October 17th, The Valley-Ventura Chapter of the California Autobody Association met at the Hilton Hotel, Woodland Hills, to hear two speakers: Jack Molodanof, lobbyist for the CAA in Sacramento, and Micki Hazz, Website and social media designer for the Valley Motor Center.
CAA Representative Cindy Shillito also presented a CAA President of the Year award to chapter president, Jim Marko, owner of Westlake Auto Collision. Mr. Marko was selected for the award over more than twenty other chapter presidents.
Attorney Jack Molodanof, a son of a shop owner and a long-time advocate for our industry, works closely with the California Department of Insurance to gain favorable handling of legislation that could affect collision repair shops in California. He is also on the Bureau of Automotive Repair Advisory Council. At the meeting he discussed several items of great interest to our industry. When John Garamendi was Insurance Commissioner, SB-1460 was passed requiring insurance companies that required the use of after-market parts to warranty those parts. A recent bill was pushed by the insurance industry to shift that liability onto the shop installing the part. With the help of Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and legislators Jack was able to reach, the bill was killed, saving shops from significant potential liability.
Several states now tax services and a study was begun to consider taxing services in California. This would force shops and other businesses to be responsible for withholding a percentage of payments to independent contractors, a costly administrative nightmare. Fortunately the study was vetoed.
Perhaps the hottest item was a bill to require insurance companies to pay for a replacement part if a part prescribed turned out to not be of “like kind and quality” from an OEM part. The insurance industry has vowed to fight this one all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. Jack also discussed other hot items like the steering issue and consumer’s right to choose and the liability for counterfeit airbags issue, where he has helped push to get favorable treatment for our industry.
Recent CAA meetings hosted the Labor Enforcement Task Force that has promised more sting traps and violation citations. Jerry Brown’s new appointees have promised “aggressive enforcement.” Jack works with the B.A.R., Cal/OSHA and other agencies to try to help point enforcement activities toward the real wrong-doers rather than attacking reputable shops for minor issues. Jack says CAA members with concerns can always contact him and he will be glad to assist with any problems they might have. He added that it’s in a shop’s best interest to stay in touch with local legislators, Council members and officials to personally make the industry’s concerns known and appreciated. It would also be of great value to attend Legislative Day to help make concerns understood.
Micki Hazz, Website and social media designer for the Valley Motor Center (VMC), spoke next. She provided detailed insight into how a website could be integrated with Yelp, Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter to provide a total, interactive experience for collision repair customers and prospects. She emphasized “relationship marketing” where people can share photos, videos, opinions and referrals. A show of hands revealed that most shop owners and managers present did have a website but rarely updated them and made little if any use of these other social media tools.
Micki showed a video that explained that 95% of young people get their news, product information and peer recommendations on-line. The next generation of drivers will rarely, if ever, look at printed media or ads for much of anything and definitely not for collision repair. VMC’s website opens with an invitation to “Join the Valley Motor Center experience,” and to make an appointment. With a focus of reviews on Yelp, photos on YouTube, updates on Twitter, and comments on Facebook, all of these come together on the website with links and references to all of the above.
Each section of the website guides the visitor to these integrated elements plus a shop tour, FAQs, staff photos, a check-vehicle-progress page, an insurance agent page, and a continual updating of references. The website will never be finished, because there will also be a continual influx of new stories, shop improvements, before and after photos, and more. She concludes that in the future most people seeking collision repair will search on-line, and the size and quality of a shop won’t make as much difference as its presence on the top of multiple search engines with a website that sells the job without the person setting a foot in the shop.
The one question that remains unanswered is where a smaller shop than VMC can get competent website design and maintenance without employing a full-time person like Micki, or paying an arm and leg for high-priced web services. Perhaps this will be the focus of a future meeting.