Why Your Customers Might be Bringing PDR In-house, and How to Prevent it
Part two of a two-part series.
Last week we discussed the threats to your business when one of your good customers decides to bring PDR in-house into their dealership or body shop. Today we are going to dig deeper into why a dealership or body shop may consider doing this so that you can understand from an owner or manager’s perspective. We will also discuss the challenges the business owner would face, and how you can use those to your advantage.
As mentioned, this whole article series came about when I overheard a body shop owner discussing with this general manager about the possibility of training one technician in each of their seven shops to do paintless dent repair. It was interesting to hear the owner’s perspective, and that of the general manager, who is the voice of the technicians at this shop.
A dent repair tools distributor in the area of this particular body shop came in and offered to train as many technicians as the owner wanted on how to perform their own PDR. This way the tool salesperson could sell a lot of PDR equipment in one big purchase order.
Now before you dismiss this article by correctly stating that it takes time to learn how to do paintless dent repair, keep in mind this is a skill that will be taught to technicians already skilled at refinishing metal. In fact, long before PDR was even its own industry, Fairmount Tools published a book called “the art of metal bumping” which is a book on dent repair, only with hammer and dolly. The underlying concept is still very similar.
Forces of change in the body shop.
You are probably familiar with the John Eagle lawsuit brought forward by attorney Todd Tracy. If not, click the link for more information. What is worth noting is that for the first time in history, a body shop has been held accountable for, and forced to pay out tens of millions of dollars’ worth of damages from a non-OEM correct repair. This has nearly every body shop owner worried and for good reason. There is now a legal precedent for future law firms to use against auto body shops to collect massive, door closing sums of money from body shop owners.
At the heart of this case is an instance where a replacement roof skin was bonded to a vehicle instead of bonded and welded as the manufacturer dictates. This particular car was a hail damaged vehicle and it was probably cheaper and faster to just put on a new skin rather than PDR all the dents. The damage was never documented in any database such as CarFax and the car was later sold to an unsuspecting buyer who nearly lost their lives in a subsequent collision.
This case has every auto body shop owners’ attention and more and more shops are entering into a dialogue about how to properly repair cars the way the factory demands. There are groups within the collision industry, such as Collision Hub, who promote the education of all shops and technicians on how to perform OEM correct repairs and how to access that information. This is a discussion happening every day in shops, conferences, industry trade shows, publications, and in industry-only social media groups. The goal is to obtain a 100% factory correct repair every time. The less you have to cut away from the vehicle and replace, the less chance you have of opening yourself up to a liability. While this is not always an option, paintless dent repair is suddenly becoming very attractive to the body shop owner, and also to a lesser degree, the dealership who may have an improperly repaired vehicle out on their used car lot.
Prior to this, PDR was one of those tools at the disposal of every body shop, but seldom used because the money was always in the replacement and refinishing of cars. So when a tool distributor offers to come in and train technicians who are already on staff how to do their own PDR in-house without the hassle of scheduling or even finding a PDR vendor, the offer is very tempting for the boss.
Resistance to change in the shop
On the flip side of this equation, you have the technicians who can be resistant to change. I’m not talking about all body shop technicians in general, but certainly for every technician eager to learn new ways of doing their jobs, there are technicians who are self-proclaimed “body men” who have “been doing this 20 years” and will always know better. This is the weakness.
Just because the training exists, and a shop owner is willing to pull guys off the line to get trained, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be an easy task for the owners to get their guys to change.
Auto body repair technicians are in short supply, and almost as bad as being sued for a bad repair, is having your top technicians quit and go work at the shop next door while production grinds to a halt. If production starts to fall behind, it puts direct repair contracts in jeopardy and for the high volume shops, that would be disastrous. Thus, the shop owner must always walk a fine line.
How to prevent your customers from bringing PDR in-house
Now that you understand what the shop owner is facing, it is time for a chat with the owner. It’s good customer service to get in front of your customers regularly anyway. But this time, ask them how concerned they are about the John Eagle case. Ask how they are changing their processes internally to prevent such a thing from happening to them. Remind the owners how PDR is an effective alternative to cutting and replacing panels. If volume is a concern, perhaps you can work out some type of contract to supply the labor if they can guarantee the volume. This is somewhat similar to the direct repair contracts they may have with the insurance companies.