In the last few months, we’ve witnessed the volume of vehicle repairs reduce considerably around the globe. Road use has been the lowest that we’ve seen in many years, as people adjust to full-time home working and drive only for essential journeys. April also saw the lowest number of new cars registered in the UK since 1846, at just 4,000. Meanwhile, auto body repair sites have suffered greatly. Around 15% of sites remained fully operational for key worker vehicles, whilst many others have reduced workforces or come to a complete standstill.
For many years, bodyshops have strived for greater efficiency in order to improve cycle times amidst ever-growing demand and constant advances to vehicle technology. Yet, the recent circumstances created by the Covid-19 crisis have caused an interesting shift in the speed of repairs. In this blog, we’ll use unique Solera Audatex data to explore the current state of repair cycles times and the implications that may lay ahead.
Shorter cycles for better service
Bodyshop repair businesses rely on an efficient supply chain to acquire the correct vehicle parts, paint and any other materials needed to complete a repair. Usually, the parts supply chain is able to operate efficiently on a global scale. However, during these challenging times the entire supply chain – from parts to the repair claims flow – has come under increased pressure as a result of travel and trade restrictions, disrupting bodyshop and insurer operations as a result. Here at Solera Audatex, we are able to use solutions that enable work to be deployed and repairs to be approved using the blend of decision support, as well as the human.
Though you might assume that such disruption would push cycle times out further, we are in fact seeing the opposite. Interestingly, Solera research has found that the time between the initial recording of the incident and the payment request date has dramatically dropped by over half in the UK. Current repair cycles are lasting around just four days, compared to the 10-day average prior to lockdown.
Despite the pressures of reduced workforces, we can attribute this significant decrease in repair cycle time to less vehicles acquiring damage on the road, as well as reluctances from drivers to bring cars to garages for cosmetic, non-essential work due to social distancing. Meaning, bodyshops are able to spend more time devoted to each repair that does enter the workshop, completing more complex repairs faster. This shift is due to early FNOL through digital means and the ability to order parts early in the repair process as a result. This ensures that the vehicle is not sitting in the repair site for a number of days prior to anyone acting on the damage.
Cycle times are also being managed efficiently, with bodyshops working seamlessly with others. Distributors, trade bodies (NBRA) and paint companies have remained supportive throughout the COVID-19 crisis, with the majority of bodyshops rating them an 8, 9 or 10. Downtime in car insurance claims has also paved the way for developing strong communication between insurers, repair partners and customers – a trend that shows promise for the future if this can be executed at scale. In fact, we’ve seen huge efforts from insurers to change old ways and accommodate new processes at an amazing pace to support partners and customers.
But what could the lasting effect be for the collision repair market and its customers?
Maintaining customer experience
With repair lifecycles down significantly, it is very likely that many insurer and repair businesses are seeing an uplift in customer satisfaction and positive NPS ratings. Yet, as the Government kick starts a slow road to recovery and easing operational limitations, the challenge now is to find ways to keep these repair cycle times down when lockdown ends and maintain this new level of customer service.
Even when workloads return to some kind of normal, bodyshops will have to operate under new measures and adhere to distancing practices to maintain safety – whether that be rotated shifts, less hours or a permanently reduced workforce. As mentioned in our previous blog, we’re seeing a clear gap between instructions sent and assessments being performed, causing a build-up in the number of outstanding jobs waiting to be sent by the insurer.
With backlogs being created by repairers to regain some of the profits lost, a drastic increase in workload with a smaller cohort of staff, risks pushing out the repair cycle times even further than pre-lockdown and damaging the customer experience. By working closely with industry partners and utilising the latest in repair technology, bodyshops will need to improve decision-making by automating critical parts of the workflow to operate more efficiently and ease the strain on repair cycles.
For example, the use of image technology to speed up damage identification, training VDAs to conduct estimates with images and booking vehicles into the shop on the day the parts are due to arrive on site will drive huge efficiencies, helping to keep cycle times to a minimum. All shops should look at what working practices were put in place during lock-down and draw on these to maintain the standards that enabled such time savings.
No doubt that repair volumes, cash flow and staff safety will remain huge concerns for the global auto body repair industry as we emerge from lockdown. However, in every challenge lies an opportunity to both learn and improve for the future. For example, many bodyshop owners and managers will exit this period with high appreciation of staff, their loyalty and safety and realise the huge value in strengthening relationships with insurers, accident managers, fleet and private customers post-crisis.
Insurers will also appreciate the work that their repairer partners and the supply chain execute on their behalf to fulfil their promise to their mutual customer, and this could open discussions that lead to a new, more open, more collaborative and supportive relationship, where all parties, especially the claimant, benefit.
At Solera Audatex, our focus will be on supporting industry partners with the technology solutions they need to work as effectively and efficiently as possible, to ensure we all emerge from this crisis stronger and smarter.