Illinois-based Gerber Collision & Glass expands U.S. footprint to 307 shops
Skokie, Ill.—Through two acquisitions in Indiana last January and a new opening in Georgia in February, the Boyd Group Inc., branded as Gerber Collision & Glass in the U.S., has increased its national footprint to 307 locations. The moves are part of an overall strategy to double the company’s size every five years, said Tim O’Day, Boyd Group’s U.S. president and COO.
In a visit with Parts & People, O’Day talked about the company’s new locations and market strategy.
In February, a new Gerber Collision & Glass opened in Conyers, Ga., about 24 miles east of Atlanta, O’Day said. "This new location increases our large market presence in the Atlanta area and adds service capability in the region east of the city.”
The two collision repair centers in Lafayette, Ind., acquired in January, were previously operated as Twin City Collision Repair, O’Day said, and have served the community for more than 24 years.
“We are pleased to add these thriving centers to our 13 other locations in Indiana,” O’Day said. “They establish a presence in the central region of the state and are a great start to meeting our goal to grow single locations by six to 10 percent in 2016.”
Operating in 20 states, cities with multiple Gerber locations are beneficial to all parties involved in the repair process, he said.
“If we are busy in one location, we have the ability to move the vehicle or personnel to another facility to better serve our customer,” O’Day said.
The typical service area for rural shops is 25- to 30-mile radius, he said, adding that it’s a five-mile radius for urban ones.
“There are not huge differences from market to market,” O’Day pointed out. “Vehicle owners and insurance companies want the same thing; happy customers and quality, timely repairs.”
Humble beginning, MSO roots
Beginning as a glass and trim shop serving the Chicago area in 1937, Gerber entered the collision repair business in 1978 by opening a shop and eventually expanding to five Chicagoland locations in 1998 — becoming multi-shop operators (MSO) before the term became popular, he said.
By 2004, the company had expanded to 16 locations in Illinois, which is when it became part of the Canadian-based Boyd Group Inc. Shortly thereafter, Boyd’s U.S. collision locations were rebranded to Gerber Collision & Glass. The Boyd Group also operates 40 shops in Canada under the brand Boyd Autobody & Glass. In several markets Boyd has glass-only locations, which operate in as Glass America, O’Day said.
Despite the many MSOs in the collision repair industry, O’Day said the larger MSOs only serve about 13 percent of the U.S. market. Of the 36,000 collision repair shops nationwide, single-location shops still dominate the market and remain viable, he said. “To say that MSOs are taking over the market is a gross exaggeration,” he said, adding that “there will continue to be a place for independent shop owners.”
For single-shop owners and MSOs alike, the collision repair industry remains complex, O’Day said. “It requires significant investments in process, training, equipment, and of course, people. Every single repair is different and has its unique information and processes to restore it.” The collision repair business is insurer-driven, but consumers are able to select the shop of their choice to repair their vehicle, he said. “When we get referrals from insurance companies, they do so because they know we will service their customers,” O’Day said, noting that customer satisfaction with a collision repair is the key factor in determining if a policy is renewed.
Gerber uses the Net Promoter Score (NPS) system for its customer service measurement. This system is world recognized and takes into account promoters, those who review the business very favorably; detractors, those who had a poor experience, and neutral customers. O’Day said Gerber’s NPS scores typically fall into the mid-80-percent range, right around its goal of 85 percent or higher.
Wow Operating Way
Gerber’s advantage is its commitment to “wow” every customer and be the best, O’Day said. “We build all operations, rewards, and recognition systems around that mission and goal to ‘Wow Every Customer…Be the Best’,” he said. The Wow Operating Way focuses on scheduling repairs when we have capacity to work on the vehicle. This means conducting complete repair planning to ensure we know everything that is needed to finish the repair (including all parts), monitor quality, anticipate delivery so that the owner can get their vehicle back as soon as possible, and ensure post-repair satisfaction.
“It is really has more about how we organize our work, identifying early in the process what the car needs and then predicting when it will be done.”
Thanks to the transparency that technology brings, O’Day said he is able to look at multiple data points for each shop.
The first KPI (key performance indicator) that he looks at is the cycle time for the repair vs. the marketplace. “Faster repairs improve customer satisfaction.” Lower cycle times reduce the cost for a customer or insurance carrier to settle the claim by reducing rental car expenses, he added.
“We look at customer satisfaction data and take it seriously,” he said. “We want to know: Are we doing a good job for the vehicle owner? Are we cost-effectively repairing cars in a quality way? How can we improve?”
Training is paramount
O’Day joked that Gerber is likely one of I-CAR’s biggest customers, since all of its shops have achieved the I-CAR Gold designation.
“We have consistently invested in training for team members to make sure they’re capable of performing high-quality repairs,” he said, including the ability to perform structural aluminum repairs in every regional market. Twenty percent of the Gerber shops nationwide are equipped and trained for structural aluminum repair, he added.
Bill Burke, director of learning and development, ensures that Gerber’s 4,500 collision employees have access to the right training, which he said has helped many of them develop meaningful career paths.