I’ve noticed that a number of shops put their customers through a few “Jackass Bends” just to get their vehicle repaired. Forms must be filled in and a customer may have to wait for an estimator and then wait for a rental car. The popular buzzword of the day is “Lean Procedures,” with a focus on eliminating unnecessary steps and delays. Much of the emphasis is placed on lean production, but lean customer processing is equally important. Many shops thrive on customer referrals and a customer subjected to a series of “Jackass Bends” is not likely to go out of the way to refer the shop.
A recent survey of health care systems in other countries noted that countries that use a health care data card similar to a credit card, can keep many doctor visits to just a few minutes. All of the patient’s medical and physical information is on the card and can be accessed in seconds. The card is updated after the visit, so the patient need never fill in a form on the next visit. Today most drivers licenses have a magnetic strip like a credit card. Using a card reader may enable a shop to capture much of a customer’s information from the drivers license without having a form filled out. But this concept opens the door to even better time savings along with a marketing advantage.
If a shop acquires the technology to create a collision customer data card of its own, the customer can walk away with a piece of plastic that identifies everything about his or her vehicle plus all of the repairs and parts installations that have been made. The next visit will require practically no data capturing at all. Will the customer keep this card in his or her purse or wallet? Possibly not, but most astute shops now provide every customer with an accident information pamphlet or booklet to keep in the glove compartment. It’s a simple move to add a slot or pocket to hold the data card.
People are naturally inclined to follow the easiest path. This strategy alone can incline most customers to return to the shop to get handled more quickly and avoid tiresome form filling. But there is a way to get even more mileage out of the data card. By adding a master code number to the card and keeping that master code along with this customer’s data on the shop’s computer system, the customer need not even come into the shop to begin the process of getting set up for the next repair. The code could be sent by e-mail, fax, phone, or entered into a preset area on the shop’s website. When the customer arrives, he or she simply drops off the vehicle.
If this was all of the value a shop could get from providing a data card, it would be well worthwhile, but this is only the beginning. The card can now be used for additional sales and marketing advantages. If a shop also has a vehicle maintenance division, tires, brakes, air conditioning service, tune-ups and other reminders can be programmed in. If a shop sells accessories, winterizing products and other seasonal items can be promoted. Today’s credit cards have enormous data storage capabilities. These items won’t even begin to overload the card’s capacity.
Finally, for the shop owner who is really serious about getting the most out of a data card system, there is the added possibility of links. The Internet is filled with websites that earn all revenue from advertisements on the site. A shop can offer promotional connections on the card to a local car wash, car rental facility, automatic transmission repair shop and other related businesses. All of these advantages can be had by simply eliminating “Jackass Bends” and creating a new channel for data to flow.
By the way, I really hope the current snowfalls in the east and southeast don’t cause serious flooding.