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Repairers Talk Data Mining at Collision Industry Conference

Some body shop owners want an “opt out” when it comes to signing agreements with information providers on data sharing.

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Jason Stahl has 28 years of experience as an editor, and has been editor of BodyShop Business for the past 16 years. He currently is a gold pin member of the Collision Industry Conference. Jason, who hails from Cleveland, Ohio, earned a bachelor of arts degree in English from John Carroll University and started his career in journalism at a weekly newspaper, doing everything from delivering newspapers to selling advertising space to writing articles.

Gary Wano on data sharing: There has been a lot of talk about “data mining” in the collision repair industry over the last several years, and that talk continued at the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) held April 25 in Oklahoma City, Okla.

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The CIC’s Data Privacy Committee held a panel discussion on the topic moderated by Denise Caspersen, collision division manager for the Automotive Service Association. Repairers on the panel included:

• Brett Bailey – A & B CARSTAR, Kansas City, Mo.
• Aaron Clark – Collision Solutions, Indianapolis, Ind.
• Gary Wano – G.W. and Son Auto Body, Oklahoma City, Okla.
• Ron Reichen – Precision Body and Paint, Beaverton, Ore.
• Dusty Womble – Roger Beasely Collision Center, Austin, Texas
• Cory Liss – Liss CARSTAR Collision, Crown Point, Ind.

In collision repair terms, data mining is what information providers (CCC Information Services, Mitchell, Audatex) and other entities outside of a collision shop do with the shop’s business and customer data to track performance and ascertain industry trends. Those trends are then reported in, for example, CCC’s quarterly "Crash Course" publication and Mitchell’s "Industry Trends Report."

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"The value of data mining is finding non-intuitive correlations and industry trends that provide new business insight," said Jim Dickens, senior vice president of CCC’s Automotive Services Group. "For example, repair vs. replace ratios’ influence on cycle time. Does it correlate, and how?"

That data is transferred to those information providers when an estimate is uploaded to their system, and the data is then stored on the “cloud” or the web.The agreements shops sign with these information providers allows for the data mining, although some would contend that the shops don’t really understand what they’re getting into. And some repairers believe the data is being used in ways not intended when they first signed the agreements.

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Gary Wano, who, among others, was wearing a pin handed out by the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) that read, “Do not mine my data! I opt out,” said that opting out should be a possibility if a repairer doesn’t want to share their data.

“That might mean we won’t be measured by that data if we’re not part of it, and that could put us behind the curve with insurer relations if they require you to be monitored,” admitted Wano.

Clark said that more and more trading partners are requesting data from collision repair facilities, and each one has their own unique and separate licensing agreement.

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“But generally we have no choice but to participate,” he said. “We give them carte blanche to do whatever they want.”

Clark also brought up the question of who owns the data, especially in a DRP environment. “What part of the information do I own? What part does the insurer own? Does the information provider have a right to it? It concerns me if my agreement says I have to accept and they can then modify it.”

Bailey questioned the validity of the numbers that are being used to determine market competitiveness among shops in a given region.

“How many estimates are out there that are not being accounted for?” said Bailey. “I question whether the numbers are factual considering the lack of information that is not being thrown in there.”

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Womble agreed with Bailey, adding that the data can be manipulated to get the desired result.

“So the numbers are invalid because they’re based on a limited number of shops in a particular marketplace,” said Womble. “And most of those shops are under a contractual obligation to produce the numbers in a particular way. This is not what’s really going on in the marketplace despite what they say.”

Liss echoed Clark’s comments about not having a choice. “It’s a take-it-or-leave-it approach, and I don’t like that. I should be able to pick and choose what information I send.”

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Being able to pick and choose what data is sent would require something called a Business Message Specification (BMS) extract, but Aaron Schulenburg, executive director of SCRS, said that information providers have told him that “the cost is too much because of the architecture that currently exists.”

At the SCRS open board meeting the day before the panel discussion, Schulenburg gave an example of data aggregation gone wrong. In early January, a repairer contacted him to say that the wrong history was attached to the wrong VIN number on a CARFAX report one of his customers obtained.

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Jeanne Silver, co-owner of CARSTAR Mundelein in Mundelein, Ill., addressed the concern that body shop owners have over customers’ private data: “How liable are we? At what point does the consumer say, ‘You had a tool to protect me and you didn’t use it.’" 


More information:

Industry Groups Call for Data Sharing ‘Opt Out’ Option in Shop Management Systems

CCC GM Discusses ‘Cloud Computing’ and How It Can Benefit Collision Repair Facilities

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