Improving the collision customer's perception

March 4, 2019
Maintaining communication and open dialogue can improve the process for all

We have all seen a customer service survey returned with less-than-favorable responses from the customer to questions like:

  1. Did the shop keep you adequately informed during the repair process?
  2. Was your vehicle ready when promised?
  3. How would you rate your satisfaction with the repairs completed?

We can wonder what went wrong, but we must understand that customers answer the survey based on their perception of what occurred while their vehicle was at your facility. When reviewing customer service surveys with my shops, I have often found that the shop did not give customers the information needed to make a qualified decision. To receive the most favorable rating on the survey we must control the customer’s perception by establishing expectations — giving them the answers early in the process. 

There are several ways to accomplish this. I like word scripts — coaching employees on how to explain the process and customers on understanding the process. Having a simple flow chart of the collision repair process can help with the explanation.

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Looking at the first question listed above, we can see that the question itself is vague. This is where coaching can help customers better understand the question and provide the answer you need to reach you customer satisfaction goals. The best time to coach customers on this question is during delivery so it will be fresh in their mind when they receive the survey. Phrases an estimator might say to the customer are: “I enjoyed talking with you when we reviewed the repair plan together; my goal was to keep you informed during the repair,” or “Everything went as described in our conversations, did I leave any questions unanswered?” The customer service representative can help with customer-coaching with statements like: “I hope I did not overwhelm you with calls, my goal was to make sure you were informed throughout the repair process,” or “Were there any questions I left unanswered?” Simple, but effective, statements can help make customers think about the communications you had during the repair and answer the question more favorably.

The second question above is more difficult to coach because there are many dates given to a customer that could influence their answer. The insurance company often advises the customer on the number of days the repair should take based off an initial inspection. The customer will often push the customer service representative to give them a completion date and then there is the rental company who tells the customer they have X number of rental days authorized. One consideration you need to have is that the very first calendar date you tell a customer is the one they will remember. Reviewing the repair process with a customer and explaining that you will keep them updated on the repair will suffice for some customers, others will want a definitive date. For the customers who want a specific date, I developed a formula that has proven to be accurate for most repairs:

  Total repair hours / Average Touch Time = # Repair Days + Average Parts Transit = Total Days * 1.33

32.4 / 2.6  = 12.5 + 2.0 = 14.5 X 1.33 = 20 calendar days (adds a 5.5 day cushion)

While you might have obligatory formulas to satisfy DRP requirements, you can use this formula to account for any delays and create a promise date that would only be communicated to the customer. Keeping the customer focused on the promise date throughout the repair and using word scripts at the time of delivery like: “It looks like we have your vehicle ready as promised,” or “We are pleased that we were able to deliver your vehicle to you as promised and hope you are as well,” is a key to ensure customers have the desired answer to your survey question.

The last question listed above is subjective and is an area the customer’s perception can play a major role. Word scripts are a good tool to use to help set the expectation for customers. This can begin at the time of the estimate. Identifying to the customer what is going to be repaired at the time of damage assessment sets the stage for future communications: “We are going to straighten your right quarter panel and blend the right rear door to reduce any noticeable color differences. The clear application will make the painted area have a little more shine, but the color will match.” You can re-emphasize the repair during the delivery process with phrases like, “You can see how our body technicians did a great job on repairing your quarter panel. I really like how they were able to get your bumper to line up perfectly; that is difficult when attaching plastic parts to metal panels,” or “Do you see how the blending process allowed the new paint to flow into the original paint seamlessly?” Your last opportunity to educate the customer is during the courtesy follow-up call, having your customer service representative call the customer and asking them, “How did it feel driving your completely repaired vehicle home?” or “I am sure you missed your vehicle, hope you had a nice ride home,” will make the customer think about the conversations you had regarding the repair and better understand how to answer the question.

As you can with see some systematic reprogramming of the customer by setting expectations, you will make a big difference in your survey scores. Using education, word scripts and simple coaching to modify the customer’s perceptions gives them the information they need to feel qualified when answering the survey questions.

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