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Tag Archives: automotive repair

If you want to have a successful car repair garage, this is the most important trait you must have.

Last week I had a minor health issue, and I had to visit the on-duty hospital during the night. I will skip all the hassle and long waiting in the Greek state hospital. It is awful. It is worth writing about, but not in Etalon Refinish Blog. However, while waiting in an uncomfortable chair for my turn to see the doctor, I realized that there is a similarity between health care providers and automotive repair professionals. But how?

From my point of view, the feelings we experience when we get sick or have an accident with our car, are very similar by nature. These feelings are sadness, distress, anxiety, disappointment and extreme discomfort. In both cases, a person seeks for understanding, quick relief of the pain and, most importantly, for compassion. The very nature of the collision repair business is closely related to negative events and accidents. Nobody likes to have an accident, even if nobody is heart; the view of a crashed vehicle is very unpleasant itself. Right?

In the relation to the above-said, I can conclude that if a car repair business owner wants to be successful, he or she needs to show his understanding of the customer’s feelings. He must express compassion and willingness to guide the customer through this negative experience quickly and as hassle-free as possible. There are many ways to do this. For example, a bodyshop could offer a courtesy car, help to complete the paper works with the insurer, or simply spend a few minutes listening to what the customer has to say. Being compassionate will always pay back with the returning loyal customers and good referrals. Recently, I stumbled upon an ad, where the bodyshop owner was offering a 15% discount for those customers who had to pay the damage from their pocket. In fact, any small move, like the above, will count.

To summarize, I would like to stress one more time that understanding the customers’ feelings are of utmost importance for any business, especially for the people involved in customer service in difficult life situations. About six years ago, I wrote an article with the name “4 things a car painter and a doctor have in common”, but I could add now another thing – a good doctor and a car painter both must be compassionate…

 

Automechanika 2018. Footnotes.

Yet another Automechanika in Frankfurt closed its doors. I haven’t missed a single event since my very first visit to Frankfurt in 2002, but I still feel a slight adrenaline rush when I enter the hall 11, where the majority of the refinishing stands are located. As a visitor and as an exhibitor, despite the decrease of the exhibitions’ importance in our business (actually in any business), I do enjoy the buzz and the energy of this venue. I guess it is in my blood already.

What I enjoy most is meeting people. Many of them I know, many faces are familiar, but we have never had a chance to be acquainted. Nevertheless, the vast majority of the players in our industry are known. “Oh, I remember this guy, he is Greek with a horse brand (Etalon logo features a horse).” – I overheard a whisper in Spanish while in the queue in cafeteria “Bellavista”. In some ways, all the people you meet in the paths of the fair can be divided in three categories: customers (existing, potential and former), suppliers (current, potential or past) and competitors (competitor is always competitor). Meeting customers is probably the most exciting, but simultaneously the most alarming. Where is he going now? I hope not to meet the other guys?

When you return from the event, like Automechanika, you are asked pretty much the same question: What new have you seen? To be short, apart from the long awaited new spray gun from Devilbiss – DV1 – I haven’t seen anything really new. Of course, I could have easily missed something. Correct me please if I am wrong. As you may have heard any business, industry or organization is going through the life cycle in different ways, like revolution and evolution. This process has been described by Larry Greiner in his paper called “Evolution and Revolution as Organizations Grow.” Sometimes this theory is described as Greiner Curve. Revolution is characterized by fundamental change, which affects the way we do something (repair vehicles in our case). Evolution, on the other hand, is an upgrade, an improvement of the existing products and processes. Our industry is going through evolution phase without any breakthrough in the horizon so far. In no way I mean that the evolution is not good; it just underlines that automotive refinishing business is a mature market.

 

While I didn’t see a particularly groundbreaking product, I must admit one significant shift in our trade – much better marketing. For many years, collision repair materials suppliers hadn’t paid attention to the look and feeling of their products. Probably this year’s presentations in Automechanika marked the shift on this matter. The best example is probably the packaging of the newest Devilbiss flagship spray gun DV1. It reminds me the box from the luxury Swiss watch.

Those of you, who attended the fair last week, would probably agree with me that SATA had the most chic stand from all. SATA for some years now dedicates their impressively big stand to a particular theme – “Sweet Sixties” this year. SATA’s team welcomed their guests in stylish uniform, while presenting a dedicated special addition SATA 5000 model. Great job from the marketing team. They totally dismiss a stereotype that everything German is well-built, but boring…

I left the fair with solid feeling that I really enjoy the industry I am in, and, as always, regrettably, I didn’t have enough time to spend with my colleagues, customers, suppliers and competitors (yes, I have very good friends with whom we compete). Friends from Australia, Argentina, Serbia, UK, Albania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Spain, Hong Kong, China, Kenya, South Africa, Italy, Norway, and, of course, from Germany, I will be looking forward to see you soon!

 

 

Are you fit enough to be a car painter?

Working in a collision repair requires physical fitness. Whether you are painter, a panel beater or a prep guy, your job is manual. Staying fit and healthy is indispensable, and requires three main pillars: right diet, exercise and regular health checks. In the article “A medical examination every car sprayer must take … yesterday” I covered the last pillar, so let me say a few words about the nutrition and exercising.

Before we go into nutrition and exercising, I would like to remind you that unless personal safety taken seriously, car refinishing occupation is considered to be a very high risk for health.

Quit smoking

I know that it is easier said than done, but smoking is a “luxury” a car sprayer simply can not afford from health point of view. Unfortunately, I have seen too many car painters, who spray paint without a mask and with cigarette in the mouth. According to the WHO (World Health Organization) the world’s top five health risks are: high blood pressure, tobacco use, high blood glucose, physical inactivity and obesity. While occupational carcinogens and occupational airborne particulates, which are plenty in automotive repair trade, are among 20 leading global risks for mortality.

In addition, if you consider that occupational carcinogens (like isocyanates) account to 8% reasons of lung cancer (the most frequent form of occupational cancer), and that airborne particulates (like toxic dust from sanding of body fillers and primers) cause about 12% of deaths due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, then smoking is the last drop to kill you. Tobacco use is the second important death risk factor after high blood pressure. It is responsible for 12% of male death!

I don’t want to bomb you with more dreadful statistics about smoking, so, please think twice before you buy your next packet of cigarettes.

We are what we eat.

What comes first to my mind when I think of painter’s diet is a quick sandwich or hamburger washed down with cola or coffee. Sounds familiar to you? Very few bodyshop workers take care of their food at work. Unfortunately many of them suffer from excessive weight, despite the fact that they work physically with their hands, and not sitting behind the computer like the majority of white collars. I am not a doctor or a nutritionist, therefore I really suggest you to read one book by Jonathan Bailor “The calories myth: How to eat more, exercise less, lose weight, and live better life.” This book really changed the way I look at food and health. However, I would like to share with you a few tips, which will help you to eat healthier and feel better:

 

  1. Do not eat in the bodyshop. Preparation and painting area is full of airborne toxic dust. By exposing your food to the dust you actually consume bodyfiller and primer dust a long with paint overspray. It is not a good sauce, is it? Avoid this chemical soup altogether.
  2. Don’t wait until you are very hungry. This may cause overeating. Plan your workday in such a way that there is time for launch and short snacks.
  3. Drink plenty of water! Coffee doesn’t count. Staying hydrated is crucial for wellbeing and helps to dispose any toxins from the body.
  4. Wash your hands before the meals. I know you are not a child, but this is a friendly reminder.
  5. Chemicals exposure is a part of life in a bodyshop. Therefore, include foods, which help you to cleanse your body from synthetic chemicals (unfortunately these chemicals are everywhere in a bodyshop).

There are well-known foods, which are scientifically proven to detox your body. Below I bring to your attention a few of them:

– Asparagus. It helps to drainage liver, and aides to reduce stress.

– Avocados. This berry (yes, it is a single seed berry) helps to remove synthetic chemicals from your body.

– Carrots. Simple snack and one of the most powerful detoxing vegetables.

– Olives and cold-press olive oil suck up dangerous toxins.

– Green juices. Leafy greens are well-known detoxifiers. Use them in salad or drink as juice or smoothie.

– Vitamin C reach fruits, like lemons and oranges protect your body from the harmful effects of the synthetic chemicals.

– Milk. Milk contains a lot of proteins, which work as buffers, reduce the negative effects of chemicals.

To summarize, eat more vegetables, greens and drink plenty of water!

Do you need exercise?

It is a question many of you may ask? Spending hours and hours working with your hands isn’t enough? All of us understand the benefits of the workouts for our health and well-being, however it is not easy to combine a physically demanding job (like a bodyshop employee has) and working out. I have asked many people I met about their exercise routine (quite a few guys were really in good shape), and I bring to your attention some tips I learnt from them:

Work out before going to work. If you are an early-bird, hit the gym or running path early. People who exercise in the morning get energized and well-tempered.

If the morning workouts are not the option, then pack your gym back and take it with you to work. This will help you avoid getting home later on. Because if you get home, the chances are that you will not leave the coach for anything but food or drink from the fridge.

– Eat well during the day at work. Hunger and tiredness are not good mix for the gym.

Choose the workout, which you like. If you are not a gym rat, don’t go to the gym. Find other ways to stay fit. Any physical activity is good, and it must be fun, otherwise it won’t last long.

– Jogging or walking are the best options for you. Low intensity exercise on the fresh air is ideal for bodyshop employees, who spend many hours in closed and polluted space of the workshop. Even a half an hour stroll will have multiple benefits for your health and fitness level. If you have a dog, use it as an opportunity to go out more.

– If your family or professional obligations do not leave much space for the workouts, try HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training. HIIT is a training technique comprised of short intervals of very high intensity.

– Go to sauna. Sauna provides scientifically proven way to remove dangerous from the human’s largest organ – skin.

– Whether you are a prep guy or a painter, your everyday job requires a great deal of repetitive tasks, which may cause strains and pain in your back or arms. If this is the case, seeks advice from your physician which exercises could help to strengthen your body and prevent chronic problems.

 

To sum up, I would like to emphasize that for a bodyshop professional his health is the most precious “asset”. Without good physical form, you will not be able to continue with your job. Take it seriously and invest in your health!

 

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.

 

 

Quality of products or services in the car refinish industry comes only second to …

When we talk about collision repair industry (or, in fact, about any industry) the most frequently used word to describe a brand or business you hear is “quality“. Our clearcoat is of fineness, with that spray gun you will achieve the highest quality finish, in our bodyshop we deliver the highest quality refinishing job … While I has no problem whatsoever with the term, I do believe that quality is not the most important. How is that? Some of my esteemed readers or marketing specialists may not agree. Let me explain myself.

what-is-quality

The problem with the term “quality” lies in its vagueness. Apparently, perceived quality for different customers vary significantly. For example, a high quality clearcoat for a Greek painter may refer to the superior UV resistance, while in humid English Highlands quality has to do with fast drying; a salesman, the owner of hardworking Ford Fiesta wants fast delivery of his vehicle, while Ferrari owner requires the highest possible gloss level for his precious four-wheeled beast. And don’t tell me that you can have it all in one package. Not in this world at least. Let me bring another example, not from our industry. Do you believe that iPhone is the highest quality mobile phone in the market? I can bet that Samsung fans will find dozens of technical features in which the Korean brand is far more superior to its Californian rival. So what? Apple still has the most fanatic fans, which will spend their last savings on the newest model. I don’t remember anyone sleeping outside Samsung store to buy the last Galaxy model (I hope Samsung lovers won’t be upset with me). So, where is the difference? What is the secret? Well, whether you are selling paint, cellphones or spray cars, quality (perceived quality actually) comes second to … Hold your breath… customer experience. The difference between okay business and a thriving one is predominantly in great customer experience!

What is a customer experience in collision repair?

I have a simple definition for customer experience – it is a feeling, smell or taste a customer is left with after spraying  a X brand clear or driving away from Y collision repair workshop. If you understand which things particularly influence this feeling, what ingredients leave sweet taste, and then you can create a unique customer experience.

customer-experience-1

How can we understand what is a great customer experience for our business?

The one and only way to answer this question is to put yourself in your client’s shoes. Ask! Ask! And ask! Don’t rely solely on your perceptions and believes.

 

Great customer experience for a bodyshop.

One research I read a while ago, which was conducted by a big chain of bodyshops, revealed that satisfied customers remembered mostly good coffee in the reception, new car scent used by the bodyshop before vehicle delivery and free touch-up bottle with 10ml car color inside! Keeping acceptable refinishing job constant it is coffee and a small freebies, which made a bodyshop to stand out from the competition.

 

Great customer experience for paint supplier.

Here I will share some observations I have had throughout my career as automotive refinishing products supplier. Many of Etalon customers preferred our products because… they liked the horse image on our cans, because of fresh design and even because the paper in our catalogue “feels like velvet”, and, yes, our calendar is sexy… On the other hand, we had to change one product, because it smelled bad and a packaging company, because the boxes looked like Chinese! One of our customer switched to Etalon simply because we are not arrogant like salespeople of one big multinational competitor. Of course, products must be good and at reasonable price, but it seems that many of us miss the key point – the experience our clients have with us.

To sum it up, I strongly advice to conduct a research on how your clients actually feel when working with you. Fine tune your operations and have the edge on your rivals. And remember, your customers are willing to pay extra for outstanding customer experience!

 

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