Technology allows independents to take on large MSOs
Mulvane, Kan.—Whether a shop is focused on DRP or non-DRP business, consumers and insurers are looking for a different collision repair experience than just a few years ago, said Mike Anderson, owner of Collision Advice, who was the featured speaker at the inaugural Kansas Auto Body Association Trade Show, April 26 and 27.
“Three to five years ago, if someone wrecked their vehicle and called their insurance carrier and the insurance company told them where to go, they kind of took that at face value,” he said. “Today’s consumer will not go to a shop just because an insurance company told them to; they will go online to do their homework. They take the word of online reviews over that of their own family and friends.”
Whipping out his smart phone, he asked, “Siri, what’s the best auto body shop near me?,” which returned a listing of body shops, organized by their Yelp review. Searches using Amazon’s Alexa smart speaker, which references Google reviews, are growing, he said, and industry experts predict 50 percent of all searches within the next 18 months will be voice-activated.
“The number-one search term consumers use is, “Best ‘XYZ’ near me: ‘The best pizza place near me,’ ‘The best dry cleaners near me’...‘The best auto body shop near me.’ The only way you can show up under the best category on Google is if you have a four-star rating or greater on Google.”
Thirty-four percent of today’s consumers increasingly desire to conduct business with a business while it’s closed, he said.
“They want an estimate appointment, or an estimate, or to schedule a drop-off,” he said, noting that a local shop using Podium to text-message through its website captured $20,000 in additional work the first month they turned on the feature.
CCC’s Carwise, he added, includes a feature to book an appointment online, and shops with that feature turned on are also highlighted on the website’s shop locator.
Consumers looking for empathy and direction
Consumers also increasingly look for empathy, not to be confused with sympathy, he said: “Sympathy is, ‘I feel sorry for you’; empathy is, ‘I feel your pain.’” At the same time, they need direction. “They’re looking for someone who can hold their hand and walk them through the process. So if the consumer comes in and says, ‘ABC Insurance told me to get three estimates,’ instead of blowing them off, we need to pick up the phone and call an agent and assist them with filing the claim. We also need to assist them with making a rental car reservation. If you use Enterprise Rent-A-Car, you can go to Enterprise’s ARMS site, where they have something called Priority Pass, where you can make a reservation for the consumer.”
Mobile apps result in higher CSI
Consumers are looking for convenience, and mobile apps that allow a claimant to submit photos or videos for their estimate are growing in popularity, with 42 percent of claimants using the technology. But they also result in higher customer service index (CSI) scores than for claims when they must wait for an adjuster.
“CSI is important to insurance companies to retain policyholders,” Anderson said. “It’s important to vehicle manufacturers, because 60 percent of all consumers with a bad experience with a body shop will lose faith in their car and sell or trade it within one year. And 63 percent of those will change vehicle brands.”
Anderson understands the grumblings of estimators who have seen the results of incomplete estimates figured by insurer photo apps. But a shop that uses a product such as Bodyshop Booster allows the claimant to submit photos directly to the shop.
“People beat me up and say, ‘You can’t write estimates by photos.’ I agree with you. But if I use a product like Bodyshop Booster, I can write an estimate good enough as a marketing strategy to get you into my door. And how many people think researching repair procedures takes a long time? When they drop the car off, you have at least 80 percent of the research done.”
‘Liquid expectations’ require novel solutions
Today’s consumer is more likely to compare the customer service experience with that of companies such as Amazon, Open Table, or Uber, he said. Small independent shops can “thrive” even against large MSOs by using technology that provides a more modern customer service experience, including having an electronic check-in process, electronic QC apps for their technicians to use, and sending their customer a text message reminder a day before their appointment.
“We live in a culture of liquid expectations, where each new and amazing experience becomes the standard by which all others are compared,” Anderson said. “Five years ago, if a consumer came into your body shop, they would compare their experience with another automotive business, such as where they got their tires changed. That’s not the case anymore.”