Center Collision Focuses on Customers, Community, and Repairing Vehicles Properly

Kevin House, owner of Center Collision in Tacoma, WA, started repairing vehicles as a hobby, working out of his home garage in his spare time. Eventually, he and his wife, Debbie, opened Center Collision in 2005, a decade after they got married. As the business grew, they moved twice before purchasing commercial property that same year.

“Our goal at Center Collision is to repair vehicles properly, safely, and to assist customers through the process of insurance claims,” said House. “We take pride in our work and value every customer’s business.”

The business has 10 employees in-house and one who works remotely from Montana. He initially worked at the shop and continues to process insurance claims and answer the phone from his new home.

“He proposed the idea and had a plan so I thought we’d try it out,” said House. “I wasn’t in a hurry to give him up, especially with the employee shortage in the industry, and it has worked out fantastic.”

I recently talked to House about what sets his business apart, why he joined 1Collision and the importance of giving back to the community.

Center Collision Wheels to-Prosper Event

Kevin House, owner of Center Collision, and his wife, Debbie

Q: What sets your business apart from others?

A: The main thing is that we are a non-DRP shop. We focus our efforts on marketing and don’t expect insurance companies to do favors for us. We don’t hate or despise them. They pay us a lot of money and keep us in business, but we don’t work for them. We work directly for our customers.

As part of this, we really focus on customers’ needs. A couple of years ago, I started looking at other shops and reading their reviews to determine common customer complaints. Why would they leave a bad review? Obviously, if the car wasn’t repaired correctly, but why else?

One thing that caught my attention is that people said they never knew what was happening with their vehicles. Nobody communicated with them regularly. I thought that was an easy one to tackle. We can stand out from the crowd by over communicating. Now, we update our customers twice a week to let them know what’s being done on their vehicles. This is unheard of in the industry because it’s time-consuming, but we have done it for a long time. We have positive reviews from customers saying the shop always made them aware of what was happening even if they didn’t like the news.

Q: Why did you decide to join 1Collision?

A: I was involved with a company called Management Success for about 12 years, which has since changed its name to Drive. It was the best thing I could have done to wrap my head around running a business.

I believe in having a mentor or coach, but it’s even better if you can find one specific to your industry. They are going to know the ins and outs a lot more. Last year, I felt like I had gone as far as I could with Drive. I learned about 1Collision and decided to explore the possibility of joining the organization. I liked that 1Collision sends people to the shop to help train the technicians. That has been very beneficial. Since joining in 2021, being part of 1Collision has helped us overcome some obstacles.

Kelly Cooper has been a ton of help. He came to the facility for a few days and helped us overcome our blueprinting issues. We still have some fine-tuning to do, but he really changed our perspective. Kelly helped us understand the importance of nailing everything down on the first estimate and starting on the right foot, rather than playing catch up all the time. That was huge.

Joyce Schuenke also came out and helped us with some office issues, which we appreciated.

Q: What other business groups are you involved with?

A: Locally, I’m part of a Business Networking International (BNI) group. I’m also the past president of the Tacoma Business Connection, which is another networking group, and the president of the Northwest Auto Care Alliance (NWACA) in Pierce County, which used to be part of the Automotive Service Association (ASA).

Center Collision auto body shop in Tacoma WA

Q: Can you share information about the Wheels to Prosper initiative?

A: The Wheels to Prosper initiative awards a car that has been serviced and is in good working condition to a worthy and deserving person from the community. When I was with Drive, a couple of body shop owners, Dino DiGiulio and Jody Gatchell, teamed up to start this nationwide event. After a few years, I noticed their success and how the community rallied around what they were doing, which made them stand out from other businesses. I decided to get involved.

Eight years ago, we donated a car for the first time and coordinated everything ourselves. Someone wrecked a vehicle and I thought it was a good candidate. After purchasing it, our team repaired it and donated it to a deserving person. We’ve stayed in contact with that recipient and she still drives the vehicle.

The following year, we got the community involved. A friend who owns In-n-Out Auto Sales, Randy Fletcher, has donated the vehicles since then and another friend with a tire shop, Ed Tuck of Point S Tire and Auto Service, will service the vehicles and put tires and wheels on. We also asked Travis Kearin from Diamond Detail to help the cars look their best before giving them away.

People in the community recommend recipients who continuously give back to others. We usually come up with a first, second, and third choice in case the first choice can’t get insurance or a car isn’t the right answer for them. Every single time, the car has been given to the first choice, except during our last event in July. That person had just purchased a car. When she found out she was nominated, she was very appreciative. She said somebody else probably needed it more than her, even though it was a nice vehicle fully loaded with features. That’s the type of person who usually wins.

We’ve participated in Wheels to Prosper for five of the last eight years, missing a few years due to COVID. More than 100 people attended the last giveaway. Center Collision is proud to be a sponsor of this amazing program.

Q: What is the importance of giving back to the community?

A: It’s who we are. My wife and I feel that if we can help others, we should.

We have a fantastic business and the community is very supportive. With the Wheels to Prosper initiative, we figured out how to give back and make our community a better place. That’s our tagline, ‘Let’s make our community a better place.”

Wheels To Prosper vehicle giveaway at Center Collision