By John Wolford, CEI associate director of network services and loss recovery
When thinking about collision repairs, you may well envision just one provider: the body shop. But there are many times when there are more players who need to be involved, because further repair expertise is required. And, just as with any other project, the more players involved the greater the chance for delays.
Since time is money – in this case, more money spent on temporary replacement vehicles, drivers who are sidelined, and sales that don’t happen – it’s imperative that repair delays be avoided or minimized. Fortunately, while delays can and will happen some of the time, there is a way to manage repair subcontractors. But first, you need to a review of why and when subcontractors are involved.
At CEI, about 5 to 10 percent of all the repairs we manage involve vendors other than the primary body shop, but the general public sees more than that. There are five types of repairs that typically require more expertise than may reside in a body shop:
1) Electronics. Small computers that read engine sensors and operate safety systems are increasingly numerous in cars and trucks, and in many cases only an authorized vehicles dealer can repair them and reset the codes that make them functional.
2) Engine repairs. Body shops aren’t typically staffed with engine mechanics to handle engine-related issues that result from an accident, and so have to outsource that kind of work before they can deliver a repaired vehicle.
3) Fine interior repairs. When damaged dashboards and upholstery are repairable, body shops often outsource the work to facilities that specialize in restoring the equipment to like-new condition.
4) Hail damage. Paintless dent repair (PDR) is often the most cost-effective way to repair hail damage and many other minor dings and dents. But most body shops don’t have highly skilled PDR technicians on staff, and have to call on self-employed specialists.
5) Frame repairs. CEI requires members of its network of more than 3,000 body shops to have all the equipment to repair damaged frames. But not every one of the 35,000+ shops in North America have it, in which case the vehicle has to be towed to another location for that part of the repair.
The risk when some repairs are outsourced isn’t so much poor quality of work, but one of subcontractors’ workload and schedule. If they’re booked solidly, your repair has to get in at the end of the line – unless you are an important customer. And being an important customer, one who merits some measure of priority treatment, is the key to minimizing delays when two or more vendors are responsible for getting your vehicle back on the road.
So what is “an important customer”? It’s one whose satisfaction is vital to a continuing stream of business, and that’s not the random customer. It’s someone who is a referral source for many jobs, week after week and month after month. On the retail side, that’s an insurance company, and on the fleet side that is the very largest of fleets, and one other kind of player: a nationwide accident management provider with an established network of provider shops that depend on its repair referrals. By necessity, to retain that flow of referrals, they keep a tight leash on their subcontractors or have alternatives to turn to when their first choice can’t deliver quickly enough.
So when it comes to managing your fleet’s accident repairs, it’s best to require your drivers to bring their vehicles to shops you do a lot of business with. And if you use an accident management service provider, make sure your drivers take their vehicles to one of the body shops in its network. It’s the volume of referrals that allows the leverage. It’s really the only way to stay on top of the risk of repairs taking longer than they need to when subcontractors are involved.