Investments in people and processes will be key moving forward.
These are interesting times we live in. Every day it seems there is another event that triggers further uncertainty in the global economy and our industry. Yet there are steps we can take to ensure we can navigate successfully through the unpredictable waters ahead.
As we (hopefully) ease back into a degree of normalcy and into spring, it’s a perfect time for us as shop owners to assess where we are. If we are planning to be in this business for the long haul, then the COVID-19 era should have presented the ideal opportunity for us to invest in our people, processes, equipment, and facilities. As restrictions ease, there is no question that we will see repair volumes go up, but this situation will also see many of us put to the test.
Over the last two years, there have been a number of changes to the way we do business. When lockdown measures were enacted and contactless service required, photo-based estimating became the standard. The trouble with photo-based estimating is that it nearly always results in supplements once the repair begins.
There’s also the question of insurers and OEMs changing their tactics. Today there is a great deal more responsibility on the shop to handle administrative functions, as well as more and more shops being directly responsible for loaner vehicles. As a result, if a repair isn’t completed on time, the shop is on the hook for the rental, if they don’t provide regular updates regarding delays and backordered parts. And let’s face it, backordered parts have become the norm rather than the exception for many of us due to ongoing supply challenges.
Additionally, OEMs are also requiring more administrative updates, which is putting more pressure on estimators and your admin staff—tasks which the shop isn’t necessarily being paid for, especially if delays occur during the repair process.
When you combine this situation with an environment where volumes are starting to increase, it means that as a business, you need to pay very close attention to your staffing requirements. You need to make sure you have enough people to handle the administrative work required as well as the actual repairs because each time there is a problem or delay, you will need to provide regular updates to your insurance adjuster and customer. Plus, some OEMs are also requiring you have a specific procedure for each and every vehicle, while others also require you to provide updates as the repair progresses.
So, while it is definitely good news that repair volumes are picking up, we aren’t going to find ourselves in a situation where profits will quickly soar. The amount of money we make will hinge on how well our people are trained and how well our processes are dialled in. Ultimately, it comes down to balancing quality repairs and customer service with the utmost efficiency. And achieving that requires being laser-focused on your people and processes.
J.R. Martino is Vice President and Managing Partner of Budds’ Collision Services, one of the most progressive facilities of its kind in North America. He can be reached at [email protected].