Q: How has your involvement in an industry association been helpful to your business?
A: We’ve been members of the Mississippi Collision Repair Association (MSCRA) for the past 15 years and I’m the Secretary-Treasurer on the Board of Directors. Many times, fellow shop owners feel that being a member of an association might look unfavorable to their insurance partners, but it’s definitely doesn’t.
The purpose of a trade association is not to bind together for the greater good and be adversarial to your insurance partners and collude, because that’s illegal. The purpose of an association is to educate. It helps shop owners learn about new products coming out as well as new processes and ideas that you can implement to improve your business. That might mean profitability, production or employee retention. I think the biggest thing to gain from being part of an association is giving yourself the opportunity to learn something you can take back and apply to your business. In addition, the networking is tremendous.
For various reasons, many collision repair facilities have looked at the shop across the street, across town or even in the next town as competitors. Although we are competitors, there’s another side of that relationship that we’ve always neglected—networking. An association will allow or should allow you to network with the same people who are fighting the same battles that you are fighting, so you can try and learn from one another.
Q: Can you tell us about the recent consumer guide released by the Mississippi attorney general and how will it be helpful to all parties who were involved?
A: I was one of the members of the Mississippi Auto Repair Task Force that provided feedback for the Consumer Guide to Insurance and Auto Body Repair. I feel that it will help the industry simply because it's a document produced by a third-party outside of our industry—the attorney general’s office—which is focused on consumer awareness and consumer protection.
The attorney general was trying to gather all the information by building this taskforce composed of body shops in the state, as well as insurance representation, OEMs and even aftermarket representation.
It was a good collaboration of all entities involved in the repair process and the end result is a document that I believe is unbiased. The document provides information for consumers so they really understand what questions to ask about their insurance policies, as well as their rights when choosing a repair facility and the differences between parts usage.
If you look at the document, it even says what consumers should do when they pick up their vehicles to hold the repair facility accountable so they are assured of receiving a proper and safe repair.
It was a great effort among all involved and I don’t think it was sided toward any one party. I think it was a well-weighted out document that ultimately did what it was supposed to do, and that is to educate the consumer on their rights.
Q: Smith Bros has received very favorable online reviews from customers. What sets your company apart?
A: I honestly think we have good employees who are good team members who share the same beliefs that we do. We try to always put customers at the forefront in whatever decisions we make and make sure that when the time comes to deliver the vehicle, they are satisfied. It’s important to not be shy of that relationship or standoffish. Instead, build a relationship with your customers that you can be proud of and serve them in a way they want to be served.
Q: With more than 1,200 followers on Facebook, how have you been using social media?
A: We are mainly using it for consumer awareness and education in our business. We let customers know about our retail side and the different accessories we sell as well as our service center.
Facebook is so user friendly---you can post pictures and articles from your phone. Shops can take before-and-after pictures and post them to their page. You just need to ask your customer first to make sure it’s OK that you are using pictures of the vehicle. We also found that if you follow certain industry-related pages, you can share articles on your own business Facebook page.
There are no limitations on social media. There is always more that you can do and we’re not using it as well as I think we should.
We have a relationship with a third-party company that manages our website and sets up our Facebook posts to go out three times a week, 30 days in advance. They probably determine 80 percent of our Facebook posts, but we still retain the right to do individual posts as we see fit.
Originally, I was trying to be so intentional and methodical with Facebook and really think it through. I finally realized that it’s better to just be free form. If there is something that is related to your business and you think it is of value, post it on Facebook! Customers are going to look at it. Even if they don’t click on it, if they are looking through their feed they are going to see your post and your company name and that’s all you really want. You want to give them information that is of value to them and you still want that front-of-mind awareness that they constantly see. Then, in the event they might have an accident, your business name comes to mind.