It's Monday Morning, 6:30 am and you’re on your way to work until BANG, someone wasn’t paying attention and hit your vehicle from behind.
You get out of your car and realize that your trunk won’t close and you’re going to have to take the day off work (unpaid) to handle this situation.
You get on the phone with your insurance company, and after asking some questions they recommend you go to “their preferred collision repair facility” so that you can get this vehicle dropped off and put into a rental vehicle right away.
You get to the collision repair facility and see an employee at the front counter on the phone. She doesn’t acknowledge that your there as she seems focused on eating her lunch, looking at her computer, and what appears to be on hold with someone. You stand there, not knowing what to do and just wait.
Finally, after a few minutes of waiting, this front desk "CSR" says, “hi, what can I do for ya?” …. you explain your situation and what your insurance company has recommended and she says, “well, we haven’t received your assignment yet and we are all booked up on estimates for today so we may not have the chance to look at your vehicle”.
You’re a bit lost on words as you’re not sure what to do with a vehicle that the trunk won’t close. So, you explain your situation in more detail letting her know that you’re not sure how to move forward.
She then says, in a snarky voice, “Well I wish the insurance company would have called us first to give us a heads up. We have so much work here in our shop that we may not have the proper resources at this time to handle your claim but we will do what we can”.
Now you’re feeling awful for even bringing your vehicle there and even a bit upset with your insurance company for recommending you to that place. You stand there feeling frustrated and finally push this representative to deal with your car so that you can be on your way. After over an hour of waiting in the lobby, she finally takes the keys, calls the rental car company and gets you on your way.
At this point, you don’t know much about your vehicle and the repairs at all. You have no idea what it will cost to fix or how long it will take but you’re going to trust that your insurance company brought you to the right spot and it will all get figured out.
A few weeks go by and you still haven't received a call, so you decide to call the collision repair facility and find out what’s going on with your vehicle. The lovely representative says to you “Oh ya, your car is in body, it's all good. We will call you when it's closer to being completed”.
You have no idea what "body" means or what else has been going on regarding your vehicle, but you don’t even care. You’re in a rental vehicle, your vehicle sounds like it's getting repaired, you trust your insurance company and it can’t be much longer at this point.
Two weeks go by and your trustworthy insurance adjuster calls and says “Hi Ms. _____, we just wanted to inform you that your rental coverage is up as of today and you’ll be responsible to pay the difference should you wish to stay in your rental vehicle moving forward”.
Hold on...what? What in the world just happened?
You call the collision repair facility right away feeling annoyed by the lack of communication that is happening from ALL parties and the “customer service” representative tells you that your vehicle will be ready tomorrow. She says "don't worry about the rental vehicle, you won't be charged...we will call the insurance company letting them know to extend the rental for one more day because of the delay on parts".
The following day, you arrive at the collision repair facility to pick up your vehicle and your vehicle looks back to the way it was prior to the accident. You go to the front lobby and no one is there. So, you stand and wait.
After a few quiet minutes of waiting, that representative comes from the back of the shop and gives you your keys and paperwork. You go outside and take a look at your vehicle in more detail and see that it appears there is a part missing and dust is all in the trunk area.
You go back in to let the representative know about your concerns and she says to you “oh I forgot to tell you that we still owe you a back-ordered part, we will let you know when it comes in”. She also sends out the detailer to address the dust in your trunk.
After about 30 minutes, your FINALLY on your way. You’re driving down the road with a huge smile on your face.
This long, stressful and inconvenienced process is now coming to an end and you can go back to your “normal” routine.
Taking this narrative approach to this blog, I wanted to address two main takeaways.
1.) Sometimes we forget what people have gone through prior to them entering the collision repair facility- they could have had an awful start to their morning like the example above. That’s why empathy and understanding are critical to servicing our customers.
2.) Secondly, sometimes we believe that we are doing a great job at communication and customer service, but it helps when you can see the perspective and get the opinion of the people who experience it most. Your customers.
In our opinion, Collision Repair Facilities should understand the importance of the role they play in their facilities. A car accident is a VERY difficult, upsetting, detrimental, and sometimes traumatic experience. There is very little to no positive things that come out of being involved in a car accident.
That's why Collision Repair Facilities should remember this important factor and potentially compensate for the hard times that each of their customers has just recently experienced.
We at Auto+ believe in exceptional customer service and wanted to put together a list of “Top 10 Customer Service Skills to implement for Collision Repair Facilities”. We hope these 10 points help serve as a reminder to some, an enhancement to others and a training guide for a few on how Collision Repair Facilities could be with each and every one of their clients to excel with customer service moving forward.
Auto+’s Top 10 Customer Service Skills to implement for Collision Repair Facilities
1. Have Empathy
Customers have just gone through a very upsetting, possibly expensive and possibly detrimental experience- they are usually very inconvenienced- out of their comfort zone and dealing with things they have never dealt with before.
· Including the entire repair process
· The Person they hit or hit them
· They have no idea what is entailed to fix their vehicle.
· They might have lost pay at their job for taking the day off work because of the accident.
· They might not be able to afford the deductible but will have no choice to come up with it.
· They are in a rental that is very different than what they are used to.
Our understanding and empathy should be at their HIGHEST peak for our customers. If you were in that same situation, wouldn't you wish that someone understood and empathized with the situation you were in?
2. Communication is Key
The number one complaint that most customer service complaints stem from is the lack of communication that we as businesses often provide to our customers. It is recommended to ASK your customers how they would like to be communicated throughout the repair process and how often they would like to be contacted- then actually do that.
Here is an example of how many communication points you could have with your customer during the repair process...
Estimate Completed, Repairs to be booked in
Confirmation of Repair Appointment
100% Teardown complete- Repair Process update call
Parts Delay, Additional Parts to be ordered, parts shipped wrong, insurance company delay, Bodyshop delay, etc.
Repair Update (if larger repairs)
2 Days prior to delivery- Heads up call.
Post-delivery call- confirm customer was happy
That is approximately 9 times to speak with the customer during the repair process. Is that something your business is currently doing?
Also, we recommend providing the customer with an APPROXIMATE delivery date once you have completed the 100% teardown, have received the insurance approval and have confirmed the parts availability to avoid any miscommunications.
3. Keep it Simple
Customers don't have the same type of time, energy or patience anymore in our fast-paced lifestyle. Therefore, most times- they just want things to be easy and simple. No two visits- estimate and repairs, no come back for IOU's. They want it done as fast as possible, with the best in quality and as convenient as possible. This means that it is up to the collision repair facilities to ensure that the repair process is as seamless and smooth as possible.
4. Smile 😊 and Eat in the Lunchroom
A Smile at the counter and over the phone has never changed. A friendly voice and a nice smile could change someone's day. Your tone and thoughts towards the entire situation also play an impact. We recommend answering the phone with a smile and welcome each and every customer with a smile. The energy will be positive, and the results will be positive too. So, smile more.
Also, I know that we all get busy and it's hard sometimes to pull away from our desks but there is nothing more unpleasing than trying to speak to someone when they have their mouth full of food...or when your starving but have just been in an accident and all you can smell is that yummy food in front of you.
Our recommendation is if it's possible to do so, save your lunches for the lunchroom and take some time for yourself as well.
5. Use English Terms
I think we often forget that customers have no idea what a dog leg, orange peel, three-stage, fisheye, bodywork and any of our super odd terms are- they just want the vehicle fixed and fixed right.
When speaking with a customer face to face or over the phone, remember to keep the conversation to "English terms".
6. Under Promise and Over Deliver
There are a few things with customer service that you should never, ever, ever do.
Here are 2 important ones;
1.) NEVER EVER MAKE A CUSTOMER WAIT. Stand Up and Attend or at least ACKNOWLEDGE the customer when they walk through the front door. Ask them, Can I make you a coffee or get you a bottle of water while waiting?
What about refreshments? Sometimes customers are waiting for 20 min (sometimes a few hours) depending on the situation of the vehicle. What do you offer your customers?
Free Uber Ride?
Cookies, Chips, Apples, Candy?
2.) NEVER EVER COMMIT TO A REPAIR COMPLETION DATE. We all know that this never happens the way it's supposed to, and it sets up a collision repair facility to fail on service. Instead, provide an approximate repair date and inform the customer that this date could still change depending on "XYZ".
7. Be Organized & Make Exceptions to the Rules
There are ways to make the repair process a bit more seamless for our customers, and one way of doing so is by being as organized as possible.
Here are a few key ways that can help,
- Schedule all estimates in
- Schedule all repairs and also schedule them based on repair drop-off time. (8:30am, 9:00am, etc).
- Order parts approximately 3 days in advance (for most brands).
- Schedule all sublet work as far in advance as possible.
- Schedule the delivery appointment with a date and time 24 hours prior to delivery (2:30 pm, 3:00 pm, etc).
And REMEMBER that sometimes you’re going to have to make exceptions to the everyday rules to accommodate different customer situations. (Like our non-drive customer example above). In these situations, all rules are put aside and the key here is to deal with the customer right away to have them on their way.
8. Final Quality Check prior to delivery
We sometimes forget how critical this section is. This is the very last step before your customer gets a hold of their vehicle again. Therefore, we believe this is a critical step as most times this vehicle was just in pieces due to the repair sand little details can sometimes get missed naturally.
Check over things like;
o Is the vehicle clean to our standards inside and out?
o Did we check the headlights are working? Turn signals working? Brake lights working? Fog lights? Horn? Wipers? Washer Nozzles?
o Did we confirm that the headlights are aimed properly?
o Did we confirm that we performed all customer requests?
o Are all decals, stone guards in place? Are any mouldings missing?
o Did we complete a post-scan and confirm that all codes are clear and the vehicle does not need to go to the dealer?
o Does the radio need coding?
o Is the paint perfect? This includes ALL imperfections and colour matches to the collision repair facility and paint manufacturers' standards.
9. Mention the Freebies
How often do we give away FREE stuff? One freebie I know for sure is detailing each of our customer's vehicles before delivery.
Did you properly indicate and notify the customer of all the over-the-top items you did for them while their vehicle was here for repairs?
Polish your vehicle for free? Removed those fine scratches on the door? Restored your headlights? Removed that small dent with PDR in the same area that was not related? Painted the entire bumper instead of partial? Detailed your vehicle? etc.
Be sure to let the customer know how you went OVER THE TOP to make sure their vehicle was addressed and placed in great hands while at the facility and I guarantee they will be happy about that.
10. ALWAYS say THANK YOU
Lastly, how often do we truly and sincerely thank our customers for their business?
We recommend a follow-Up with the customer after an estimate or after the repairs, etc. and say something on the lines of “I am just calling to say thank you again for the opportunity and the trust you placed in us to repair your damaged vehicle. We appreciate your business and want to make sure that you are happy. We also just wanted to confirm that you made it home safely in that big snowstorm and that everything works fine on your vehicle including the backup sensors, are they working fine now? (or something related to the repair)?
Something that takes probably less than 5 minutes could move mountains with your customers and is highly recommended. It shows that you truly care.
How's that for 10 key points? In closing, we would love to get some feedback.
What did you think about our post? Do you agree, not agree? What do you do at your facility to encourage over-the-top customer service?
If looking for continuous feedback from your customers, we also offer our monthly CSI Service that provides follow-up calls, text messages and emails to your customers to find out how happy they were with the service they just received. If interested in finding out more information, please click on the link here and that will bring you to our CSI Performance section.
Lastly, we hope this blog served you and your team with some pointers and value! We truly believe that customer service is one of the main KEYS to a successful collision repair facility.
Feel free to contact us with any questions,
The Auto+ Team