From Wall Art to Winning Business
By: Devin Vohs, Client Solution Manager
I’ve visited hundreds of shops in my time at CCC, and the first thing I often notice as soon as I walk in the door is an OE certification plaque or two (or ten) proudly displayed in the waiting room. But I wonder why these certifications aren’t always mentioned to customers. Is there any indication on the wall as to why the consumer should care about these plaques? Why go through the time and trouble of obtaining a certification if all it amounts to is a piece of wall art? Shops that don’t actively market their certifications are missing a real opportunity.
What it Takes to Become OE-Certified
Joining an OE certification program doesn’t happen overnight – it’s a conscious choice and a process. Often, the OE invites a shop to join their network. This typically involves having (or buying) specific equipment to meet the OE’s requirements like squeeze-type resistant spot welders, an OEM-specific scan tool or a clean room for aluminum welding.
In addition, OEMs may require training courses to participate in their certification program. They may require training from their own organization, I-CAR training specific to the OEM and/or general training like I-CAR Gold Class. Not sure if training is worth the investment? Think again.
Shops may also be required to pay an annual fee to the OE and are subject to periodic audits to verify the shop is using the correct tools and processes and to review the shop’s use of OE parts.
Are OE Certifications Worth the Effort and Expense?
While the decision to invest in a certification program is a business decision that each owner must make. Those who choose to get certified should take steps to ensure they reap the full benefits of the investment.
Sure, being able to use an approved logo is a great marketing tool, and promoting it in the waiting room, website, and online listings is a good start. (In fact, Carwise.com now allows users to filter search results for shops in their area based on OE and I-CAR certifications.)
But that’s not taking full advantage of certification.
Putting the information out there and hoping your customers see it is too passive. The most successful shops actively market these capabilities. Here are a few ways to work those certifications into the repair process:
- First Contact: When a customer contacts a shop for questions or an estimate and mentions their vehicle type, let them know that your shop is certified to repair their specific vehicle. And be sure to let them know why that is important to them. This simple step tells the customer that your shop knows how to deliver quality, safe repairs for their specific vehicle.
- Vehicle Drop-Off: Reinforce what you told the customer during your first interaction and explain what it means to be a certified shop. Drivers are typically involved in accidents once every seven years, on average, which means they aren’t likely to understand the benefits of certification and why it should give them peace of mind. Tell them about the specialized tools, procedures, and training you will use when repairing their vehicle.
- During Repair: When communicating updates to your customer whether digitally or by phone, be sure to reinforce your qualifications as a certified repair facility.
- Vehicle Pick-Up: As you review the work you did on their vehicle with the customer during pick up, keep in mind that many of your customers don’t know the ins and outs of a vehicle repair. Build confidence by explaining how you performed OE diagnostic scans and describing the OEM procedures you followed to restore the vehicle.
One final thought – don’t forget the dealerships near you. Build relationships with your local dealers within your OEM Certifications. They’re the ones who sell, maintain, and repair the vehicles of the customers you should be targeting. Over the years I have found that many folks in the dealership just don’t understand the collision repair industry, especially if they don’t have their own in-house shop. Make sure that anyone who is customer-facing in those dealerships knows the name of your shop, educate them about your OEM Certification, and better yet, get them in your shop for a tour.
As the saying goes, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Certified shops that communicate their OE expertise at every stage of the repair process are uniquely positioned to make their customers feel safe and confident in their decision to trust the shop with their vehicle repair. And that’s one heck of an easy way to earn a great review and repeat business.