Industry News

Making Bodyshops Fit for the Challenges of the Future

Published on 2008-12-11. Author : SpecialChem

MÜNSTER -- Capacity questions, alterations and expansions, greater self-marketing: bodyshops across Europe now find themselves faced with similar challenges. For both suppliers and paint manufacturers, therefore, it is no longer enough just to supply products - instead, a holistic approach to collaboration and potential improvements is required. The demand speaks for itself: BASF Coatings has provided individual assistance and consultancy services to more than 600 bodyshops since the start of its own value-added program in 2005.

At the start interest centered on technical issues in particular. However, the focus is shifting more and more to business and marketing aspects. Experience shows that the launch of the Value-Added Services concept has entailed a new way of thinking on both sides - on the part of the bodyshop, in recognizing the advantages and benefits of the services, and on the part of the paint manufacturer, since the issues raised extend far beyond the manufacturer's own product.

Providing really sound advice and assistance to a bodyshop requires a corresponding level of expertise. This represented a particular challenge to which BASF Coatings responded by introducing its own qualification program for the advisers. Consultations in the workshops are carried out almost exclusively by BASF's own staff who have undergone a special, three-stage qualification - from Process Expert to Consultant to Senior Consultant. This in-service training takes more than three years in total, with an exam and a certificate marking the end of each stage.

This ensures uniform standards and a high level of skills. The qualification of the advisors was therefore an indispensable step towards being able to launch the Value-Added Services program. That is because the issues addressed go far beyond the actual paint product and require specialist knowledge: bodyshop alterations or new buildings, issues relating to sales techniques and sales figures, evaluation of investment projects, optimized bodyshop management, support in customer recruitment - to name but a few. There are currently around 30 qualified consultants working for the company across Europe, with a further 40 staff presently undergoing training.

There are two fundamental aspects to the offers for the bodyshops: increasing efficiency (e.g. by means of the Profit Manager, a bodyshop audit or assistance with bodyshop design, process optimization and/or business seminars) and generating additional business for the bodyshops. For instance, a solution is available for repairing small paintwork defects, and BASF Coatings has also developed a special guarantee for the coating which the bodyshops can actively market to end users. The actual added value in the form of higher efficiency or additional revenue should be clear to the bodyshop from the outset. In the very first meeting a specially developed "Value Calculator" is used which highlights the potential savings or extra business that can be achieved by means of the planned measures.

Greater operational efficiency, higher quality, opening up new business fields, differentiation from the competition: active support is therefore given to the bodyshops in these activities which have become indispensable in today's competitive environment. This represents a huge input from the paint manufacturer though is, admittedly, not driven entirely by altruism. The initiator of the value-added program can also target factors such as customer retention and, not least, customer recruitment. The customers include both independent bodyshops and main dealer bodyshops, and some projects have also been initiated directly with the carmakers.

For the bodyshop the real work usually begins once the service contract has been signed and the relevant course (ranging from one to several days) has been completed. This is because the real measure of success is those aspects of a project which are actually implemented. It is therefore important to stay in touch with the bodyshop afterwards too. The follow-up measures include the "Value-Added Service Monitor" which the company uses to check customer satisfaction.

A professional concept has been drawn up in collaboration with Dortmund Technical University. The idea is to carry out an in-depth customer survey to identify the different factors which result in successful implementation and are subsequently optimized, if necessary. The VAS Monitor looks at four different phases in the introduction of a service together with potential success factors. The areas examined are the quality of the sales and introductory processes, the quality of the offer content, and the follow-up processes. This can provide valuable feedback on the customer's relationship with the paint supplier.

This therefore also represents a measurement tool which provides information on the effect of continuous improvement measures, staff development, and the optimization of the service provision. This enables lasting improvements to be achieved in terms of customer relationships and loyalty.

A clear trend can be identified almost three years after the start of the program: the bodyshops' expectations of the paint manufacturers with reference to support and advice are growing. It is evident that there has also been a marked increase in the acceptance of the business consultancy provision right up to the level of drafting business plans. In-depth industry know-how is vital in developing services which are precisely tailored to meet requirements. Those on offer are already highly diversified and are set to grow further still in the years ahead. Various services are currently being developed which take a yet more holistic approach to the bodyshop. These are moving even more clearly from technical issues towards business and marketing issues.

Source: BASF

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