Taking your car to the body shop isn’t something anybody looks forward to doing.
Yet Greg Clark knew it was his job to make Lewisville, Texas-based Caliber Collision Centers, one of the country’s largest collision repair companies, exactly the kind of place where you’d want to bring your business after an accident.
Clark, who joined Caliber in 2010 as Senior Vice President of Marketing, faced a rather unique problem for someone in that role. While Caliber is a large company — currently with 248 locations and 5,400 employees — it had no branding to speak of.
There were no posters on the walls of the Caliber’s collision repair shops, no brochures for the customers, no codified procedures for the customer service staff. Nothing.
“We were well behind the industry,” says Clark. “It was a fascinating opportunity to take the brand to a whole new level.” Caliber and Clark did have a few things working in their favor. The management team understood that they were in the service business, and that they just happened to repair cars. They understood that the customer was as important as the car, and had worked out a unique way to express this purpose as “restoring the rhythm of your life.”
“This is a powerful and unique brand positioning statement,” says Clark.
Unfortunately, without a substantial marketing effort, no one outside the organization was likely to ever hear that phrase or read it. To bring the statement to life, Clark had to ensure that Caliber fulfilled its mission in every interaction with its customers. Clark conducted a detailed touch-point analysis to figure out what happened when customers came into contact with Caliber, and to compare those interactions to those of their competitors.
There was lots of room for improvement, he learned. At the very beginning of a potential customer relationship, when a driver called Caliber, the call center staff needed to be consistent with their empathetic messaging.
“When someone calls you after they’ve been in an accident, the first thing you should ask them is, ‘Are you okay?’” says Clark. In retrospect, this sounds obvious, but the call center staff needed to consistently start each conversation this way.
Then, Clark made sure the call center staff asked them about their needs: What did the vehicle owner want to do in terms of getting the car repaired? When would they like to come in? If a suitable appointment time was not available at the preferred location, the call center employee was told to direct the customer to another convenient location.
“Some people want a location near their home, and others near work,” says Clark. Caliber’s physical facilities didn’t always make a good impression, either. “We took down signage that had been up for years,” says Clark. “There were no real plants or flowers. There’d be a couple of landscape paintings on the wall. We took all that stuff down.”
We are never satisfied when it comes to CUSTOMER satisfaction.
Caliber’s locations had been acquired over a number of years, so it wasn’t as if they all were stamped out in exactly the same way. Clark took photos of one location that looked good, and asked everyone else to copy it. Clark told them where to put the popcorn machine, where the television and seating should be, and which way the television should be facing.
Then Clark produced a series of eight different Caliber-branded posters, with themes such as “Restoring the rhythm of your life,” or “Your car’s road to recovery.” “It’s a simple thing, but every competitor or paint company had signs with 68 steps to how your car is going to get repaired. It needs to be 10 steps for the customer to truly understand how we get their vehicle back to pre-accident condition,” says Clark.
He also had warranty posters made up and counter cards communicating Caliber’s satisfaction guarantee, payment options, and a request for a favorable review on Yelp or Google. He also produced estimate and delivery brochures for customer paperwork and receipts while reminding customers of Caliber’s unique differences as they restore them to the rhythm of their lives.
Staff uniforms got upgraded as well. Employees had been wearing long-sleeved blue shirts that could be uncomfortable in the summer; now they wear blue or black polo shirts with blue or black trousers.
Importantly, Greg made sure Caliber continued to stay in touch with customers while their car was being worked on. After all, for a customer, dropping off the car is just the beginning of a long, anxious process.
Caliber was one of the first collision repair companies to test and adopt a text or email messaging system to keep customers informed throughout the repair process along with collecting customer satisfaction surveys vs. phone calls in the not-too-distant past.
Caliber also reaches out to promoters through social media, filling its Facebook page with accolades about its staff or news about its charity work. Caliber has 22 videos on YouTube and counting, and the marketing team posts to Twitter three to four times a day.
Clark sends out a monthly email newsletter to customers, even though his repeat purchase cycle is a whopping 6.5 years. Still, Clark says, his email open rates are better than the industry average.
To measure his and Caliber’s progress, Clark uses the Net Promoter Score, which asks how likely customers are to recommend a product or service to friends and/or family. The percentage of customers who indicate a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale are then reduced by the percentage of customers who indicate a 1 to 6. Hence, a “net” promoter score.
Today, Clark says Caliber Collision has a Net Promoter Score in the mid 80s. That’s pretty impressive considering that it compares to Net Promoter Scores of 78 percent for Costco, 76 percent for Apple and 75 percent for Nordstrom.
Not that Clark is satisfied. “We are shooting to be in the top 25 percent of Net Promoter Scores in the industry across every market we serve,” he says. “We measure every location every month, month in and month out. We are never satisfied when it comes to customer satisfaction.”