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How to choose a dent shop. Aren't they all the same?

When I left my first dent shop sales job, one of the challenges I was going to face was choosing another shop to work with. My original shop had always claimed to be the "best in the business". Well, as it turns out, they all claim that. Over time and from working with quite a few different shops I am now pretty efficient at sorting through all the variables that one must consider in making a solid choice for the repair of a hail damaged car. Below are some of the top things that  I focus on when I am "interviewing" a new shop.

Negative reviews - I always look at the negative reviews collectively. It's easy to get 5 star reviews when everything goes right, but what about when everything doesn't go right? Negative reviews are usually a reflection of what happens when a company's quality control starts to fail. Sometime this can happen from trying to do too much volume, or losing a key employee(s), and sometimes it comes from general loss of care. I've seen owner's who get burned out and quality control suffers greatly.

Fake reviews - I call it the friends and family plan. That's why I tend to focus on the negative reviews (which can also be fake) but I find mostly that the fake reviews are the positive ones and reviews can be purchased as well. Watch out for shops that get caught paying "hush money" to have negative reviews removed by clients. Why focus on doing a good job when you can simply pay somebody off when you don't? That's why all of my shops are 99.9% to 100% 5 star reviewed. In this industry there really is no reason to have anything less.

How much are the technicians getting paid? - Think of your technician as your surgeon. It stands to reason that the most capable surgeons are going to be worth the most money. PDR mills, the big shops that do a lot of volume typically pay their technicians the least. These shops also give away a lot of money in order to be a PDR mill, giving money back to the client to bribe them for their business, waiving $1000 deductibles, plus a free rental car, and paying excessive referral fees. While that might be flattering and that $200 check you got might make your wallet feel good for the moment, that all adds up, and here is what the consumer doesn't know, all that free stuff comes off the "ticket" and the ticket is what your surgeons pay is calculated from. So a lot of it  coming out of your techs pocket. For every expense there is, let's say $200 for referral fee, $250 for a rental car/loaner, and a $1000 deductible, that's $1450 your surgeon is not getting paid on. Add into that an excessive "shop fee" and the next thing you know the surgeon that's working on your car is making a fraction of what they should be making. A technician who's skill level is valuable won't remain in that situation for long. I've never known a really talented tech to work in those conditions and for good reason, they can go elsewhere or open their own shop and get paid what they are worth.

Owner/techs - So far the most effective situations I have found are what I call an owner/tech, that is, the guy who is doing your work also owns the shop. First, in this scenario the technician is making the most money and second, they are doing the work under their own brand name so this is where pride and ego come into play. You are never going to get a better job than when the guy's name who's fixing the car is on their work. In a PDR mill situation, the customer never knows who their technician is, a lot of the time the service advisor probably doesn't even know who the tech is. In this case, if the tech does a bad job, other than being reprimanded or losing their job there are no repercussions such as negative reviews. An owner/tech puts the most into their work hopes of earning a positive review on their job which has a tremendous value in the future.

Overhead - There's a balance here, you don't want your car being fixed in a tent or a shed but you don't need a mall sized shop either. What does that have to do with anything? If the rent on a shop is too much, I've seen it affect the quality of repairs in the form of what is called an "appearance allowance" this is where shops don't replace parts as an "offset" to your deductible waiver. Two things, 1) don't have a high deductible, it cost like $5 a month to have a crazy low COMPREHENSIVE deductible, I mean like $100 a month low. Not only will this make your repair shop more excited about working with you, in the event you have a non hail comprehensive claim (theft, vandalism, other acts of God like high wind etc) then it's much nicer to have a low deductible. I myself keep a $100 deductible for this reason and 2) keep rental insurance on your vehicle. Being in this situation will make you a favorite customer and you'll notice many times that a lot of non hail related things "magically" get fixed on your car. If you are in an extreme situation and there needs to be something ommitted it should be done with the knowledge of all parties.

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