I recently backed into my daughter’s car and needed my rear bumper repaired (barely a scratch on her 10-year old clunker!). I decided to get competitive bids from two different area auto body shops—one near my home and the other near my workplace. I entered the shop near home and although there was no one at the desk, I noticed an employee off to the side working on a computer. I waited at the front desk for about 45 seconds and then asked if the person at the computer could summon someone to help me. Without speaking to me, she picked up the phone and called an estimator who was working in the repair area.
Entering from a rear door, the estimator apologized for my wait and was friendly and attentive as I explained my situation. We walked out to my car and he inspected the damage. In under a minute, we arrived back in the shop at about the same time another employee entered the small office, ignoring me. I received a quote in about 5 minutes—I needed a new rear bumper. The cost: $650–$850, depending on the integrity of a lattice-like interior bumper grid as well as whether a support bar under the rear bumper needed to be adjusted or replaced.
I drove directly from the first repair shop to the second, which was located less than a mile from my office. Upon entering, I was warmly greeted (even called “Sir”) by the two staff at the desk. They offered me coffee or bottled water as one of the men, an estimator, walked outside with me to inspect my car (the other shop had brewed coffee and condiments sitting out, but I wasn’t sure if it was for customers, and I was never offered anything). Unlike at the first shop, this estimator took about 5 minutes to inspect my car. He even got on his back and looked up under the bumper and noted that the support bar was slightly bent but could easily be readjusted. He also pointed out that my reflector light was cracked and a corner of my hatchback door had lost a bit of paint, which they would touch up (something I hadn’t noticed).
Back in the shop, the estimator asked if I would be open to the option of purchasing an aftermarket bumper, identical to the manufacturer’s, but about $100 less. Of course I said yes. While waiting, several staff entered the shop from the rear repair area and each one greeted me enthusiastically. They all seemed genuine—not as if they were ordered by management to be friendly. After locating an aftermarket bumper online, the estimator worked up the bid, giving me a firm quote of $576.25. He then took a few minutes to walk me through the costs and procedure, telling me that in two days the parts would be in, and that the work would then take two to three days to complete. Sounded good to me, and I made my decision on the spot to work with auto repair shop #2.
After the parts came in, I dropped my car off and again was treated with what can only be described as courtesy above and beyond my expectations. I was offered a ride back to my office, which I declined since one of my staff was going to pick me up.
A day and a half later I received a call telling me my car was ready to be picked up. Back at their office more coffee was offered, along with a detailed breakdown confirming the project and costs. After receiving a lifetime warranty on parts and labor, I got in my car and noticed that it had been thoroughly washed and that the interior and been vacuumed and detailed (like when you pay $100 to have your car cleaned), all the more dramatic since the interior of my car had been trashed by my dog. The cleaning and detailing were never mentioned in my three face-to-face engagements. It was just icing on the cake.
I drove away from the auto repair shop almost in a dream, stunned by their conscientious service. Although I hope never to need bodywork again, they have gained a loyal customer.
In the branding and marketing world I’m part of, the ultimate goal for customer loyalty is “willingness to recommend.” Regardless of what business you are in, follow the example of my new favorite repair shop: Treat your customers with respect, look for ways to differentiate yourself and, if you really want to grow your business, exceed their expectations.
For local Ann Arbor area residents, Whitney’s Collision West is my new auto repair shop, which I highly recommend.