures that are distributed to each location. For example, we have an SOP on vehicle teardown. We do also have each team member interacting with the customer asking about how the customer heard about our shop.

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