by Colby Horton
ASA's Manager of Web Operations
NACE Chairman Geralynn Kottschade, AAM, opened the 2005 General Session by reflecting on several challenges and issues facing the collision repair industry, including estimating and rekeying, business operations, aftermarket parts and airbag fraud.
"This week should be about identifying our challenges, concentrating on those we have the power to change and start proceeding with a plan to make the 'wrong' a 'right," Kottschade said. "We must also develop a plan of action on how to find ways of dealing with that we cannot change - dealing with them in a professional and confident way. It is vital for maintaining our independence."
Looking back at the archaic estimating procedures from 20 years ago, Kottschade explained that through today's technological advancements, the information providers are meeting the challenges associated with proper estimating and have developed the necessary tools required to make collision repair businesses run more smoothly on a daily basis. "These same partners are currently working toward a resolution and are developing products to confront the issue of rekeying," she explained.
Kottschade pointed to the Collision Industry Conference's Electronic Communications Committee Whitepaper stating that shop personnel spend an average of 20-30 minutes rekeying a written estimate into one estimating system. She also said there are approximately 9 million auto claims per year, and 28 percent of those are rekeyed.
"Improvements in this area are indeed long over due, but I applaud the information providers for tackling this most recent industry demand and again meeting the challenge," she said.
Kottschade also commented on the accountability of the industry. This accountability, she said, has helped industry professionals become more effective and efficient in daily business operations.
"By putting the available technology and systems in place to help accomplish our daily tasks, we protect ourselves, our business and thereby cultivate a team environment," she said. "It is important to have the business systems and the team working together in the same direction toward the same goals. This must be a priority."
Kottschade also explained how the perception of consumers has changed in the past two decades. Today's motorists are much more educated and better informed about the repair process, making collision repair professionals more aware of customer service.
"Their vehicle is very important to them and it is up to us to deliver - not only a quality repair, but a good experience overall," she commented. "Customer service has evolved as one of the key components to gaining an edge over our competition."
The arena of aftermarket parts has garnered the least improvement in the past two decades, according to Kottschade. And although the original Avery v. State Farm case in 1999 pushed some insurers to eliminate the usage of aftermarket parts, or eliminate the role of these parts in their programs' repair portfolios, it was not meant to be a long-term solution.
"This case did not resolve the problems collision repairers face every day with parts that don't meet the standards we demand in our shops, or the pressure to use certain parts that we feel are substandard," Kottschade said. "Until we reach a point where the consumer is informed about the types of parts used in the repairŠthe parts issue will continue to be of concern. This would be one of those 'wrongs' that we must simply 'deal with, at least for now."
Kottschade also spoke about airbag fraud in the industry. An insurance company that issued a statement targeted at consumers recently brought the issue of air bag fraud to light. The statement spoke of negligent body shops replacing airbags with inferior products. Kottschade believes the insurance company is putting a negative spin on the industry and challenged NACE attendees to "make it right."
"As an industry, we cannot let this happen. We have a moral obligation to properly repair any and all airbags," she said.
Kottschade concluded her address by challenging all NACE attendees to stay focused on their business goals and solidifying their future success.
"There are some real ugly things going on in our industry - in every industry. And though we cannot ignore what is going on, we can avoid becoming part of the problem," she stated. "For the next three days, stay focused and take advantage of all the business-building, career-building opportunities NACE offers."