AMi leader addresses paradigm shift in industry, the impact on collision repairers
By Stacey Phillips / Autobody News
Jeff Peevy has observed many changes in the collision repair industry over the course of his nearly 40-year career.
As the current chairman of the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) and president of the Automotive Management Institute (AMi), Peevy regularly talks to body shop owners and managers about the current issues they face.
During a recent webinar, Peevy shared several shifts he has observed as a result of these conversations and his involvement in the industry. Peevy then addressed how they are expected to affect future collision repairers.
The free webinar was part of Dave Luehr’s Elite Body Shop Academy’s “Elite Webinar Series” and can be replayed by visiting www.elitebodyshopsolutions.com/academy.
The shifts include a new focus on the customer experience, OEM certification expansion, the changing type of work in the industry and emerging liability issues.
New Focus on the Customer Experience
During a typical day in a body shop, employees are hard at work ensuring vehicles are repaired properly, customers leave satisfied and great cycle time is maintained.
When problems arise, Peevy said that by nature, collision repairers typically look for solutions from a technical perspective and mindset. This is partially because technical training has become increasingly important to keep up with new technology. Technicians are spending much of their time learning about new equipment, repair procedures and process improvements. As a result, he said, many times it can be easy to overlook a key element at their facilities—employing soft skills.
“We all believe they are important, but traditionally as an industry we don’t use them,” said Peevy. “Instead, we try to solve everything from a technical aspect. We’re now realizing there is a customer experience that requires more than just technical skills.”
Peevy stressed the importance of utilizing soft skills, especially for staff members who regularly deal with customers. These include good listening skills, communication, phone skills, negotiating and problem-solving.
Due to today’s widespread use of social media, Peevy said that making a mistake with a customer can negatively impact a business now more than any other time in history.
About six years ago, he began noticing that the more forward-thinking collision repair facilities focused a portion of their training on teaching their administrative and customer-facing staff soft skills. The results were very positive.
Not only was there better overall communication in the business, but they also found that when technicians and everyone else in the shop listened to one another and communicated better, employee retention improved.
“If a technician is uncomfortable in an environment, the way it is typically handled is that person will leave,” said Peevy. “If technicians have better communication skills, they can sit down and communicate their feelings and often negotiate an environment they are happy with, and as a result they will stay.”
Peevy said one of the main challenges has been the lack of training available. This is especially true of online training since many of the staff members in these types of roles aren’t in a position to travel to places offering opportunities to learn about soft skills.
Since becoming president of AMi, Peevy said he has tried to build on that opportunity for shops to have access to training in this area.
OEM Certification Expansion
Another paradigm shift Peevy has noticed is in regard to the expansion of OEM certification programs. About six years ago, he said, car manufacturers began establishing shop networks.
“For many of them in the past, it was about selling parts,” said Peevy. “However, I’ve seen that changing as OEMs are trying to protect their brands.”
Statistics have shown that when someone is in an accident and has a negative collision repair experience, he or she will usually trade in the car once it has been repaired and then change brands about 60 percent of the time.
“OEMs are trying to keep brand loyalty and want to be part of the customer experience,” explained Peevy.
OEM certification programs are evolving from primarily focusing on the tools, equipment and training requirements to now putting new emphasis on the customer experience.
“I expect to see more non-technical staff training requirements in the very near future,” said Peevy.
Peevy tells repairers who are part of a certified network and question the return on investment (ROI): “With the growing vehicle communication capabilities, collision repair marketing is difficult enough as it is without being on the wrong side of the certified OEM list generated by your customers’ cars.”
He encourages shops to become certified and take the necessary steps to stay part of the OEM programs.
Changing Type of Work in the Industry
From what he has observed, especially at CIC, Peevy said there is a new type of role developing in the shops—an electronic diagnostic technician.
“The consensus is this is the perfect role for the younger generation that naturally gravitates toward computer software and the diagnostic process related to it,” said Peevy.
According to the Equipment and Tool Institute (ETI), next year the value of software and electronic components will exceed the mechanical components on average. In 2000, electronics and software made up only 23 percent of the value of a vehicle; 77 percent was allocated to the mechanical aspect of the vehicle that includes everything shops have traditionally worked on in the past.
A decade later, electronics and software consisted of 45 percent of the value, while the remainder was mechanical. Next year, electronics and software are expected to make up 60 percent.
Peevy said there is a direct correlation between the value and the amount of work and time needed for the component repair.
Although many industry veterans are concerned about the future industry because of the widespread changes happening and the direction it’s headed, Peevy said the younger generation’s skill set perfectly positions them to deal with it.
Emerging Liability Issues
Most in the industry are now familiar with the John Eagle Collision case, which has heightened awareness of the risk of being sued for an improper repair. Peevy said there is an additional liability that shops must take notice of and that he predicts will continue to grow at a blinding pace: who owns the data collected during a repair and what can be done with it.
Some of the common types of data being collected include event data recorders, OBD diagnostic data, location data, sensors, microphones, cameras, user recognition (fingerprints), mobile apps and telematics.
Peevy found that more than half of the 308 shops he has spoken to since becoming CIC chairman are doing nothing to protect their businesses from the exposure of the data they are generating from the scanning process and then sharing it with third-parties without permission.
“Over half didn’t even consider it might be a liability,” said Peevy. “It’s very real, and you need to protect your business.”
The issue is currently being addressed by CIC’s newly formed Data Access, Privacy and Security Committee. Peevy recommends that shops learn more the potential liability and put a data privacy agreement in place after being reviewed by a lawyer (a sample of the ASA Pre and Post-Repair Diagnostic Scan Authorization Form can be found here: https://asashop.org/tools-resources/free-industry-tools/).
A good starting point for shops, according to Peevy, is to ask the following: Do you share data and do you know who you are sharing your data with? Do you know how they are using your data and if they are selling or distributing it to a third-party without your consent? Do you and all of your third-party partners have a data privacy agreement in place?
Growing Benefit of Attending CIC
In closing, Peevy said that with the shifts taking place in the industry and the speed they are occurring, it’s critical to increase a shop’s exposure and hear other perspectives.
“CIC is a rare and unique forum to do that, and we don’t see enough collision repairers taking advantage of it,” he said.
During the forum, he said all segments of the industry are working together to enable a complete, safe and quality repair. Everyone can come to the microphone, express an opinion, ask questions and make statements.
“If you intend to stay in the collision repair business, you need to get involved,” said Peevy. “We need your voice. Stay in the know and don’t be a victim.”
For more information about CIC and the active committees, visit https://www.ciclink.com/.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Special thanks to writer Stacey Phillips & Autobody News for allowing us to share this story. Click here if you’d like to see the ORIGINAL STORY.
Stacey Phillips is a freelance writer for the automotive industry based in Southern California. She has 20 years of experience as an editor including writing in a number of businesses and fields. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.