There are benefits to building relationships with local dealers.
If you’re a collision repairer and do not have a relationship with auto dealers in your catchment area, I strongly suggest you begin knocking on some doors.
For the last few years, it has become evident that a shift in power has begun in the collision repair industry. For as long as people have been crashing cars, insurance companies have essentially had a stranglehold on the customer.
Mainly in densely populated areas, insurance companies have played a big role in where a vehicle gets repaired. And why shouldn’t they? Insurance companies are the ones paying the bill and in most cases, they are the ones that have more exposure to the policyholder. On average, a customer gets into an accident once every seven years—limiting their need for us and making it more difficult for repairers to build upon a relationship with that customer. With more insurance companies bundling home and auto policies, compounded with policyholders constantly renewing, the concept of customer ownership begins to evolve.
Some shops explore avenues such as monthly newsletters, yearly customer appreciation events and CSI reporting to maximize our “touch time” with our customers. Nevertheless, when push comes to shove we’re often viewed like the dentist—nobody wants to think of us until they need our services.
The development of OEM certification programs has become a wonderful tool to help the collision facility take back ownership of the customer. With the aid of social media, customers are becoming more educated and dealers are now providing information that was not available to the average consumer only a few years ago.
Additionally, dealers are also playing a large role as to where that vehicle gets repaired. Customers are now turning to their dealers when they are in need of our services rather than automatically bringing their damaged vehicle to the facility recommended by their insurance company.
With the majority of dealer backed shops providing a lifetime guarantee on their work, no longer does the customer need to rely on the guarantee they provide on one of their DRP shops.
OEM certification programs are already doing a fantastic job in developing programs that are geared towards taking back ownership of the customer. They have developed operational procedures that have the integrity of the vehicle in mind with regards to the repair, not the bottom line of the payee.
No longer is the vehicle repaired to pre-accident condition, but as per OEM standards. Certification does come with a price—namely an investment in facilities, tooling and training. This may seem like an inconvenience to some but I believe that a larger inconvenience would be being left behind in this evolving industry or worse, not repairing the vehicle as per OEM standards.
As an owner or manager, it is your responsibility to your facility to go out there and develop some relationships with the dealers in your area or build upon ones that are already established. With this power shift in the industry, the OEM could and will likely be your most effective tool in growing and strengthening your business.