Best PracticesAug 26th, 2012

How to Update Your Auto Body Shop for the Long Haul


Any good car dealership knows they must think about expanding their operations outside of just car sales. You need a sufficient department that vends accessories, car parts, and other amenities to catch the eyes of customers inside the waiting room and beyond. Obviously, you need to section off car lots for new and used inventory. But to truly fulfill your dealership, you need a full-fledged body shop for servicing customers who not only buy from your dealership but stand out enough to welcome passers-by as well.

With that said, I'd say a majority of the big dealerships around town have a body shop on site. And if you don't, make it a priority down the road to do so. As for those with a body shop, if the foot traffic has slowed down considerably, or you clearly see more room for growth, it's possible a number of factors are holding you back. From the size of the body shop to the amount of certified mechanics on staff, here are a number of ways to not just determine the causes, but fix them for the better.

Keep up with the reviews.

The quickest way to find out if you're body shop is succeeding or failing should be from looking over reviews, either online or off. Look at what customers are leaving in the comments section on your website. How's the average rating holding up, and moreover, what do the lowest-rated reviews say? Go one step further and have someone from the shop log on and respond to their experience, regardless of whether it's good or bad.

As for reviews made in person or over the phone, I shouldn't have to reiterate the customer service mantra on how to handle each complaint. Just make sure you're properly logging each complaint and tending to each one in due fashion.

Have a structured staff of mechanics.

From top to bottom, you're body shop better have an established group of mechanics at all times. That means checking the supervisors and how well they're coordinating with their assistants' technicians, if the front of the house is properly scheduling and following up with customers who've dropped their cars by, and looking into whether or not there are any gaps in between that could be stalling productivity (or whether the processes need to be dialed down a notch to account for more focused maintenance repairs on each vehicle).

Determine whether or not to expand.

First and foremost, look for any overhead concerns. How's the size of the body shop in comparison with how many cars are being serviced in a given period? Sometimes it could simply be that the limited space of your body shop is holding back from tending to as many cars as possible. Customers don't like long waits or “far off scheduled times” just as much as the next person. Simply erecting another garage wing with a lift or two will obviously open up two more appointments. Now double that for the day (give or take depending on the project) and then project that for the week. Just with an extra garage or two, you're making the body shop more accessible to your customers and making the dealership seem a bit larger in the process.

Enhance its value through promotions.

The more you get customers to recognize the connection between the dealership and body shop, the easier it becomes for word-of-mouth marketing to bring in others around them into your store. And by that, I mean targeting specific promotions with car buyers who purchase from your car lots. Throwing little incentives such as “lifetime oil changes” or “extended car care packages” up to a certain amount of years and/or miles can not only encourage them to make scheduled visits to the body shop, it leaves the door wide open for return visits outside of the promotion's expiration date.

It's a win-win in that you're broadening the chances for both car sales and the body shop. And that's where you're most likely to get a better feel for how well the body shop is performing. As long as your certified technicians are answering the call with each and every car that comes in and that there's ample space for which to operate, the promotional tail can help maximize the potential for a successful dealership through and through.

Kyle O'Brien is a guest blogger on the automotive industry, covering a range of topics such as car repairs, dealership concerns, and tips and has worked as a consultant for a collision repair service in KC that specializes in car maintenance, detailing, and other body shop needs.

Authored by

Steven Couture

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