Spending a little time at the beginning of a job can save you a ton of time on the back end. That’s true in almost every profession. But it’s especially true in a collision repair shop.
How often do you:
- Realize you don’t have a necessary part after you’ve already started a repair?
- Need to call a customer to tell them you won’t have their car ready on the original repair date?
- Find imperfections in your techs’ work when the customer is there to pick up their vehicle, instead of when the car has just come out of the spray booth?
- Lose employees to other shops with better technologies, higher quality equipment or more extensive training programs?
All of these problems cost you time, and lost time means lost revenue. The good news? These—and many other challenges—are easily avoidable when you put the right quality control measures in place. By making quality your number one priority, you’re practically guaranteeing great relationships with customers, techs and insurance companies. And forging great relationships is the foundation of good business.
The following tips will help you ensure quality in every repair you perform.
Walk the vehicle with the customer before you begin repairs. Tell them exactly what you’re going to do during the repair process. Most customers don’t need a lot of detail about the repairs, but hearing you explain the process gives them peace of mind that their car is in competent hands. Be sure to point out and make notes about prior damages. Show them the scratches, door dings and other small imperfections away from the major damage. Not only does this prove the damage didn’t occur in your shop, it could lead to more repair work and more revenue.
Don’t just estimate, blueprint. What’s the difference? An estimate is just a good guess. You think you know what it’s going to take to complete a repair based on similar repairs in the past. With a blueprint, you know what you’re going to need—right down to the number of clips and how many tenths of an hour a particular process will take. A blueprint is a detailed, line-by-line view of the entire repair. It’s also a good way to ensure you’re not losing revenue from repair time, refinish time and parts. It also makes sure that you have everything you need for a repair in your shop before the work starts.
Create a checklist for the entire repair process. Include body, paint and detail on the checklist and hold your techs accountable for completing every step of the process—from headlight alignment and other mechanical operations to undercoating and corrosion protection. Keep the checklist with the vehicle throughout the entire repair and have each employee check off tasks as they complete them. Then, go over the checklist with your customers when they return to pick up their vehicle. They will appreciate the level of care your process provided.
Supervise and assess the repair during each step. Never let a car move from one part of the shop to another without first assessing the job that was just performed. You or someone who wasn’t directly involved in a specific task—a repair process manager, for instance—should inspect vehicles at every critical point in the process. When the body department is done, the car gets checked before it moves to the paint department. The same goes after the car comes out of the spray booth on its way to detailing. It’s much better to catch any imperfections at the end of a particular task than it is to notice those imperfections when a customer is standing next to you while picking up their car.
Road test each vehicle upon completion. Listen for air leaks in any seals. Pay attention to handling if you made frame repairs. Drive on 25 mph side roads, then take it onto a stretch of highway or interstate. Check the car on smooth, fresh asphalt and also on older blacktop. Vary the conditions as much as possible so that you don’t get a phone call from a customer complaining about something that was avoidable if you’d just driven in the right environment.
Keep your customers informed. You never want to change the scope of a repair or reset the delivery date. But if you need to do either, you should do that as soon as you know about them. An informed customer isn’t always a happy customer, but they’re always happier about bad news earlier in the process. Even if everything is going as planned, let your customer know. This will put them at ease, because many customers have come to expect surprises. Before your customer hands you their keys, ask them how you should communicate with them. Different people prefer phone calls, emails or text messages. Use the customer’s preferred method of communication to let them know of any changes or that there are no changes at all—which should be the case if you follow the quality control steps we’ve outlined here.