The Cornerman by Chris West
by Chris West
February 22nd, 2023

How to be “The Best Shop in Town”

Setting a client’s expectations prior to an installation is crucial.

Most shop owners recognize the need for quality and how customer satisfaction means repeat business, referrals and reviews. During my years of training installers, I developed two critical processes to have the best quality that are not installation related. This means that even the new installer or new shop can come out of the gate swinging and quickly develop the reputation of being the best.

1. Set expectations – Have conversations and set expectations with the customer of the work you will do and how it will look, along with any caveats before starting the job. This is the perfect time to address misconceptions and, better yet, showcase completed work. You also want to point out any issues that can happen and everyday occurrences with an install.

I know it is difficult because we want that customer in the door, and it seems counterintuitive to showcase problems, but we don’t install in spotless rooms. The films aren’t perfect, nor are the installations. Tiger Woods misses a lot of putts. In fact, if you do have a demo car, be sure that you don’t make that near-perfect using your best installer.

Use a mid-tier installer, and don’t re-do it multiple times. The demo showcasing your work should do exactly that—showcase your standard output. This allows you to point out a couple of specks in the windshield tint or exposed edges and corners on a PPF job.

I usually say something along the lines of, “Let me show you our work on my daily driver. Looks pretty good, huh? Well, let me point out a few normal things for our industry.” I normally get a reply such as, “I can’t even see what you are pointing out.” or “looks great to me.” By having these initial conversations, we set the expectation for the customer, not vice versa, where a customer tells us how an install should look and be.

There may be customers with unrealistic expectations. By talking to them before the work, we avoid that problematic customer we all dread, even if it means politely declining to work on their vehicle and wishing them the best.

2. QC is King – By QC, I mean quality control. The worst installer can generate a strong reputation. “But how?” you say. Because the QC process catches issues that the shop or installer can resolve before the customer sees the work.

We can re-do a panel 10 times or outsource an impossible back glass to a seasoned installer. I remember when I first started tinting, I had a very good reputation in paint protection film (PPF) by that time and had been outsourcing my tint. I decided to get trained and start doing it myself. I didn’t want to jeopardize my reputation by doing subpar tint work, so I scheduled cars for 48 hours.

That was unheard of for tint, where most shops booked in two to four-hour time slots. But I knew that if I had the car for that long—even if I had to use a whole box of tint or call up the shop that I used to sublet to—I could give the customer a quality tint job.

In all my trainings, I find that the difficult skills that I teach (especially in PPF) aren’t solving the common issues that customers deem as poor. Customers rarely can find stretch marks, silvering or lift lines. What they do notice is poor alignment that needs a trim because an edge is up or an air bubble needs to be needled. These things are some of the easiest “to fix” yet end up exiting the door, creating a bad experience for the customer. A good QC (I prefer a two QC lookover by different eyes) should catch 99% of issues before the customer sees the installation.

The Bottom Line

We want to install better and faster and produce good quality. But by setting expectations with the customer before the installation and having a good quality control process, we can build the excellent reputation we all seek. That keeps the doors open even if we have newer installers or the occasional bad day.

This blog is from Focus on Film, the weekly e-newsletter that covers the latest news regarding window film and related products, including paint protection film. Click HERE to sign up—there is no charge. Interested in a deeper dive? Free subscriptions to Window Film magazine in print or digital format are available. Subscribe at no charge HERE.

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