Wednesday, 24 August 2016 20:21

Exploring the Collision Repair Industry’s Great Debate

Index

What is the role of post repair inspections in your shop?

Leaders in the collision repair industry met to discuss the merits of post-repair inspections (PRI) in a June Verifacts Guild 21 Webinar that exposed troubling evidence for the industry.

Kristen Felder, founder and CEO of Collision Hub, shared the findings of a year-long study involving 30 reinspections that took a closer look at quality control practices.

Although she acknowledged the study was far from “scientific,” she stated that she found numerous flaws in repairs within this small sample of vehicles.

“I didn’t see what I was expecting to see,” Felder said. The former technician stated she assumed minor damage or relatively inconsequential faults would be found during the post-repair inspections, but was unprepared for the seriousness of the results. These ranged from poor welding to completely neglected repairs, she said.

“The problems we found were significant and severe,” she said. “They were things that needed to be addressed immediately and the customers removed from the vehicles.”

Speaking from a position of favoring the inspections, Felder explained her decision to investigate developed from an ongoing debate.

Utlizing her marketing company, Engage Target Media, which conducts market research for the industry, Felder took a “360 degree” look at post repair inspections, she said. “Was PRI good or bad for the collision industry? Was it making a difference? What are the findings during the inspections?”

Felder spoke with a sampling of the various stakeholders involved in the process, including customers, body shop owners and technicians and insurers. Her goal was the gage their perspectives, she said.

 

Customer Perspective

“Customers felt their insurer was sending them to the right shop that would perform proper repairs,” Felder said.

According to her interviews, Felder said many customers assumed insurers were actively verifying repair procedures. These same customers were surprised by the selection and supervising process for DRP shops—what insurers were and were not managing.

Body shops are more often graded by insurers on a series of KPIs that track speed and cost, not the actual output or repair quality.

Felder was quick to acknowledge the issue of questionable repairs does not reside within DRP shop walls alone. “It’s not only DRP shops with these kind of results,” but it’s across the board, she said. “I still remain a DRP fan and the service it could potentially offer customers.”

DRP shop or independent, Felder said that customers assume a vehicle repair would mean their well-being was secure. Safety was concern that they didn’t know they should be concerned about, she said. Many customers expressed their decision to choose the recommended body shop was so that they would have a “worry free” repair process.

“They saw us as the gatekeepers, the guardians and the protectors of their vehicles and their families,” she said. “They believed that we were going to put that over anything else.”

 

Body Shop Perspective

Some of the most troubling interviews around the post repair inspection process came from the shop owners themselves.

“They felt their duty was to control repair expenses and … deliver the car out as soon as possible,” she said.

While they did acknowledge a safe repair was important, they felt their insurance partners put more importance on the claims expense then the physical repair of the vehicle.

Repairers and insurers can be more concerned about customer satisfaction than customer service, she said. Using her eight-year-old son as a metaphor, Felder described the difference between the two.

“If I let my child eat only what he wanted to eat, his satisfaction rate would be high,” she said. “But as a parent, I have to make sure he eats nutritionally.” Even if that meant he felt less satisfied in her parenting job, she said.

“But I owe him what is best, not what leads to his greatest satisfaction,” she said.

The study caused some important reflection for Felder. As a former DRP manager, she wondered if during her career she had helped to create these issues with performance equaling speed and cost vs. quality.

Felder also met with 15 technicians at various repair facilities to discuss the pros and cons of post repair inspections, she said, and to gain their input on the general repair process.

Again, she said, she found speed was a concern.

“The faster the car went, the happier their boss was going to be and therefore, the happier they were going to be as well,” she said. Many of the technicians she spoke with felt they were, at the very least, performing at the same level as their counterparts in the industry.

One troubling issue was technicians felt there were different levels of repair quality based on the insurer handling. They felt some insurers allow the cars to be repaired properly while others they said they “know” they will be asked to perform repairs that do not follow common repair standards.

As a repair industry, regardless of the insurer, each vehicle should be held to the same standard of repair quality.

 

Insurer Perspective

Felder spoke with a variety of adjusters and DRP managers about post inspection repairs to find out their opinions on the topic.

She discovered their concerns greatly resided in fulfilling their duty to find a reputable shop to repair the vehicle, pay the cost and keep things more affordable for the policyholder, she said.

The inspectors told Felder that after writing or receiving an estimate, inspectors focused on ensuring the car was repaired as quickly as possible and in a cost-effective manner. They also detailed the shop’s responsibility on topics such as life-time warranties and repair issues.

While many openly acknowledge repair quality issues are found, they did not feel it was their obligation to manage those issues due to the shops contractual warranty, what Felder referred to as the “warranty myth.” While shops do supply life-time warranties on the repairs, those warranties are not insulators to liability suits and duties of the insurer to maintain the repair network. In many cases when insurers were aware of gross repair negligence claims, those shops were not removed from the DRP program. In other words, customers were still being directed to the shops with no action plan around improvement or implementation of quality-control procedures.

Felder stressed the importance of shops and insurance companies working together as partners in the industry. The mutual customer demands a cost-effective, timely but above all a safe repair. By aligning those values, DRP still stands as the best model for handling today’s volume of claims, she said.

 

Overall Findings

“Customers were happy with the way they were treated, how they were kept informed, shuttle service, etc,” she said, “But the customer didn’t know what they didn’t know.”

The opportunity to educate shops about proper repairs has been at the forefront of Felder’s mind for the the past five years, she said.

Felder has been producing videos in various series, including the popular “Repair University,” which highlights repair procedures and how they can go very wrong, she said. “Maybe I need to talk a little more about what is right and showing what a good repair looks like instead of the bad.”

She suggested that customer service information and key performance indicators will always have a place in the repair process, but that shops and insurers must evolve beyond relying on these numbers.

“We have this CSI tool that does a lot to help us measure how our customers are going to be treated but we don’t have a lot of tools out there that measure how the quality of the repair will be when it’s over,” she said.

After her initial research, Felder said she found that there didn’t seem to be a plan in place for repairers or insurers on handling post-repair inspections or implementing quality control measures.

“No matter what side of the fence you are on, we don’t have a standard response for handling them,” she said. It is an opportunity to raise the level of everyone involved so that they know what they are looking for, she said.

“If we’re going to protect the consumer and if our end game is truly a properly repaired safe vehicle, are we putting the right controls in place to manage that repairer?” she asked of stakeholders.

Felder also stressed the importance of sharing information and dialoging about these situations to continually make the industry better for everyone.

“We are all very passionate about what we do, no matter what side of this that you are on,” she said. “We’re also passionate about the consumer as well. If we can raise our level of understanding, we can definitely improve safety.”


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