beauty machine

Does your shop appeal to customers?

Smily house

I have always liked the articles by Mark Clark, which he posts in Bodyshop Business Magazine. Just a few days ago I read a new one with the title: "Does your shop (body shop) appeal to customers?" In this short and very to the point article Mark emphasizes that clean facility, welcoming attitude and attractive shop sign will definitely help to business owner for closing more deals with potential customers. Simple as that. Hovewer, I have seen a lot of car paint centers dirty, with smileless people and with old, weatherworn sign glooming over the facility. Sometimes in order to improve body repair business, you just need to paint your walls first…

Clean body shoop

Standing out from every other local body shop is a difficult process.

"When I travel, one of my hosts often says that I just “have to see”
so-and-so’s shop because of how cool it is. Those visits lead to tours
of some pretty thoughtfully designed collision repair facilities.
Without exception, these shops look really good from the street, the
parking lot and the office.

Looks Are Everything

Many years ago, I was conducting an informal customer survey about choosing a body shop for a BodyShop Business
story. At the same time, a Louisiana college was doing a similar
survey. Not surprisingly, both of our results mimicked those that every
insurance company has identified as a key part of Mrs. Smith’s repair
facility choice: a squeaky clean presentation. Every survey ever done
about collision repair indicates that the consumer is favorably
impressed by a clean facility and a welcoming attitude. I’m at a loss to
explain why, if clean is so important, that many body shops aren’t.

Physical presentation is the required first step in a profitable close
rate. If your shop’s appearance from the street doesn’t look at least as
professional as your competitor’s shop, Mr. and Mrs. Smith will drive
right on by, even if their insurance company directed them there. Never
forget that their vehicle is their second most valuable asset, and
unless you look like you’ll take good care of their car, they’ll try the
super clean-looking guy they drove by to get to the suggested but
unkempt DRP shop. The signs, the lawn, the parking lot and the window
glass all send a message to anyone driving by. Mrs. Smith only has a
collision every seven years, so she has lots of time in between to drive
by lots of local body shops. She’ll remember the shipshape ones.

Attitude Change

Other vital consumer preferences that collision repair marketing studies
agree are important include a prompt reception, a welcoming attitude
and a sympathetic ear. And they mean every time, every shopper, not just
when nothing else is going on.

I watch it happen frequently, even at the sparkling clean shops I’m
privileged to visit. The receptionist and estimator are upbeat and
welcoming to the first Mrs. Smith in the door each day. As she heads off
for the shop’s attractive, well-lit waiting area for some hot or cold
beverages, the phone rings, and rings again and again just as the next
few Smiths drive in for some help. One by one, the prompt recognition
(“I’ll be with you shortly, please enjoy a fresh coffee”) becomes
ignoring everyone except the rambling caller on the telephone. The
friendly attitudes and pleasant smiles turn into harried scowls as each
new customer seems to indicate more workload for the staff; clearly,
they’re missing the point that more work is the objective.

Finally, the salesperson’s sympathetic ear transforms from a patient
recipient of a vivid description of every moment of Mrs. Smith’s
once-every-seven-years collision to an “Uh huh, uh huh, sit over there.”

Sign of the Times

So you say your shop meets all my listed criteria so far? Congrats! It
takes a lot of work to maintain a shiny, clean building, parking lot and
office every day. But how will I choose among your shop and all the
other clean and friendly good guys?

Signage sends an important message (pun intended). Easy-to-read,
colorful and professional signs go a long way toward solidifying a
desirable experience for the Smiths. From the turn-in off the street,
signs should clearly point the way Mrs. Smith should proceed. Legible
signs should likewise direct where she should park her car, which one is
the correct front door and where she should go now. While I see many
top shops with great signage outside, I seldom see any with great
signage inside.

While Mrs. Smith waits for her estimate, rather than have her thumb
through old magazines or watch a scary video of someone’s badly wrecked
car getting pulled out on your frame machine, tell her exactly why she
should choose your shop on a big wall sign. On a large,
easy-to-read-from-across-the-room, professionally done sign, tell the
Smiths why you’re great. My ideal sign would feature your colorful logo
along with a one-sentence quote from the ownership promising to do a
superior job. The sign would also bullet point all the swell things
about your shop: technician training, latest equipment, insurance
relationships, years in business, lifetime warranty, etc.

Having seen this done several times in very cool shops across the
country, I’m convinced it’s a powerful closing tool. Mrs. Smith is
already in your waiting room; in addition to a warm welcome, a clean
place to sit and fresh beverages and snacks, take the opportunity while
she’s captive to clearly list in writing all the reasons she should
choose you. She’ll read it – I promise.

In addition to the inside signs telling your story, you could reiterate
the same strengths on a handout sheet that you could staple to the
Smiths’ estimate – in the unlikely event they forgot some of your
wonderful qualities. Far too many shops don’t close well. They write a
complete sheet, smile when the Smiths arrive and thank them for the
chance to bid the repair of their vehicle. Top shops ask for the sale
every time, in no uncertain terms. Like what? Like, “Mrs. Smith, we
would like to repair your car, and our trained techs, state-of-the-art
equipment and stellar local reputation will make the process seamless
for you. May I schedule your car for repair?” Good closers ask for the
work in plain English, every time. The worst that can happen is she says
no. If she says why not, it’s your chance to overcome her objections.

Closing the Deal

Among the many statistics in the Industry Profile in the May 2013 issue of BodyShop Business
was close rate, also called capture ratio or batting average. It’s the
percentage of estimates written that turn into repair orders. The
formula is simple: number of ROs divided by number of estimates for a
set time period. According to the shops that responded to the Industry
Profile survey, the average close rate is 62 percent. The survey also
indicated that the average shop fixes 13 vehicles each week. A 62
percent close rate means they wrote 21 estimates to get those 13 jobs.
That means that eight customers stood in the waiting room, shook hands
with the estimator each week and had their car fixed somewhere else.
Eight lost jobs per week, 49 work weeks a year and an average RO of
$2,238 per the survey means that $877,296 of work walked out of the
average shop.

Could your shop use another three-quarters of a million dollars in work?
Shops ask me all the time where I think they should advertise, but
until their close rate is in the 80 percent range, I say don’t advertise
for more work. Just clean up, smile, explain clearly and close the work
that’s already finding your shop. "

Mark R. Clark is the owner of Professional PBE Systems in Waterloo,
Iowa; he is a well-known industry speaker and consultant. He is
celebrating his 25th year as a contributing editor to BodyShop Business

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