Profiles in Profit
How can shops leverage customer datapoints?
Most collision repair shops have to wrangle a whole mess of technology on a daily basis. From management systems that track ordering parts, scheduling, and labour to all the different processes and requirements of insurers, it’s just how work gets done.
So where does customer relationship management (CRM) come into the picture? According to Larry Jefferies, President of Jefferies Consulting, it’s an application that’s grossly under utilized. “Most collision repairers don’t use CRM effectively in gaining and retaining their business,” he says.
Jefferies reasons that it’s simply the nature of the industry. “The frequency of getting a customer back is maybe once every seven years,” he says. “And as the frequency and severity of accidents declines with collision avoidance technology, how can repairers make sure their business remains relevant?”
Many are diversifying, offering glass repair, detailing and mechanical services. Jefferies recommends making customers aware of those new services. Another emerging trend has manufacturers creating certified collision networks. “Honda and Toyota have been recruiting and signing on board repairers that have become part of their certified network,” he notes. “If I have a Honda customer and am now Honda certified, it might be wise to send that message out to former Honda customers.”
Another new program is Certified Collision Care, which now has FCA on board. “I would use CRM to manage relationships with FCA dealers in my marketplace,” says Jefferies.
CRM is critical to building brand within a community. “It’s a tool that you can use in addition to other marketing tools to keep your business growing,” says Jefferies. “It ties into the services you offer and how you communicate with them. You need to generate awareness of what you have to offer to your customers and your partners.”
For Terry Allen, CEO and co-founder of Speedy Collision, CRM has been a key piece of the business since the beginning. “Capturing customer data is paramount to understanding them,” he says. Allen envisions crash detection technology tying into a central solution and database that reports back to manufacturers on items like oil changes, diagnostics, and other service management tasks.
“When we track our information within the database of our customers, we can create a profile around the type of vehicle they’re driving, their driving habits, how many accidents they’ve been in, how many insurance companies they’ve had policies with,” he says. “Of course, privacy of information means we have to be cognizant of whether we can leverage that piece to not only provide new offerings to our customers, but also provide manufacturers with data from our systems and vice versa. Ultimately, we can give the customer a remarkable experience when they’re dealing with us on an ongoing basis.”
When a customer has had an accident and comes into the shop, the software is already capturing data as the vehicle moves through the process. “Flip over to the connected car and some of the data that’s being captured at the vehicle level from when the customer purchases it, and you can provide customers with a very unique experience,” says Allen. “We’re a natural extension of the manufacturer and the customer. We can tie it in to our OE partners as well as insurance partners.”
He predicts the connected car will have the capability to trigger first notice of loss, which in turn will trigger a number of events. “From emergency response to tow truck, rental car, parts being ordered, the vehicle being towed to an OE certified facility,” says Allen, “the customer is left with a remarkable experience.”
Privacy of information
Much of that technology is already in place, but there are restrictions around privacy of information. “There will be other challenges around making the CRM more robust in capturing customer data and understanding it,” says Allen. “But I think it’s going to merge more into the insurance company, the collision repair shop, the actual customer data that exists in the cloud.”
At Audatex, Michel Caron, Vice President of Sales for Canada, notes that they want to be “the Amazon of automotive.” “There are 54 moments of truth where a customer has to make a decision on their vehicle,” he says. “From collision repair to oil changes, purchasing a new car, etc., We want to be able to touch all 54 points.”
And that means using a CRM system to get people into shops more frequently than just for claims. As a large organization, Audatex has many different sectors that can be utilized to pull customers in. They own Glassix, a glass company; Identifix, which is an online forum for diagnosing vehicle repair; DME automotive, a marketing channel for dealers on the fixed operations side; and others.
“We’re trying to consolidate this entire ecosystem of about 12 different companies into a single platform,” says Caron. “We can store that information in a number of different ways and leverage it to build a relationship with the customer and get them back into the shop.”
“Everyone is trying to compete on that side,” he notes. “Various MSOs are using different CRM tools, tying it into other components like glass repair.”
And it’s not just on the consumer side. “We have a product in the works called Audatarget that takes statistical data of how shops have performed based on vehicle types, makes and models. It provides the insurer with a shop that does optimal work on cars.”
For example, instead of just looking at severity averages as a whole, what differentiates a shop that’s doing higher end vehicles at maybe $4,500 severity, compared to a shop doing 10 year old cars that are not high end, and are at $4,500? “Who’s doing the better job?” asks Caron. “Audatarget will focus in the vehicle types of what the shops are doing, and compare them against the industry of those vehicle types, to see who are the performers.”
And as Allen sees it, CRM holds a great deal of opportunity for the collision repair industry. “Especially with the connected car, the opportunities are endless. When you’ve got technologists and investment companies looking at these solutions for the future, the reason they’re doing it is because they see a revenue opportunity.”