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If you own an independent bodyshop, this article is for you.

In case you run a bodyshop (or in fact any local business) you definitely spend time thinking of the way of advertising your business. In fact, in our digital era you may have already started building your digital footprint on social media, through a blog and a busness webpage. However, you need to keep in mind that people need bodyshop services usually when a collision accident happens. Not a very pleasant event. What do you do when you need a car repair specialist? You ask friends and relatives for a recommendation. Everyone has an uncle or friend who repaired his car after an accident. Usually  they  refer a bodyshop in the neighborhood.  Nobody wants to drive the damaged vehicle to the other side of the city. The key words are “reference” and “neighborhood”. In the past I have already stressed how the word of mouth” creates a competitive advantage for a paint supply business (8 proven ways to increase sales in a car body and paint shop). In this post I will elaborate further how to grow bodyshop’s positive word of mouth by giving back to the local community.

Car refinishing industry is going through times when larger organizations buy the smaller rivals or push the independent shops out of the market. Consolidation of the market share can be seen on all levels in our trade, starting from jobbers and warehouses to collision repair workshops themselves. In fact, an independent bodyshop has little instruments to protect its business. Nevertheless, the bodyshop can profit from its human touch and the perception of being part of the local community. An active and giving back part of the community. If the people in the area are feeling that you are one of them, they will prefer to bring their vehicles to you, regardless of where insurers want to steer them to.

What are the ways to genuinely serve the local community?

There are plenty of ways how bodyshop owners could contribute to the local community and build positive image for their businesses. Below I bring to your attention a few examples.

– Be a sponsor of the local sports team. It is an old and well-tested way to play an important role for your neighborhood. It doesn’t matter what sport it is. Team sports usually draw more attention, however you can support a talented tennis player or a boxer. Do not go only for the highest exposure sports, which may require significant funds. The earnest effort to support even one athlete will not go unnoticed.

– Offer to refinish free of charge some community vehicle. It could be a school bus, fire brigade’s vehicle, police or any other car of communal usage.

– Help someone in need to fix her vehicle. If you have noticed an elder person with an old car, offer to paint it for free. She will be your best ambassador forever.

– Give a free advice on car care for automotive enthusiasts. Show them how to polish their vehicles and to protect it from scratches. It will be your best move ever.

– Be involved in the local community life. I mean truly and genuinely involved. It is not only about giving money, but also time. By spending time with local people for the common good, you will earn respect and trust. Trust is the key in the collision repair business when people turn to you if a collision accident happened.

To finish, I would like to stress that giving to the community is not the same with advertising. These are two different things. Both are needed to build brand awareness and drive business to your shop. Nevertheless, do not confuse those two things. Giving back to the community must be done without crying for attention, because people can sense easily when the effort is not coming from the heart.

 

 

Why do we need more women in the bodyshop?

We are living in a time where clichés are being dethroned. Women serve in the army, run successful international corporations, fly to space and lead governments. Whether we – men – like it or not, women will take up more active role in every aspect of the modern society. Automotive industry is still dominated by men, despite the fact that the number of women behind the driving wheel match the men, at least in the developed world. So, why don’t we have an equivalent percentage of women (I don’t know what percentage this should be) in a bodyshop?

Women in the repair shop. Why we see women only at the reception desks?

I will concentrate on the bodyshop business, since it is closer to my usual readers. Apparently, there are a few reasons why women spraying cars are rather an exception.

  1. Prejudice. I strongly believe the main reason, is the negative predisposition of people – men – in the collision repair industry against women in a bodyshop. Just like with female taxi drivers, men do not like their cars to be fixed, driven or painted by women.
  2. Collision repair job is too hard for women. It shouldn’t be. If a bodyshop is properly equipped than none of the operations, especially in a paint shop, should be physically challenging for women.
  3. This work is too hazardous for women. Again, collision repair work must be safe for any person involved in the repair process, regardless of gender or age. Of course, I have my concerns if women should be working with chemicals, while pregnant, but this shouldn’t be an obstacle for women’s occupation in a bodyshop in general.
  4. Social disapproval. Just like with the first point, modern society puts labels on women. They can be nurses, waitresses, teachers, cooks or doctors. Most of the parents will discourage their daughter to choose a career of a car mechanic or refinisher.
  5. The job is not prestigious. It is hard to deny that the collision repair industry struggles to attract young people. This is the problem, which affects young men and women in the same way. Unless we find proper incentives, our industry will continue to grow older.

Emelie Dammare WorldSkills 2013 Silver Medalist in Car Painting

Why do we need more women in the industry?

The idea to write this post came to me after reading the article “Young Painter Creates “Girls Behind the Gun” in AutobodyNews.com about Konstandina Manjavinos – a young lady who is a very successful sprayer. Konstandina is also the founder of the movement “Girls behind the gun”. I follow her posts and cannot hide my admiration for her enthusiasm and skills. “Girls behind the gun” has thousands of followers! By the way, Konstandina has Greek roots. I tried to recall any female car sprayer in Greece. Never met one, even though a colleague told me that he knew … three!

  1. Women are more efficient and accurate in the routine tasks.We all know that vehicle’s preparation before it enters a spray booth, requires a certain routine of masking, sanding, de-masking, priming and cleaning chores. The importance of these jobs are difficult to underestimate. If you ever have visited an OEM paint shop, you would know that the majority of employees there are women. I guess that the biggest car manufacturers realized a long time ago that women are better than men in many tasks in the paint shop.
  2. Women are better in distinguishing colors.According to the research in the CUNY’s Brooklyn College, “women are much better in noticing subtle differences among shades of a color”. We all know how important this capability in colormetrics and color-matching is. Automotive refinishing business will benefit from more women in a spray booth or behind a color matching bench.
  3. Women handle better multiple tasks. According to the research of University of Glasgow, women outperform men when asked to do multiple tasks simultaneously. I think that in a bodyshop, employees have to run many things at the same time. For fact.
  4. Women keep their working place clean and tidy.Every year dozens of productive hours are lost because employees are searching for tools, equipment and consumables around the shop.
  5. Women are better in communication. It is not a secret that timely delivery of a vehicle doesn’t depend only on bodyshop capacity. Estimators, insurance companies, parts and consumables’ suppliers all influence delivery times. I am sure that more women in all positions in a collision repair shop will benefit the business overall.

 

Finally, I would like to mention another influential woman in the collision repair business –Kristen Felder – founder at Engage Target Media and Collision Hub. I follow Kristen’s work for a while now, and she is probably one of the most knowledgeable people in the automotive refinishing industry I know. I am sure there are many other women who make our trade move forward.

The best polishing machine for a collision repair shop is …

 

To make it clear from the beginning, I will not name the best brand or model, even if I do have a very strong opinion about the best electric tools in the market. The main objective of this short post is to clarify to our readers what machine they should have in their bodyshop to solve car refinishing problems. For the last couple of years, collision repair professionals have been approached with a great variety of tools, and I have been asked quite a few times about the best choice.

Types of polishing machines

All the existing polishing machines in the market can be divided into three categories: rotary, random orbital and dual action (DA). Below I am going to explain the major differences between them.

Rotary polishers

Rotary polishers are the oldest polishing tools in the market. They use simple circular motion on a single axis. Modern rotary polishers come in a variety of designs and with the possibility of speed adjustment (usually from 600 to 2500 rpm), but the two most important parameters we check in a rotary machine is the power output and weight.

Orbital polishers

Orbital polishers unlike the rotary polishers, which are using direct drive on one axis, have two centers – machine central spindle and pad’s own axis. The movement of the pad is orbital, like the Earth’s movement around the Sun. The shape of the orbit depends on the distance between the two axes. This distance is a crucial technical parameter and usually is somewhere between 8 to 21mm. The best example (at least from marketing point of view) of random orbital technology is Rupes Big Foot series. The good thing about orbital polishers is that they are very safe, and it is almost impossible to overheat or damage the coating while using an orbital polisher.

Dual action polishers

Dual action or DA polishers are usually confused with orbital ones. DAs are actually a hybrid between rotary and orbital machine, in which forced rotary movement is combined with orbital. This machine is supposed to have the best from the two worlds. Flex XC3401 VRG is the most known DA polisher in the market. The Das indeed can do the job of minor scratches correction, on the other hands, it is very hard to remove wet sanding marks, for example.

What polisher shall we buy for a bodyshop and why?

First of all, we need to understand when usually we use a polishing machine in the collision repair shop? The main usage of polishing or buffing in a bodyshop occurs when a painter needs to remove certain paint defects revealed after the repair job is completed. The most frequent paint defects, which require buffing, are dust nibs, runs, excessive orange peel and clearcoat dieback. Usually prior to compounding, a painter use either wet or dry sanding paper to speed up the polishing process altogether. So, in other words, polisher is a kind of fire extinguisher helping to prevent the potential customer’s complaints. Nobody likes those nasty dust nibs on a freshly painted car. The key parameter for polishing is the speed. Paint defects must be removed quickly and effectively, so that the vehicle could leave the workshop on time.

From the three types of polishers I mentioned above, the fastest and the most powerful tool is a rotary buffer. Rotary machine quickly increases the temperature of the paint, softens it and by friction between pad, compound and the surface, removes the upper layer of the clearcoat. DA polisher and especially random orbital machines will fail in most of the instances to remove sand paper scratches even from grit P2000. Fact. Despite the ease of use and safety, dual action and orbital polishers are not the preferred tools for a bodyshop professional. They are very useful for the detailers to remove holograms, swirls and to apply wax or sealant, but this is another job.

Conclusion

If you need to buy a polishing machine (every bodyshop must have one), go for a reliable rotary polisher. Pay attention to the machine’s weight (something within 2-2.5kg range is a good choice) and power output (900 – 1100 Watt are good enough). However, if you consider to offer polishing and detailing services, which I strongly recommend you to do (read a separate article about this topic here), then a DA polisher or random orbital one will be a well-justified and worthwhile investment.

 

P.S. A car sprayer should consider purchasing a pneumatic orbital polishing machine. Unlike car detailing shops, all bodyshops are equipped with decent air compressors. Pneumatic polishers are powerful, durable, lightweight and almost maintenance free.

Automotive clearcoats survery. Thought provoking findings.

Without a doubt, clearcoat is the King of automotive refinishing materials. Well, paint is equally important, but it comes second. Let’s call it … the Queen. Paint is designed to match, but clearcoat … to shine. A safe guess would be that there are much more brands and varieties of clears in the market, then basecoat systems. Clearcoat, for every big or small refinish materials supplier, is the matter of pride, the reason for war (price war I mean) and the vehicle for sales growth. In fact, some fellow rivals in the industry virtually oblige their customers to buy the correspondent quantities of clears related to the paint consumed. Free market, you tell me…

As with other important components of autobody repair puzzle, there are many misconceptions about the clears. For example, “only high solid clears are good” or “low VOC” clearcoats outperform by all parameters their solvent packed cousins. Furthermore, every paint supplier claims that he or she knows what exactly a painter asks from his clearcoat, and, usually, low price is on the top of the list (it is not, check the below survey findings). Lack of transparency (we talk about clearcoat anyway) in our industry, plenty of questionable marketing and absence of standards (read the article on this issue here) confuse the main person in the trade – painter – completely. Therefore, I decided to launch a short 10 questions survey to clear up things about clearcoats.

In the below chart you can see the results of the above-mentioned survey. It consisted of 9 clearcoat characteristics, which the participants were asked to grade from 0 (unimportant) to 10 (extremely important). The last, 10th question was asking about brand/product, which our participants considered as benchmark in quality. The whole list is presented below as well.

Survey findings

Based on the collected answers and from the additional comments we received from the participants the following conclusions can be drawn.

  • The level of shine and gloss retention are the most valued properties of any clearcoat with almost 100% of the respondents gave it a sold 10.
  • Transparency of the clearcoat comes second. From the information we got, there are still a few clearcoats in the market, which are not completely transparent. Usually slight yellowish color is the biggest problem.
  • Ease of application, flow, productivity and consumption – all these parameters – are highly valued as well. Painters like “forgiving” clearcoats, which will not run or solvent pop in case of thicker than normal application. Similarly, clears with high productivity and relatively low consumption are popular too for obvious reasons.
  • Final hardness, chemical and UV resistance are very important to about 85% of the respondents.
  • Drying and flash off times and ease of anticipated buffing (removing dust nibs etc) is crucial for 80% of survey participants.
  • Surprisingly price and solids content (VOC compliance) clearly came the last.

Between the lines

While we had an opportunity to discuss with the survey participants, a few thought-provoking points, which are not depicted by the chart, came to the surface.

  • Price of a particular product is more important to re-sellers than to painters. Paint sprayers care less about price, and more about the result and ease of application.
  • Gloss retention is the biggest challenge for the manufacturers, because a lot of clearcoats in the market loose the shine after only a few days.
  • VOC compliance is the last clearcoat characteristic, a car sprayer considers before the purchase.
  • Among the products, considered as benchmark there are many so-called “non-premium” brands.

The list of cleacoat mentioned as benchmarks  presented below:

Mipa CC8

Spieshecker HS 8055

Novol Spectral Klar 565 VHS

4CR HS Rapid 7235 and 4CR 7262 UHS

Sikkens Superior LV

Debeer Supreme HS 420

Glasurit 255

Roberlo Premium 250HS

HB Body 496

Silco Airmaxx 9600

Etalon 970 UHS

Carsystem Speed Plus VOC clear

Troton Master HS

PPG Deltron D880

RM Crystal Top HS

 

How to Reply to Unspoken Questions with Unspoken Answers…

Today’s post was written by Bud Abraham (Oregon, USA), who is the owner of Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems. Bud also runs a very successful blog with numerous articles, which will help not only detailers, but all car repair professionals, to boost their performance.

Preface

Even if this article Bud wrote for car detailers, the principles described here are 100% applicable to the collision repair shops owners. Indeed, taking care of your customers’ cars is a service, and impression or “feeling” as Bud is referring to it, is the key for success or a cause of poor customer satisfaction. What I particularly liked, is the idea of VAS (value added services), which do not cost a lot, but leave a sweet aftertaste. Car body shop repair shop should, for example, deliver the vehicle to a customer clean and with pleasant scent applied. There are many inexpensive ways to make your customer feel good. These small things will put your business ahead of the competition and bring you returning and happy customers. 

“Being in the detail business you are in the “service industry,” versus the much easier task of selling products.

As a detail business owner much of your success, realize it or not, is based on the 80% principle: “Over 80% of how your customer decides if you did a good or a bad job is based on their relationship with you.”

Yes, success in the detail business is largely based on your customer’s “FEELINGS.”

But there is good news/bad news to this story….

The “bad news” is that customers do feel uncomfortable, vulnerable and even intimidated (especially women) when they leave their vehicle with you. For many you are a tolerated irritation for customers.

The “good news” is that you can manage this, and the feelings of your customers with “valued added services.”

Unspoken Questions & Unspoken Answers

No doubt you very often hear verbal questions such as “How much for…? or “Do you use a buffer on my paint?” or “How long will it take for the carpets to dry?” And, of course, the “How soon can you fit me in?”

But the customer does have questions that they don’t verbalize. For example here are some of the “Unspoken Questions:

  1. Can I trust this person? Will they steal something from my vehicle? Will they damage my vehicle?
    Sure you and your employees are trustworthy, BUT a first time customer does not know this.
  2. Are they going break something and not tell me?
  3. Will they do the job correctly, no swirls in the paint? How will I even know if the job is done right?
  4. Will they stick with their quoted price, or call me and tell me that they have found something that is going to take more time and cost more money?

The BIG question for you is the “Moment of Truth” Unspoken Answers that you provide to reassure the first time customer.

The value added services you can provide goes a long way to provide answers to the Unspoken Questions.

Whatever value added service (VAS) you provide: a paint sealant vs a wax; a anti-stain treatment on carpets; water repellant on the windshield are all things that have value for the customer and do not cost you much of anything.

The result of the VAS is “cheerleaders” that will sing the praises to everyone they know about you and your detail business.

So try to remember your customers have Unspoken Questions to which you can give Unspoken Answers. It is all about how much time and attention you provide the first time customer. Take your time with all customers so their Unspoken Questions are answered.

This is what makes for a successful detail business not how well you buff the scratches out a paint finish or how clean you make the interior.

As always, good detailing”

 

 

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