COVER STORY Automotive and collision repair shops don’t have it easy. Keeping up with changing technology, trying to get through the volume of work with limited staff and contending with insurers consume most days, but those challenges are worth it for many repairers who take pride in what they do: Protect consumers by safely and properly restoring their vehicles to pre-accident condition. Your customers appreciate what you do, especially when you take the time to educate them, but do they really understand all that’s involved with repairing a vehicle and running a shop? Do they know how heavily shops invest their time, energy and funds into training, tools and equipment? Are they capable of “getting it?” Do they even care? Unfortunately, most consumers don’t really understand their vehicles and the complexity of repairing them, making it critical for mechanical and collision shops to educate their customers and involve them in the repair process so they have a better comprehension of what’s happening with their vehicle. This becomes even more imperative on the collision side where customers have even less experience and knowledge of the process, but many auto body shops try to protect consumers by insulating them from insurer negotiations, leaving them even more confused. Acting as a partner to the consumer to help them navigate the insurance process creates a more loyal customer…and it also helps the shop collect full payment on the work performed by expanding the customer’s knowledge and converting them into an advocate for your business. Because this is such an important concept, AASP-MN
Contemplating the amount of training necessary for someone to become a qualified technician, consumers’ guesses ranged from “40 hours” to seven years. “I think at least 40 hours total would be necessary to learn the bare minimum skills necessary and start working on cars,” suggested a warehouse coordinator from Bloomington. A Savage-based construction worker guessed six months, followed by on-the-job training, while a household maintenance technician from St. Paul proposed that it could take anywhere from six months to two years “depending on the motivation of the person learning the trade.” Half of our consumers indicated that two years seemed like a reasonable timeframe for learning the skills needed to repair vehicles, and most of them also recognized the need for employers to offer additional training in the shop. “About two years to learn almost everything, but they’re also going to get a lot of field experience obviously,” said a Canby-based caretaker who also noted, “It’s really not extremely difficult to learn how to work on your own vehicle; YouTube offers a lot of do-it-yourself training videos.” (Oh no!) “They probably go to school for a year or two, but they’d also need to learn some of the most complicated aspects while on the job,” a dental hygienist from Apple Valley reckoned. “It has to take years for them to get really good at it, so a talented technician could become proficient in 10 years or so.” A college student residing in Marshall estimated that it would take five years or less, “depending on their upbringing
DOES THE CONSUMER KNOW Do customers really understand what's involved
News decided to try our hand at “educating the consumer” to find out if they actually know what you’re worth. Our 10 consumers reside in areas all over Minnesota and surrounding states, and they represent various age groups and careers. All respondents were unaffiliated and unfamiliar with the collision repair industry; most indicated that their knowledge was limited to one or two interactions they’d previously had with body shops after collisions. Many struggled to understand the difference between automotive and collision repair, despite repeated clarifications and explanations. We began by assessing their current knowledge on three topics: the length of time needed to learn the trade, the amount shops invest in tools, equipment and training and the all-important question of Labor Rate. After obtaining that feedback, we provided a two-minute lesson on the industry and asked them to re-evaluate their responses. Let’s find out what they had to say! “I don’t have a clue.” “I’ve never really considered it before.” “A lot?” It wasn’t exactly shocking to hear that few people have contemplated what goes into repairing their vehicles…or to the shops and technicians who ensure their vehicles’ safety after an accident. Yet, that was the only similarity expressed by participants – identifying what the average consumer thinks they know about this industry offered diverse responses.
14 | June 2022
and whether they grew up around cars,” and a Canby-based college professor offered a similar guess of five to seven years. Most consumers acknowledged the need for shops to invest annually in tools, equipment and training, but it was evident that few understood what is required to run a collision repair facility. The concept of needing specialized equipment to repair specific makes and models took many of them by surprise. Conjectures ran the gamut from “a couple thousand” to $500,000. “Tools and equipment are expensive, but those wouldn’t be annual charges – once you have them, they last forever,” the dental hygienist opined. “They may occasionally need some specialized equipment, and tools probably cost around $500 each year to replace what employees break. Add in training, and they’re probably spending a couple thousand each year on tools, equipment and training.” A Plymouth-based front desk clerk in the hospitality industry considered $15,000 to be sufficient for equipping and training shop technicians, but the majority of consumers believed that these expenses would amount to closer to $50,000 per annum. “Shops would need to spend at least $20,000 annually on tools and equipment,” an internet technician from Rochester believed. “If they actively hire new employees, they’d invest another $20,000 or more in training, but if their employees are tenured, they could likely get away with just