Foundational Marketing Practices For an Auto Body Shop

When owning a small business, the owner has to keep in mind that a successful marketing strategy hinges on individual customer experience. As advanced as our technology has become, and as advanced as our business practices have become, nothing has exceeded the primacy of the old phrase, “The customer is always right.” Even if the customer is wrong, they’re still right. In fact, with Internet technology, customers have the ability to spread the word about a bad experience much easier these days, with tools like blogs, community forums, social networking sites, and a whole bunch of others. For example, popular Internet blogger, Randy Cassingham, wrote a blog entry titled “Dell Hell” and it destroyed Dell’s credibility and profits for the remainder of the year. On the other hand, a customer that walks away having loved the service received is your absolute best marketing tool, especially for local small businesses like auto body shops. Every customer that walks through your door represents 5 or even 10 more potential jobs for your business. When it comes to marketing, making the customers you have happy is one of the best ways you can generate more leads.

The idea that the customer is always right suggests a mentality about the business: customers are top priority. The mentality that every customer you have is the top priority in everything you do can pay huge dividends as you go about marketing your business. I say this because marketing is about getting customers to believe you’re the best person for the job they need done. That requires getting the word out and using different tools at your disposal to make that happen. But all the tools in the world won’t help a business succeed if they don’t care about their customers. You just can’t have a good marketing strategy for your business if you don’t have a satisfied customer. Or to say it in another way…you simply can’t market a brand successfully that sucks to the customers you’ve had. Its that simple. This is true even more so for a business that relies on local residents. There isn’t a single gadget in the Internet world that will replace your services as the foundational tool for bringing you more business. Keeping these things in mind as the “Auto Body Marketing” blog moves forward to provide new ways to maximize your shop’s exposure, here are some things to take note of. A business that builds around the “Customers First” strategy requires at least two practices: providing quality customer service and quality work.

Providing Quality Customer Service

Providing quality customer service is important because of how it can impact the impression your customer has as they’re leaving your business. We’re not suggesting you whistle around your shop so gleefully that you seem like all is perfect in your world (that’s just annoying and unrealistic). We’re suggesting that you focus on creating an environment for your customer that leaves a lasting positive impression on them. You know whats best for your business, so we’re not going to tell you to reformat everything you do at your shop. We’re simply recommending that you do you what it takes to make your customers believe that the work they just gave you is important to you and you want them to come back. Keep that principle in mind and tailor your shop practices around it. Build a waiting room if you can and keep it clean, provide transportation for customers if they need it, have coffee available to all walk-ins, or any other small thing that you think a customer would find valuable. Focus on creating the impression that they’re experience with your business is your top priority. John Webb of CSi Complete says in his Body Shop Business article that auto shops should shift away from viewing customers just as transactions and focus on building relationships with customers for the sake of long-term loyalty. This is big for marketing your business because if you can manage to develop an impression in their mind as they walk away that says, “They did great work and I’m never again going to another body shop other than the one I just went to,” then you just earned their business the next time they need repairs. Even better is that you just established a marketing partner. Every time someone close to them needs repairs, then recommendations to your business will come easy to them.

Providing Quality Work

Providing quality work is very important in generating that positive impression in your customer’s mind. You want them to walk away with the mindset that your the best on the block at what you do. Creating an environment that’s focused on the customer helps generate that mindset, but ultimately, they’re coming to you for services on their vehicle. Provide good work by implementing good practices in the shop. Again, you know what’s best for your business, and we don’t think we know more about your business than you do. But build everyday practices around the strategy of “Customers First.” David William’s article in Body Shop Business shared a story regarding Fred Haas Collision Center in a suburb of Houston. He says that when they were struggling and shops around them were closing, rather then cutting guys to stay afloat financially, he started adding guys to the payroll. Doing that allowed his employees to pay closer attention to customers and their repairs, thus making customers the top priority. Now, I understand that Fred Haas was a dealership that had a ton more resources, but take note of the mindset. They had a business strategy that was focused on the customer and tailored shop practices around that to make their work more quality for their customer. Ultimately that translated into more success as more customers kept coming in.

Make the Customer First

We say all these things to help initiate some thought about your shop. Are you having a hard time getting jobs through the door? If so, take a magnifying glass to your shop’s practices and see how you can improve. Ask yourself questions for the sake of improvement. Ask questions such as: what are some internal alterations we can make to gain an edge over our competition? How can we make our potential customers think we’re the best there is? What can I do to my shop to make customers feel more comfortable coming to me for their business rather than someone else? How can the work I do for them give them the impression that our work is the best there is? Ask yourself these questions and work to make your business “Customer First” oriented. We’re not promising business will start pouring in after all this, but this is a good foundation to build your marketing strategy around, and that’s what “Auto Body Marketing” is set up to talk about. We’ll show you some tools in this blog on how to maximize your shop’s exposure. But again, you can’t successfully market a business that customers don’t want to return to.

9 Things to Consider Before Choosing an Auto Body Shop?

If you have been in a car accident, you may need extensive repairs on your auto. Even if you don’t need a lot of repairs, you will still need to have your car looked at by a professional to make sure that your car is safe to drive.

While most shops can do the mechanical work required to make your car road worthy again, not all auto body shops can repair damage to the body of the car. This may include things like matching the paint in the new parts with the rest of the car, matching the panels and trim, and aligning the car properly. Don’t forget about the fact that the shop will probably also need to restore the electrical wiring and the electronic devices in the car.

There actually is quite a lot to do to repair your vehicle to the way it was before the accident and it takes an experienced group of technicians to do the work.It is very common for cars to need extensive diagnostic services before the repairs can even be done. For example, your car may need to undergo a special computer diagnostic in order to determine how extensive the damage really is and what needs to be repaired.

In order to correctly perform the diagnostics, your car will need to be hooked up to a special machine which will evaluate all of your car’s main systems. This means that a shop will need special diagnostic equipment in order to run the tests. Of course, not all shops will have the necessary equipment.

You may not think that it is necessary to do such testing if the damage in the accident was not that bad. Remember, not all the damage to your vehicle will be immediately apparent! In most cases, you will need to go to an auto body shop in order to get such repairs done.

Your insurance company may give you several shops to choose from, or you may need to find a shop on your own. You may even need to take your car to a special shop to get a repair estimate before getting the repairs done. In order to find a good auto body shop, you may want to check with friends and family. No doubt they have been in an auto accident and have found a good local shop.

You can also look online for a shop. However, before deciding on a particular vendor, you should do a little bit of homework. Here are some things to consider.

  • Is the shop certified?
  • Are the mechanics and other staff members certified in their field of expertise?
  • Are their certificates of qualification displayed in the shop?
  • Does your insurance company work with the shop?
  • Is the shop a member of the Better Business Bureau or other organization?
  • Does the shop offer warranties and money back guarantees?
  • Does the shop use new parts or used parts to repair the damage?
  • Does the shop offer a courtesy van or rental car for your use while they are repairing the damage to your vehicle?
  • Is the shop close to your job or home?

Remember too that you often get what you pay for. Don’t choose a shop simply based on price. Instead, choose a shop that is qualified to do the repairs.

Finding the Right RV Body Shop Service for You

Your RV is most likely your second highest investment after your house. So knowing which repair facility to trust your investment with after a mishap, accident, or just standard aging problems can be a task at hand. So just were do you start to find the right RV body shop.

#1 Ask around to your fellow RV’ers of any good/bad repair shops that they have had personal experience with.

#2 Pick up the phone and call around to several local RV Dealers and talk to the service manager. Pick there brain on who they suggest or who they deal with for the body and painting repair needs. (keep in mind to call around to RV dealers that don’t have inhouse body shops so you can truly get an unbiased opinion).

#3 Once you have a body shop or two narrowed down, call them and explain your issues, than quiz the shop on the repair process. Talking to them you should get a feel if this shop is knowledgeable enough in the repairs you need and capable of doing the job right, trust your gut feeling.

Once you think you found the right shop, take a drive over there before taking your RV there. Ask for a tour of there facility. Some key things to look for or to ask while your there are: a professionally built paint booth to which your RV paint job is done in. Since RV’s are so big you will find repair shops operating without a spray booth which can cause problems with the paint as its not in a controlled environment causing improper curing, paint peeling, dirt and trash in the paint job, and so on.

Ask to look at there paint room and take a look at the paint on the shelf to see first hand what there using. Since RV’s are so big they can require gallon”s” of paint. Well in the paint coatings industry there are three tiers of paints lines, High grade-mid grade-and low grade paint. The difference in price can range from $100 a gallon- $600 a gallon and a difference of the paint fading in a year or two – 10+ years without fading or peeling. While your there touring the facility take a look at jobs in progress there to get a feel for the quality.

Once you have done all this and have chosen the shop you feel like you can trust, make sure if there are parts needed for the repairs, that all parts have shown up already to the shop. Otherwise waiting for parts can prolong the time your RV will have to sit at the repair shop waiting to get repaired.

Lastly while trying to find the right RV body shop, try and stay away from car body shops. They might be a great car body shop but they usually are not equipped for RV’s or the know how on repairing/refinishing some of the substrates found on RV’s. Also decide right off the bat when looking for a RV body shop, if your shopping for price or quality, cause cheap and good usually don’t fall together.

Why A Good Body Shop Uses A Paint Booth

When you take your car in for service, you expect a great paint job. A high-quality body shop will meet your expectations by delivering a dust-free car with the new color matching the old perfectly. To assure a good job and to comply with environmental regulations, body shops typically perform the painting in a paint booth, use proper equipment and technique, and make sure that their workers wear protective clothing. Some body shops try to skirt these requirements to lower costs and prices, but the results are not worth the so-called “savings.”

Why Use A Paint Booth?

There are several good reasons:

Less dust. A body shop generates a considerable amount of dust in the process of sanding car parts. Technicians can remove dust from paint by wiping the surface with a tack cloth and by then applying several thin coats rather than fewer thick ones. The best way to control dust is to use a paint booth that is:

  • Properly vented with filters in place
  • Kept at the proper pressure and climate
  • Set up so that entrance and exit doors, access doors, and concrete floors are sealed
  • Clean and free of unnecessary items, sand, moisture, and dirt
  • Closed to unnecessary personnel to prevent traffic in and out
  • Manned by a worker in a lint-free painter suit and head covering

Better quality. Equipped with fluorescent lighting attached right outside the booth, the painting technicians can apply a consistent paint job. They can spot flaws or places they missed. Many paint booths are heated for better curing of paints.

Prevents overspray. Proper painting technique assures that paint does not spread to parts of the car not to be painted by masking it to prevent accidental overspray. The paint booth should have a downdraft system with exhaust fans installed in the floor to pull paint particles away from unwanted areas of the vehicle. A downdraft system also sucks up loose, floating dust. Using a properly vented paint booth saves shop owners money on paint, solvents, and supplies.

Contains and reduces toxic fumes. Body shops are moving toward paints and finishes with lower VOC content, but many products contain toxic chemicals that are very harmful to the workers who apply them. They also pose a hazard when they are airborne. A paint booth with proper ventilation through a downdraft, side draft, or cross draft system pulls paint fumes up through high stacks and away from employees, neighboring buildings, and people.

Is safer. A properly designed paint booth uses filters that workers change often to keep the shop in compliance with EPA standards for 98% particulate removal efficiency. It has sprinklers and fire extinguishers in the booth to stop fires and reduce damage to cars and employees. Ideally, the body shop uses a mechanical paint gun washing system that limits technician contact with solvents, reduces solvent usage, and reduces the amount of the VOC and HAP emissions once spray guns are removed from the booth.

Only Trust A Shop With A Paint Booth

Most municipalities require any body shop to have a properly installed paint booth if they use more than a certain number of gallons per week. Some small shops and fly-by-night operators may try to get around the regulations. For best results when you are seeking a body shop, make sure that the shop has a permitted, well-equipped paint booth. Your car, the workers, and the environment will be better for it.