Overcoming Common Misconceptions from Customers
At Bedford Autobody, a collision repair “facts” bulletin hangs in the owner’s office.
While the facts listed on the sheet are well known throughout the industry, Greg Bedford is surprised at how often he needs to explain its bullet points to confused customers.
“You get customers that come in for the first time that have never dealt with a body shop,” says Bedford, the longtime owner of the Mountain View, Calif., shop. “Sometimes they can get intimidated, because they don’t know anything about the auto body business.”
While we live in the midst of the Internet age, with ample information at our fingertips, that inundation of information can leave customers with misconceptions about industries, like collision repair.
In Bedford’s experience, the only answer for collision repair shop staff is to be as forthcoming as possible.
“I just explain the whole process,” says Bedford, a veteran of 38 years in the industry.
“I tend to talk to everyone like they’re my friend. I’m honest with them.”
And, Bedford often refers to the collision repair “facts” list on his office wall to start the conversation. He recently explained to FenderBender the full extent of how he addresses the common misconceptions that customers have about collision repair.
MYTH: Customers need to get multiple estimates.
REALITY: It’s the first item listed on Bedford’s trusty facts sheet in his California shop: “No law requires you to get more than one estimate.”
Bedford is stunned at how many customers are completely unaware that they’re not obligated to use any particular shop for repair work that their insurer suggests.
He tells customers they’re perfectly free to take their business to their father’s favorite body shop 30 minutes away, if they prefer.
“You choose the shop and authorize that repair,” he tells clients. “The main thing is, you’re the legal owner of the car, no matter what state you live in. The insurer doesn’t own your car; they can refer you to a shop, or they can recommend one of their own shops. But you don’t really have to choose any of their recommendations.”
MYTH: Like Kind And Quality parts are new parts.
REALITY: “LKQ,” clearly, is an acronym with which most consumers simply aren’t familiar. So, if they hastily Google search “like kind and quality parts,” they may misguidedly think they’re getting OE-caliber parts.
“Some people are confused by the written statements in their [insurance] policy,” Bedford notes, “when they read, ‘Do you agree on accepting ‘like kind quality’ parts?’ That’s a major misconception.”
And, because of that misconception, all too often, Bedford sees owners of high-end vehicles like BMWs irate that their car ended up being repaired with aftermarket parts.
“The term ‘like kind quality parts’―who would know what that means?” Bedford says. Customers, “just think, ‘Oh, that must mean new parts.’ Well, it doesn’t. It means, if you get into an accident, you agree that, by signing here, that we use aftermarket parts on your car. And, when they get in an accident, and their adjuster comes to my shop to write it out, they’ll have in that estimate [demands for] aftermarket hood, aftermarket fender.”
MYTH: Insurance companies cover any and all repairs.
REALITY: One issue that often creates confusion among customers, in Bedford’s experience, are situations like the following: a customer’s vehicle endures a sideswipe collision, leaving the left front corner of the bumper scratched, with a scratch that extends from the fender across both driver’s side doors to the quarter panel. Occasionally, Bedford says, insurance adjusters will argue that part of the scratch is unrelated to the bumper’s scratch, and will refuse to cover each segment of the vehicle’s damage.
That creates a big issue for shop owners.
“There’s the problem that we face a lot,” Bedford says. “We have to call the owner and have them get involved with the insurance adjuster and let them know that the rear scratch was, indeed, part of the front. … So there’s some tricky stuff there.”
MYTH: Insurers won’t honor all lifetime warranties.
REALITY: At Bedford Autobody, estimators often find it necessary to sit customers down and thoroughly explain the ins and outs of lifetime warranties. Because, according to Bedford, customers are sometimes told by insurers that their company can’t necessarily cover repair work at every body shop.
“The insurance company [sometimes] says, ‘Because you’re not going to one of our shops, we can’t give you that guarantee and that lifetime warranty,’” he says. “But you really don’t need their lifetime warranty; you need the lifetime warranty from the body shop that you’re bringing your car to.
“It’s like buying something from Best Buy, and Sony has their own warranty. You really don’t need the insurance company’s warranty.”
To assure customers, Bedford explains his shop’s typical process―that it’ll take photos of vehicle damage, write an estimate, put the claim number on an estimate, and forward that documentation to any insurance company. And, from there, he adds, insurance companies typically approve the necessary repair.
MYTH: Only a dealership can restore a vehicle to pre-accident condition.
REALITY: There’s a perception among many collision repair customers that dealership repair centers will perform unparalleled work. Because of that fact, Bedford feels that independent shop owners like himself need to sell the experience of their staff, and be as transparent as possible with customers.
Customers “have to understand that these [dealership] mechanics, auto body technicians and painters worked at a regular body shop for years before applying for a job at a dealership. … I tell them I’ve been in business for 38 years―I’ve got guys working for me up to 30 years ― and that you can get really, really good work here. I’ve got 5-star reviews on Yelp, I’m highly recognized within my area, and we have repeat customers all the time.”
And, he further illustrates how honest his staff is by showing customers exactly why repairs cost what they do. He also clearly explains why supplements may eventually be required during the repair process.
“I’ll bring a customer over to my estimating software and show them the diagram of the bumper, to show them what I’m replacing,” Bedford explains, “so then they’re sitting right next to me, looking at my screen, they’re seeing the same thing I’m seeing, and they know exactly what parts I’m choosing. That way, they have trust in my business.
“It’s better to just have the customer sitting next to you, so that they can look at your computer screen, so that they can [see] that you’re being honest with every estimate that you write up.”