'What Would You Do?'
Every shop owner runs into 'situations.'
Editor's note: Shop owners run into "situations" all the time - situations that leave them scratching their heads, trying to figure out how to resolve the issue fairly to everyone concerned. They want to make the right decision in solving a dilemma, but things are not always black and white. Sometimes there are gray areas. Following is a good example of just such a dilemma. What would you do?
A Collision Shop's Dilemma
The following scenario comes from a collision shop that wishes to remain anonymous.
The collision shop owner said, "One of my good friends referred this customer to me. This lady's car had been 'sandwiched' after stopping at a red light. The front of the car did not appear to have too much damage. We didn't even have to replace the hood. But the rear was hit pretty hard.
"Our initial estimate was around $9,000 on this one-year-old Toyota Camry V6 XLE with 6,500 miles on it. The final cost, with supplements, was around $11,000. That was well below the replacement cost ($30,000), so the insurance company agreed to it being fixed.
"I remember this lady specifically asking me if my shop was capable of this repair. She even made it a point to tell me how picky she was going to be. I assured her we could do the job to her satisfaction.
"Four weeks later, we finally completed the job and she picked up the car. Because it was raining that day, she didn't notice any problems. But a week later, she returned with a list. The hood didn't line up at the cowling or at the front of the fenders, and the trunk lines were noticeably off. The trunk had lined up perfectly before we painted it, so I think the frame probably shifted after the car was driven.
"It now appeared the unibody frame had become bowed from the accident. To repair the car to her satisfaction would require the job to be completely redone at my expense. To make matters worse, my bodyman is now telling me he doesn't think the car will ever be straight.
"What should I do? What would you do?"
'Here's what I would do'
Scott Benavidez, co-owner, Mr. Bís Paint & Body Inc., Albuquerque, N.M.
"We would now assign a second technician to help the first technician complete this job. This will speed up the process, as two sets of eyes are better than one.
"Because this was a big repair, the first technician's 'head' is probably worn out on this job, and the second tech would also be helpful in this area.
"I would only pay the second tech, which would help cut down the cost to the shop. I would then supervise the completion of this job and deliver this vehicle, with completed list in hand, to the customer."
'Here's what I would do'
Steve Tomaszewski, president, Alpine Collision Center, Grand Rapids, Mich.
"Repair the car! The cost to you and your business will be far greater if you don't!
"Start back at the beginning, by electronically measuring the unibody structure. If you don't have the capability to perform this necessary step, sublet it to a facility that does. This is critical and should have been done and documented during the blueprinting, repair planning process as one of the first diagnostic procedures in determining the extent of the damage. Without that as the foundation to begin the restoration process in returning the vehicle to its pre-accident condition, you have no way of knowing how severe the indirect damage to the structure was. On the other hand, had you measured and documented the structural damage, you'd have documentation to show that it was repaired within factory specifications when the repair was completed and delivered from your facility.
"To address your bodyman's comment about the vehicle being 'straight,' I couldn't disagree more. By virtue of the technology used today in manufacturing and made available to the repair industry, we can achieve this standard on not only a consistent basis, but show documented proof to support it. Maybe your bodyman needs training to gain the knowledge, which will instill the confidence in his ability to achieve these results. I certainly wouldn't allow him to 'take another shot at it' at the expense of your business or friendship.
"Final thought: The customer did ask if your shop was capable. It is now up to you to win her trust back by showing her that you are."
What the shop owner did:
"We got the car back in and adjusted the hood the best we could. We then applied filler to the left quarter panel where it meets the top of the trunk lid and repainted the area. I really believe the average customer would have been happy with the results. But when the customer picked it up the second time, the first thing she did was open the trunk and point out the body filler. She then complained that the hood still didn't align like it was new.
"At this point, I offered to purchase the car from her.
"Fortunately for me, she ended up selling the car on her own - after which she sued the insurance company for diminished value (they paid her $3,000). She later told me that even with the insurance settlement, she lost money on the deal.
"Because I was a 'friend of a friend,' the issue went no further."
T.J. Reilly's thoughts:
"There are some jobs we just need to say 'no' to. We've all taken in jobs, especially when business is a little slow, that have come back to bite us.
"The sad part about this story is that I doubt if the collision shop's friend, or this customer, will recommend that shop in the future.
"Because referrals are almost always the No. 1 source of new customers, we need to be extra diligent about the quality of our work and how we treat our customers."
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