A Repair Shop Marriage Made in Heaven

Bart Mazurek / Collision Repair, Perspectives /

Why It’s Important to Understand Your Shop Partners’ Workflow

As a leader in CCC’s Solutions and Consulting Group, I have a broad view into the auto claims that CCC processes annually and the tools that enable this process. Our consulting group invests significant time each year working with our insurance carrier partners to help them optimize their claims process. Since repair facilities handle more than 40% of these claims, part of the process is to help carriers work more efficiently with our network of body shops; either through direct repair relationships or by leveraging our extensive, open repair network.

On a recent visit to a shop in the Northeast, I realized that my understanding of the shop’s best-in-class repair processes needed some updating. This realization caused me to think that if the auto physical damage process at a carrier had become more efficient in recent years, then there was a lot on the shop side that had changed to improve their keys-to-keys workflow. To update my understanding, I worked with CCC’s Automotive Solutions Group to secure time at some shops that are considered high performers in the Chicago area.

My research focused on three sources. First, I devoured The Secrets of America’s Greatest Body Shops by Dave Luehr and Stacey Phillips (I highly recommend this book to auto insurance claims professionals). I then visited Lou Scola at CARSTAR Scola’s Collision Center in Brookfield, Illinois and Matt Samojedny at Gerber Collision & Glass in Glenview, Illinois.

My research confirmed that:

  • High-performing shops want to be fast, but not at the expense of error-prone results.
  • The goal of high-performing shops is to have processes in place that are right for their business, their business partners including insurers, and most importantly the vehicle owners they are servicing.

It also generated some questions:

  • In this fast-changing environment, how do insurance company claims leaders keep current?
  • Do carriers know their shop partners’ processes, and are they leveraging those shop capabilities to their full potential?

The insurance company direct repair shop relationship is “like a marriage,” said Lou from CARSTAR Scola’s Collision Center. “The insurance companies we work best with are the ones who listen to logic and understand how we can best fix a car the right away.”

Let’s look at a couple of examples of how repair shops work with insurers to do their part in making that marriage work.

According to author Dave Luehr, “Great shops do one of two things: They either perform minor, temporary disassembly during an estimate appointment to identify all the damage up front and only then pre-order parts, or they wait until the vehicle arrives for a repair appointment to perform thorough disassembly.” These scenarios assume that a repair will take place and the shop is not just performing the task of writing an estimate.

Both Lou at CARSTAR and Matt at Gerber stressed the need to partially tear down the car so that an accurate estimate can be written. If the repair is scheduled for a later date, the car will be reassembled and sent on its way. This limits supplements and allows for a comprehensive parts order.  Before returning the estimate to the carrier, the estimate will be reviewed by the shop’s home office to ensure that they are adhering to guidelines, further reducing the likelihood of supplements. Three days prior to the scheduled drop-off date, the parts are ordered and inspected before the car arrives. This also gives the shop the opportunity to examine the ordered parts. If anything needs to be re-ordered there is still time before the car’s arrival.

If vehicles were better triaged at FNOL so that total losses and repairable cash-outs were handled by other methods of inspection, the shop would be able to gain additional efficiency (and perhaps speed up the repair process). This would reduce noise in the shop’s workflow allowing them to focus on writing estimates, scheduling repairs, and ordering parts so that repairs could start sooner.

According to Matt at Gerber, if a repair has fewer than 12 hours of labor, the expectation is that the repairs will be completed in less than two business days.  This limits the amount of space the vehicle takes up in their lot, reduces rental, and gets the car back in the owner’s hands faster. This results in a win all around (shop, carrier, and vehicle owner). Matt was proud of his shop’s ability to effectively manage this metric, while modestly adding that his shop was significantly outperforming it. The Gerber example is only one of many strong performance metrics I was exposed to while visiting both locations.

Lou emphasized that completion dates are shared with the vehicle owner once the vehicle has been torn down and a thorough estimate is written. This allows the shop to accurately set expectations with the vehicle owner and reduce negative feedback on the back-end of the repair.

Both the Gerber and CARSTAR shops hold daily meetings to review the status of every car in the shop. This way, carrier-specific guidelines can be communicated, issues can be resolved, plans can be made, and vehicle owners can be informed. Both shops communicate with the vehicle owner multiple times per week using automated texting capabilities, and via phone. By setting the right expectations internally and with the vehicle owners upfront (or as conditions change), CSI numbers are high. Matt appreciates the ability to proactively manage negative feedback during the repair rather than having to react to it after the repairs are complete.

When the vehicle’s completion date is confirmed, Matt’s team communicates the pick-up date to the vehicle owner to get him or her back in their car as soon as possible, limit the amount of space the vehicle is taking up on their lot, and reduce vehicle rental costs incurred by the insurer.

In the end, I was reminded – these high-performing shops want to get everything right the first time:

  • write an accurate estimate;
  • order all the right parts;
  • manage the repair;
  • communicate properly;
  • effectively manage the payment process.

Rework causes slowdowns, wastes time, and increases everyone’s level of dissatisfaction. If a shop communicates consistently both internally and externally it will set the proper expectations.

So, if you are a claims leader and your company has shop relationships, I urge you and your supervisors to learn more about the shops you rely on to repair vehicles on your behalf. Through your own research, you will learn which shops are geared toward “making the marriage work,” allowing both of you to deliver an experience that exceeds the customer’s expectations.