A new standard for how collision shops operate is quickly taking over the industry. For a number of highly performing larger shops, it’s already here. It’s a new standard dictated by market demands, insurance company requirements and – most importantly – evolving consumer expectations.
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Consumers today are increasingly used to personalized experiences in which they get what they want, when they want it. That means a customer walking into a collision center is expecting a consumer-focused experience, not a collision-centered experience. This expectation is tricky within the collision industry, but it’s one we must contend with.
Within this context, let’s take a look at what the future shop looks like and how it operates.
The front office experience
Facility design is a critical component of customer experience. The actual analysis of a damaged vehicle is performed on the production floor, not in the front office. That means front offices should be designed to function as a sales and service center with the same feel that a consumer is used to elsewhere in their life.
Instead of comparing the experience of walking into a collision shop to other collision shops, compare the experience to walking into spaces designed to immediately help visitors feel at ease, such as the relaxing setting of a doctor’s office or the atmosphere of a bank. The reality is, this is how consumers today judge the first impression of a shop. They most likely have not visited other collision centers, and most likely will not be shopping around to other collision centers.
|Front office and waiting areas should be designed as sales and service centers similar to what a consumer is used to elsewhere in their life — the bank, the doctor’s office, or any other type of professional service firm lobby.|
Customers of the future shop walk into a beautiful, thoughtfully designed showroom. The facility doesn’t look like a stereotypical body shop. It’s modern, open and organized; free from stacks of paper and clutter. They’ve set their appointment up online in advance and submitted digital images of their damaged vehicle. They are greeted warmly by a service representative ready with a tablet – not a clipboard – loaded with their information. The representative immediately begins to set expectations by effectively and transparently initiating the process of sharing information and obtaining authorizations. The customer is transitioned to a rental vehicle and sent on their way with none of the discomfort of sitting and waiting for an estimate, and every assurance that they are in good hands.
In production, the shop of the future fully embraces the “5S” lean principles of organizing for maximum productivity. These principles provide the foundation for a repair cycle built to exceed customer expectation.
The first step of the repair process is damage analysis and blueprinting. It’s a deliberate process to determine all the needs of the vehicle through complete disassembly and analysis. Each component in need of repair or replacement is analyzed carefully. Additional operations – especially OEM requirements – are identified in advance, not halfway through the repair cycle. The needs of the vehicle are documented within a repair order to ensure 100 percent accuracy. This work is done by a dedicated, experienced analyst.
|The future shop fully embraces the “5S” lean principles of organizing for maximum productivity: Sort, Set, Shine, Standardize and Sustain.|
This is a complete 180 degree shift from the old “tear down” process in which an incoming vehicle would be assigned to a tech, who then disassembles the vehicle, rattles off to someone with a clipboard what he thinks is needed (without technical data, OEM requirements or iCAR data), snaps a couple pictures and walks around his pile of parts up front to a cubicle to bang out a guesstimate. Inevitably, this process would result in unforeseen issues delaying completion. Customers are no longer settling for this standard, and forward-thinking shops have created a new environment in which they no longer have to.
Damage analysis is a dedicated department in the future shop. Meticulously assessing the damage of vehicles is their single focus. It is driven by an exacting process utilizing a mobile estimating database workstation with the vehicle, with a technician identifying and documenting each need of the vehicle in detail. This is crucial, as the complexity of vehicles today call for extensive requirements with regard to specific sectioning, electronic pre- and post-scanning and other manufacturer requirements. Capturing this data at each step of the cycle alongside the vehicle is ideal for ensuring accuracy.
|Damaged parts are placed on the parts cart, and new parts are mirror matched to the damaged parts as they are received.|
The shop of the future incorporates color identification into the damage analysis process, long before the vehicle enters the spray booth. By utilizing the best available technology, such as a color spectrometer integrated with smart scales, accuracy approaches 100 percent. The color captured in the spectrometer feeds info to the smart scales, while the estimating system captures refinish labor hours.
Part carts are utilized during the disassembly process with a schematic outlining an exacting process for kits. This method is similar to the way a manufacturer operates. Manufacturers do not operate with stacks of parts in the middle of a shop floor. Parts kits are designed to best accommodate the reassembly process. Damaged parts are placed on the parts cart, and new parts are mirror matched to the damaged parts as they are received. The mobile parts cart allows technicians to inventory in and off the production floor as needed.