No Tough Customers

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Peter Sziklai. PHOTO Peter Sziklai

When is customer experience important? 

Most of us are finding that the work of repairing cars is much harder now than it was a few years ago. The chaos caused by COVID will be with us for a long time and the industry will never be the same. The insurance companies don’t seem to understand this and have not made changes to help us with these very tough conditions. We have to work with these challenges while being very careful on how to involve the customer.

The customer is entitled to know what is happening to their car but explanations, if not well presented, quickly sound like excuses. A safe way to make these explanations is to not blame anyone for the delays. It is not the insurance company, it is not the dealer, and it is not the manufacturer. It is an overall weakened system, and you are unfortunately on the front lines of that weakened system.

Let your customers know that challenges are slowing the process, but a safe repair must meet mandatory standards. If there’s a part that needs to be replaced and can’t be repaired, let the customer know. You can describe what needs to happen and the timelines required, so that you can service the car properly. And be honest with the timelines; the car will be ready for pickup after the job is done according to guidelines.

Safety and quality

There is still the constant challenge to our industry that a customer can’t tell the difference between a professional quality repair and a make-do repair; they can both look the same and the car drives as it did before the accident.

Safety concerns are easy to talk about and we can all nod our heads sincerely about how important they are. But there are other issues of quality where the repairer has to make decisions about what is best and who it is best for. Best for the insurance company and for you as the shop owner is not always fair to the vehicle owner. The insurance company loves the cheap ‘like kind and quality’ aftermarket mirror. And you as the shop owner will usually get a better discount than on the OEM part.

That may seem like a win until you consider that the non-OEM part is simply not made as well. You look inside the aftermarket mirror and the OEM mirror. The aftermarket mirror is running everything through very light gauge wire. The OEM mirror has heavier gauge wire, and the connections are better. It is going to last longer and be much less likely to become loose and wobbly. It would be naive to claim that we never use aftermarket mirrors, but the overall circumstances of the repair have to factor in. You also have to be ready to own that mirror; if it comes back on a warranty claim you will not gain any points by telling the customer that the insurance company made you do it.

The customer experience

There’s no question that you have to provide a great customer experience. You can’t survive if you don’t. But there’s a way to combine that customer experience with doing what’s right for the car, while also walking the fine line between what the OEMs want and the insurance companies want. Finding that harmony may not be easy, but it’s worth working for.

A good approach every time is that you have to do what is right for the car first, explain it properly to the vehicle owner and finally, make it work for yourself.

Peter Sziklai has been a collision shop owner in British Columbia since 1983 and has owned Tsawwassen Collision Ltd. since 1995. He has been active in the BC ARA, serving on the board of the Collision Repair Division including a term as Chair. Sziklai currently serves on the CCIF Steering Committee. You can reach him at [email protected].



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