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Repairers Have Their Say at SCRS National Industry Issues Forum

SCRS says majority of forum attendees expressed general frustration with direction collision repair industry is going.

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The industry has its troubles, and it’s up to repairers to change things for the better.
 
That was the overriding message at the 20th annual Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) National Industry Issues Forum (NIIF). Held April 25 in Oklahoma City exclusively for SCRS members and repairers, the three-hour "town hall" gathering allowed attendees to speak their minds about industry issues that matter most to them without the presence of insurers and other non-repairer entities.
 
According to SCRS, the majority of the views expressed during the forum represented a sense of frustration felt throughout today’s collision repair industry.

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"Like a frog in a cooking pot, repairers in attendance openly expressed their growing discontent with the current state of the industry, and the overwhelming and intrusive pressures placed upon their businesses," an SCRS statement read.

DRPs
 
DRP relationships were a major topic of discussion, with some participants saying that repairers have lost their spirit of entrepreneurship as insurers continue to do their shops’ marketing for them. One attendee shared that he had been the country’s top DRP for a particular insurer, only to lose that relationship 14 days after a major management change at the carrier. He stressed that it’s dangerous for shops to place too many eggs in one basket by having the vast majority of their work derived from one or two carriers.

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Parts Ordering

Insurer involvement in the parts-ordering process was also a major concern, as several attendees voiced their fear for the future of the industry if a particular insurer’s new parts procurement system becomes standard across the industry. Some attendees questioned if paint and other areas of the repair process would be the next areas to experience insurer involvement, saying that their businesses could ultimately be "subjugated to nothing more than labor service providers."

Looking in the Mirror

Many attendees argued that the greatest dilemma facing the industry is shops’ unwillingness to look in the mirror and accept that they’re the ones who ultimately guide their professional destinies. Some participants opined that the majority of shops need to do away with their "Why me?" attitudes and take full responsibility for regaining power and control of their industry.

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According to SCRS, the forum moderators had to work diligently to keep the conversation from becoming a standard complaint session, challenging attendees to discuss what the industry would look like if the mindset of, "We have to work around how it is, rather than working to change what we have come to accept as reality," was discarded. Many argued that this goal could be achieved through improved business skills, including how to correctly use cost accounting systems and having a better understanding of the necessary charges to be profitable on anything from paint and materials to labor or parts. These comments brought about discussion of revisiting the "ARMS-like" training of the past for estimators and front office staff.
 
When the discussion turned to training, one educator said that he has seen a dramatic lack of proper equipment in the field, admitting that he has even encountered repair facilities that are on some of the largest carrier programs that do not have appropriate measuring systems, welders or training.

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Shop Reimbursement
 
Repair specialization was also a major talking point, with one participant noting that he recently sent one of his top technicians to Germany to learn how to properly repair a particular vehicle. The owner argued that specialization might present a solution to reimbursement issues, stating that it’s generally accepted that a heart surgeon charges more than a general practitioner, based on a refined area of expertise.
 
During the discussion on shop reimbursement, one owner talked about his experience of charging the customer the difference for necessary repairs not reimbursed by the carriers. To illustrate his point, he shared a recent experience of having to handle certain charges for his surgery that his health insurer didn’t pay for, stressing that consumers have grown accustomed to paying for things not covered by insurance.

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Standards

On the topic of repair standards, some attendees voiced concern over the lack of consistency between repair shops and expressed their belief that repairers and OEMs should be the entities that determine the accurate methods of bringing vehicles back to pre-accident condition – a scenario that SCRS is trying to make a reality by collaborating with other repair associations, I-CAR and the OEM community.
 

Participation

While the NIIF allowed attendees to discuss the current state of the industry, the event also offered an opportunity for participants to discuss how things could be improved. Several members noted that the solution to many of the industry’s problems could be found through greater participation from shops. With only a small percentage of industry personnel attending the forum and other industry events, they felt a stronger presence from active shop owners and technicians was desperately needed. The call for an amplified grassroots movement to engage repairers was noted as a possible solution. Some SCRS members stated that the industry must develop more consistent message points if it hopes to communicate clearly and effectively to the motoring public, news outlets, regulators, legal professionals and the insurance industry.
 
Above all, participants called for associations like SCRS to maintain a strong voice for shops in the industry – especially those businesses that are afraid to voice concerns out of fear of repercussions.

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More information:

SCRS

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