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From Surviving to Thriving: Key Insights from Mike Anderson

—April 19, 2016
 From Surviving to Thriving: Key Insights from Mike Anderson

One of the most important things any collision repair shop owner can do is stay positive about the outlook of their business and their future.  Your attitude shapes your world, as we’ve seen time and again through stories of business owners who have grown and thrived over the years.

Tony Carrillo, owner and operator of Carrillo and Sons Auto Body Shop and President of the California Auto Body Association, shared his inspiring story at a recent collision repair event. Tony explained that he “[likes] to fly with the eagles because the view is better up there”.  As someone who built his shop alongside his growing family, he can attest to how fulfilling a business fueled by positive perspectives, agility and teamwork can be.

mike andersonTo inspire other shop owners with the same enthusiasm he feels, Tony invited industry expert Mike Anderson, of Collision Advice, to provide some valuable, tangible insights on how to create a thriving auto body shop in the years to come.

As a second generation auto body shop owner himself, Mike has nothing but positive ideas about the future of the collision repair industry and the future of body shop owners. His talk on “thriving, not just surviving” in the collision repair industry was inspiring to all attendees. He shared what gets him up in the morning every day, as well as what has brought him to where he is today, and where he predicts the industry is going.


Here are his top 10 Insights from his “Positioning Yourself in the Collision Repair Industry” presentation at Mitchell International on March 1, 2016.


  1. Focus on the Three-Legged Stool.
    Mike opened his talk by sharing his time-tested method for building and maintaining a successful collision repair shop. He called this method the “three-legged stool”, with the three legs standing for sales & marketing, production, and financing & HR. By maintaining each of these three critical elements, you can create balance and longevity for your business.  The next nine bullets will break out these three segments into actionable ideas to help you thrive.

  2. Dedicate yourself to technology.
    Thanks to advancements in Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) technology, the future of automotive claims could enable in-vehicle technology that detects when a collision has taken place. This technology would interact directly with the driver, contact their insurer for them, recommend body shops in the surrounding area to go to, and even send a tow truck or call the police. The vehicle could also tell the OEM where the damage is and its severity level.
    Aside from offering a huge value-add to consumers by enhancing customer service, this type of new technology could also enable OEMs to access hard data. OEMs could track where on the vehicle the damage occurred, what shop the car was sent to, and even how quickly the repair was processed and completed.
    This is critical to OEMs because many drivers who experience a collision will sell or trade their vehicle for a different brand within one year.
    “60% of all consumers who have to return their vehicle to a body shop for a problem will sell or trade their vehicle within one year. Of those drivers, 63% will change vehicle brands when they Sell or Trade in their Vehicle.” according to Erica Schaefer of FCA.
    Gaining insights into which auto body shops are offering the best service to their customers tells manufacturers which auto body shops they should trust most in the future, in the hopes of protecting consumer loyalty for their brand. You can think of it as a kind of advanced quality control.

  3. Stay up on your certifications - and your web presence.
    First, consider OEM certifications. They show that you’re up-to-date on manufacturers' expectations and adhere to their standards. This builds trust with OEMs and could gain you points from their perspective. According to Mike, focusing on OEM certifications will be critical in the coming years to thrive in this new, technologically-enhanced environment.
    Speaking of technology, your web presence is also another major component of credibility. It’s important to monitor and maintain your digital presence. A good first step is making sure that your information is up-to-date across all major platforms like Google, Yelp, Yahoo, and Bing. Mike recommends paying close attention to your name, logo, address and store hours.  This was also reinforced by audience member Frank Terlep, owner of as a resource for body shops to monitor and build their online presence.
    Note: If you’re concerned about staying on top of the latest OEM procedures, Mitchell TechAdvisor may be able to help.

  4. Follow the 3Cs of Sales & Marketing

  5. The first “C” of Mike’s 3Cs: Up your Customer Satisfaction Index Score (CSI)
    Customer satisfaction is one of the 3Cs Mike says to focus on. If you don’t have a great CSI score, it's often due to a breakdown in communications. Uncertainty is the enemy of trust and comfort, so Mike pushes the idea that your customer should be well-informed at all times.
    According to Mike, keeping customers informed via their preferred method of communication is the greatest contributor to a good CSI score. Often we fall short in this area because we’re likely to communicate in a way that makes sense to us, when we need to focus on a communication style that feels right to the customer. Especially in the business of collision repair, customers can be a bit more anxious than normal because the situation they are in is uncomfortable or out of the ordinary. Being mindful of this could go a long way for your customer satisfaction.
    Answering this need may mean setting your shop up with repair status texting, or double-checking on their preferred method of contact during your intake process.

  6. A fast intake time is key.
    To help improve customer satisfaction scores, many insurance companies are now monitoring how quickly vehicles are processed and repaired.
    In order to track the speed of intake, both the “Assignment Received” and “Estimate Start Date” are documented, in some cases along with a timestamp. This helps insurance companies to measure the amount of time that passes from the time that they send an assignment at First Notice of Loss (FNOL) on a customer’s car to when the body shop actually begins writing the estimate.
    As a part of quality assurance programs, many insurance companies also measure whether the vehicle was fixed correctly the first time around, and whether it has to return for further maintenance after the initial visit. This is a way for insurance companies to positively affect their brand perception by referring recommend top-performing auto body shops.
    Providing an efficient intake time will help keep your shop at the top of carrier lists, making them more likely to send you new jobs in the future.

  7. Follow the second of Mike’s 3C’s: Closing Ratio
    To thrive in the future of collision repair, focus on arming your CSRs (customer service reps) with training and resources they need to be top performers.
    From sales scripts to estimate follow-up, and even your social media responses, every single customer interaction shapes the impression customers have about who you are. To move from surviving to thriving, teach your employees to treat every interaction as an opportunity to strengthen those relationships.
    For more accurate estimating, check out our Mitchell Estimating solution.

  8. Follow the third C of Mike’s 3C’s: Cycle Time.
    Those who thrive are efficient. Cycle time plays a big role in efficiency and in the overall customer experience. According to Mike, your cycle time should be “two to four days better than market average”.  
    Fortunately, there are easy metrics you can access to understand the length of your cycle time. Average the length of time reported for rental cars and take a look at Enterprise’s ARMS® Report as well.

  9. Take a good look at your production costs.
    Aside from increased efficiency, retaining more repair labor can shorten cycle time and increase your profit.
    According to Mike,“The shop of the future is going to have to focus on more 'repair versus replace' opportunities. We’ve got to look at some repair opportunities when we know we can do a quality repair.”
    Creating team systems can also increase labor costs and create a better end result. Just be sure to be upfront with customers about the quality, expertise, and value you are offering.

  10. Stay up on the latest advancements.
    Knowing the needs and demands of your current market is critical the success of any thriving auto body shop.
    Even as new materials like aluminum are being used more and more regularly, steels are still important. Pay attention to what newer cars are manufactured with, as well as what kinds of vehicles your shop sees most often.
    Extrication apps like the one offered through are a bargain at just $4.99, and can quickly tell you what parts of a vehicle are made of boron steel.
    Mike also suggests subscribing to resources like or reading up on the advanced high strength steel (AHSS) guidelines to provide you and your team with the needs and requirements of certain vehicles.
    Other issues, like the fact that international magnesium shouldn’t be repaired or welded due to explosive hazards, are equally important for the safety of your shop, as well as customer satisfaction.

  11. Don’t forget the data.
    Gathering measurable data and paying close attention to it whenever possible helps you identify where your business is doing well and where there are opportunities to improve.
    Mike’s quick tips include using accrual accounting instead of cash. He also reiterated that profit on labor should be the focus more and more, rather than gross profit on parts, which is expected to continue to decline over the years. Capturing not included operations will also become increasingly important.
    Controlling employee turnover can also positively impact your business because this helps to avoid the need to offer new training and account for new employee errors.  Investing a bit in proper training and employee retention upfront can save you money in the long run and help your business run more smoothly.
  12. Our Wrap-Up

    All of these tips can help you take your business from surviving to thriving. Remember, each of these steps happens over time and on a sliding scale - slow improvements can show a continued positive impact on revenue.

    Mike emphasized the importance of aligning yourself with people who can grow, want to grow, and know how to positive no matter what the situation. As a leader, you’ve got to be willing to do the same. Focus on how to make things better, rather than getting stuck on things that aren’t working.

    Remember: positive thoughts lead to positive results.

    Mike Anderson’s own career is a testament to how a positive outlook alone can create huge improvement in your bottom line.

    Want to get more information like this? Follow our collision industry blog to stay up-to-date on collision repair industry events.



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