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Body Shop Referrals


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We do not do any body work.  And I have no clue on how to judge a body shop.   We have people asking us for body work quite often, as well as referrals.   As a quick response, we just refer them to the big chains.  

Around here, most of the body shops are large chains, and trying to forge a relationship with them is difficult as people switch jobs often.    The few independents that I know, I'm suspect of their quality (because of my ignorance).    I recently took in a collision repair which was about $18K of mechanical with only about $5K amount of body work.   We sublet the body work out to yet another place that I was leery of... and they are way too far away...  but they did good work.  Was a referral.   Now, the same jeep is back in my shop with another collision and it's all body work.  (His dad is way too nice and believes what his teen+ son is saying.  We don't.  LOL).   I tried gently pushing this guy to a body shop, but he trusts us and wants us to handle it.   I told him, that I would be subletting it to a body shop anyways. 

I'm going to go on a referral hunt for an independent good body shop, but I have questions on the definition of "good".

How can I qualify them?   What makes a body shop top of class vs bottom of the barrel?     As they say, you can't judge a book by it's cover and most smaller body shops have ugly covers.   For sure, I'll be looking for a body shop that stands behind its work.    Part of what makes me skeptical is that we often see the carnage from body shop repairs that are shoddily done during inspections for general mechanical work.  The outside is shiny and you are sometimes lucky to find that they replaced or installed a radiator support.   Yet, if it's done right, we don't need perfect looking hidden repairs.   And the opposite is likely true, in that we see great work, but don't realize that it was repaired, so there's no admiring what you can't recognize.

In one query yesterday, I mentioned on of the big chains names and I got back a "crooks" response, likely more implying gouging.   How do the smaller body shops compete with the bigger chains?   What's the value?   Would and why would my customers be better off by avoiding them?

In general, I see two types of body requests:  1) Insurance jobs and 2) Minor body work that is looking for a more custom control.   e.g. "Paint this front fender and don't blend the next panel so that I can save money"  Or "Stick this part back on, but don't bother painting it."  "Pop the dent out of this plastic bumper, but no need to repaint."   Do body shops even want these types of #2 requests?

With sublets, such as this one, should I be looking for or expecting a business-to-business rate or not?   Most of the time, I'd rather not be in the middle anyways.  Most people would rather go direct too.   I'd be happy if I can find someone that would help me fix our at-fault goofs for a favorable rate and let all referrals be regular retail.   I don't even know if this is a valid question.

Unrelated to my questions, I found that Service King, is only taking on insurance jobs.  No customer pay jobs due to staffing and parts shortages.

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As a past body shop owner I used to visit service repair shops to get the "tour" so i could use them when needing some mechanical repairs we could not do. Talking with the owners, asking questions and seeing with my own eyes, giving you the good feeling or bad feeling. If I was a customer, would I feel good about spending my own money here. Many smaller bodys shops are always fighting to get customers away from the big national chains. Take a few hours one day and go visit what is in your area. Many of the smaller shops will not be on the main highways but off on a side road/street. They may need you for things they can't or don't want to do just as much as you could use them. Could be helpful for both of you to build a relationship. 

 

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Thanks Weighit.   I have no problems with visiting, but I'm still stuck on how to discern quality.  All I'm qualified to ask now, is can you do body repair?    What makes a body shop good / great? 

There are very few independents near me, however, there are many chain stores nearby.   I do have mutual relationships with other disciplines, but I've never taken the time to find a body shop.   

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Typicality I would start asking the vendors you have coming into your shop, the tool man in the truck. He is in and out of many other shops and would have a feel for who is good and who is not so good.  Next time a insurance adjuster shows up for some insurance claim, afain another person who should know who they think is doing excellent work and who to stay away from. Once you get a coupke of good ones, call and make an appointment for a one on one visit to see for yourself. Ask them for the run down on what makes them a good shop and see how the "sell themselves to you". Just my suggestions. 

If you came into my shop, I would want to show you the frame machine and how the tech was trained by that factory to use it 5 times in some other state. That we use the German paint system and the painters are all expert in the applications. What warranty that paint companies gives. How we have an office staff that keeps control of all the billing with the comuter system that is state of the art. We only try to use orignial factory parts, when we can. The parking ,lot is monitored by 10 cameras and a guard stays on property over night. You get the idea, let them brag. You should get a feeling of good, well run and quality or poor everything.

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What timing....   As I was walking into my office, I saw the MAC Tool truck drive up, but gave it no thought.  I chat with him often on various matters, but never thought of him knowing body shops.   Well, I read your note and then ran out to talk to him.  Got a good reference that I'll go visit sometime this week, and see how it goes.   Best lead so far.   Thank you!

While searching on Google for shops to visit, I ran across the referred shop, but he had a number of 1 star reviews that seemed troubling.  After talking to the tool salesman, he explained that the owner is 81 years old and does not likely respond.  

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OK, this lead panned out.  However, after taking a tour, I was unimpressed with his rag-tag facility, but we looked at some of his work and it was good.   Without a referral, I would not have selected this shop.  I have two cars that need body repairs right now.  I'm going to start with the Jeep and see how it goes.   The owner is 81 years old, loves his job and is not interested in retiring.    He didn't seem 81.   I liked him.  We seem to have similar approaches to life.    Has the oldest operating business in his city.... and it shows.... no remodels or makeovers of the facility. 

Thanks for your guidance!

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