Hammer & Dolly May 2017

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The collision repair process is complicated. Many consumers don’t recognize the difference between mechanical services and collision repair, let alone understand the complexities of the estimating process or negotiations with an insurance company. HAS THIS HAPPENED TO YOU? Consider the following scenario. As someone who handles online marketing and reputation management for body shops, I’ve seen this happen many times:

Your shop repairs a vehicle, and everything was done right. Your customer’s car has been restored to pre-accident condition. In fact, you went to bat for the customer, negotiating with their insurance company about parts or maybe even a repair procedure that they didn’t want to cover. You made sure your customer’s car was properly repaired, and you ensured that their insurance company covered it. Now when they go to trade their car in, they’ll get a higher value. You feel good. The next thing you know, you find out that the same customer has gone on the Internet and left a scathing review of your shop. They say that you’re a rip-off, or that you charge unreasonable prices or your repairs take too long. They tell other consumers that they need to stay away from you at all costs.

WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN? You’re probably asking yourself, “What just happened!?” You just did great work for this customer, and then they posted online that they’re going to report you to the Better Business Bureau. You can’t think of anything


May 2017

that you did wrong, and you feel completely blindsided. Every company gets a bad review at some point. However, you shouldn’t think you’re powerless to prevent this from happening. There are steps you can take to decrease your chances of receiving a bad review for doing good work. If you find yourself in a situation like this, you should usually look for a breakdown in communication. Improving this between your staff and your customers is the single most important step you can take to prevent this scenario from happening.

DOING GREAT WORK ISN’T ENOUGH IF YOUR CUSTOMER DOESN’T KNOW At the center of every job that you do is your relationship with your customer, and that relationship is developed through good communication. If you don’t develop good relationships with your clientele, it’s usually reflected in your online reputation in the form of negative reviews. If your staff succeeds at developing and fostering relationships, your customers will be motivated to leave positive comments. When your customer does this, it’s the final step in something that’s been happening from the start of their repair. It’s usually part of their developing relationship with their main point of contact at your company, and they will often mention that person in their review. If the customer contact is bad and this relationship goes sour, they’re likely to mention that as well. I’ve seen negative reviews that probably could have been prevented by just a little bit of improvement in how the shops talked with customers – even one conversation at a crucial moment. I know that because I read it in their review: “I came

Protecting your shop from negative comments.


in to check on the status of my vehicle, but apparently the guy I’ve been dealing with was too busy to talk to me.” If the customer thinks that you don’t care about them, the relationship has already gone bad. You’ve lost your ability to influence their perception of the work that’s being done, and a negative perception may be growing. Furthermore, because you’re doing collision repair, there may be a third party negatively influencing them.

GREAT COMMUNICATION IS ESSENTIAL IN COLLISION REPAIR Your customer can be influenced in a number of different ways, and sometimes you don’t have any control over what they’re being told. For example, they can be caught in the middle of your negotiations with the insurance company. In most other industries, you only have to worry about your own relationship with the customer. You usually don’t have to worry about a third party making a case that you’re doing a bad job. In collision repair, it’s also particularly challenging to get consumers to understand the difference between “good” work and “bad” work. Consumers expect repairs to be done correctly, and they expect their vehicle to be restored to pre-accident condition. They don’t necessarily understand the challenges involved in making that happen. If you do great work, you’re just doing your job competently. If something falls short of their expectations, even due to limitations imposed by their insurance coverage, it’s your fault. If you challenge the limitations of their insurance coverage, the adjuster may make a case that you are overcharging them. It’s a very difficult position to find yourself in, and sometimes the only chance you have to