Though OEM certification can be expensive, it can cost you more in lost revenue to ignore those certifications. We’ve talked about the many pros and few cons of certifications in the past. But it’s time to look at the certification situation with fresh eyes, because OEMs and insurers are both taking another look at how important certifications are to repairs.
For OEMs, it makes sense to push repair shops that are certified on their makes and models. After all, those certifications are a large source of revenue for them. Every shop that goes through certification is money in their pockets.
But why insurance companies? Their primary focus has always been on low cost, not high quality. Well, that’s changing. For many of the top insurers, the focus is now on customer retention—and that means they need to provide the best customer experience possible. If they pay a little more in claims but they don’t lose paying customers in the process, that’s good for them.
Many of the nation’s prominent insurers seem to be transitioning to this new customer experience philosophy very quickly. In fact, recent insight shows two of the top ten insurers rolling out programs as early as the first quarter of 2018 that will push OEM-certified repair shops. And at least one top insurer is developing software that will match their policyholders to shops that are certified to their particular vehicles.
One industry executive doesn’t mince words about the rising importance of certification. He says shops that perform repairs for certain OEMs but aren’t certified by those OEMs can expect to cut their repair volume for those vehicles in half.
If insurers are focusing on customer experience, so should you. And part of that experience is letting your customers know that you’re certified on their vehicle and why that’s important. That means marketing your certifications better than you have in the past. How? These tips are a pretty good start.
Know your market. If you’re not certified in a particular vehicle or a particular area of expertise, it may make sense to pursue new certifications before starting to market your skills. Or it may not. It all depends on the vehicles in your area. If you’re in the heart of Wyoming, there are a lot fewer BMWs on the road than if your shop is in the middle of Santa Monica or Miami Beach. That’s obvious. But as you get out of the extreme examples, it becomes a little more difficult to know where the opportunity lies. Check your own records to see what OEMs have the heaviest traffic through your shop. Beyond that, check with your various local and state agencies to see what types of vehicles are registered in the zip codes surrounding your shop. A little detective work can make a lot of difference.
Know your competition. Are there two shops within a stone’s throw that specialize in certain OEM or a certain area of expertise? Those may not be the best areas to seek further certification. But if you’re already certified in those OEMs alongside your competition, that should form the foundation of your marketing. People need to know you’re at least as good as the shop down the street. After that, look to see what your competition isn’t doing. Are there opportunities that could be advantageous? Take the increased use of special materials in vehicle frames. If no one in your area is specializing in high-strength steel or aluminum, it might make sense to pursue those certifications and market them to your community.
Start with dealerships. Spreading the message that you specialize in repairing certain vehicles isn’t cheap. Trying to tell everyone take a lot of advertising dollars. So don’t start with everyone. Start with your local dealerships. They should know about your certifications and business history so that they can comfortably refer you to their customers.
Connect with local insurance agents. Just as it helps to know the kinds of vehicles in your area and the dealerships that sell those vehicles, it helps to know the people in charge of recommending and authorizing repair shops. Insurance agents have direct access to the people who need your work. If they know about your certifications and quality of work, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll send work your way. But if they don’t know about your shop, they definitely won’t. Get out and introduce yourself and your shop. Show them some recent work and let them know about all of your certifications.
Have happy customers spread the word. There’s a face most customers make when they see their vehicle in like-new condition after they left it with you in less-than-perfect shape. That’s the face of satisfaction. And those satisfied customers are key to your business. Explain the importance of certification to them. Then, incentivize them to share their stories with friends—both through word-of-mouth and through their social channels, like Facebook. Rewarding them for their recommendation is a lot less expensive than running a lot of newspaper ads and billboards.