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Monday, 02 October 2017 21:04

Recent “Who Pays for What?” Survey Looks at Body Labor Operations, Estimating System Use, Training

Written by
Mike Anderson of Collision Advice Mike Anderson of Collision Advice


Mike Anderson of Collision Advice said his “Who Pays for What?” surveys continue to show that even when a significant percentage---or even a majority---of shops report routinely being paid for a particular "not included" operation, there can be many other shops not even putting it on their estimates. 


“Clean-up of old urethane” following removal of glass is a good example of this. Although 37 percent of all shops taking the “Who Pays” survey in April said they are paid for this operation “most” or “all” of the time when it is needed and billed for, more than 60 percent of the shops responding to the question are not even billing for it.


Similarly, 58 percent of shops said they are paid “most” or “all” of the time to “replace vapor barriers” when it is necessary, particularly on vehicles with airbag pressure sensors within the doors, but about 40 percent of shops say they haven’t billed for that procedure.


“If you don't bill for it, you will never be paid for it, yet the biggest percentage of shops not billing for these procedures say they never thought of billing for them when they are required as part a repair,” Anderson said. “These surveys were designed to help raise that awareness.”


The latest of the 2017 “Who Pays” surveys, focused on aluminum repair and shop supplies, is being conducted throughout the month of October. Click here for more information or to take the survey.


Each of the quarterly surveys, conducted by Collision Advice and CRASH Network, focuses on a different aspect of collision repair, asking shops about which “not-included” procedures they bill for, and about how frequently each of the largest auto insurers pays for those procedures. More than 1,000 shops across the country responded to the April “Who Pays” survey on body labor operations.


The surveys break the results down by 11 different geographic regions, and they have found some modest regional differences in shop billing practices. Shops in the New England region, for example, are more likely to charge for the "not-included" body repair operations than are shops in other U.S. regions. The contrast is particularly clear when New England is compared to the South Central region, where the percentage of shops saying they "never asked" to be paid for not-included body repair operations is the highest. Combining all 21 repair body labor procedures asked about in the survey shows that shops in the South Central states did not seek payment on these procedures in 35.6 percent of cases. That compares to just 20.8 percent of the cases in New England facilities.


Even though these two regions represent both the "most" and "least" likely to itemize “not-included” operations on invoices, shops in both regions appear to have the same likelihood of being paid for these procedures when they do include them on their estimates. In New England, shops reported being paid "always" or "most of the time" for these procedures in 64.5 percent of the cases, when they include them on their estimates. In the South Central region, that figure is just 3.6 points lower (60.9 percent), a difference that is not statistically significant.


In addition to the body labor operations, the April survey also asked shops about their choice of estimating and electronic parts systems; body labor and storage rates; and how much training shop employees receive. 


Nationally, for example, the median number of hours of training provided to technicians is 10 per year. A discouraging 13 percent of shops admitted to providing zero hours of training per year. Others are offering 40 or more hours to each of their technicians, though that amount of training is higher than that offered by 95 percent of all other shops.


CRASH Network compared those findings to numbers reported earlier this year by the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) “Education and Training Committee.” The committee asked paint manufacturers and automakers how much annual training they believe technicians should be receiving. Asian vehicle manufacturers said technicians should get between 16 and 20 hours of annual training, while domestic vehicle manufacturers suggested 19 to 27 hours annually, and European automakers called for even more, 23 to 76 hours. Paint manufacturers on average thought painters should receive about 24 hours of training each year.


“If the ‘Who Pays for What?’ results are indicative of the entire industry, then 75 percent of all shop technicians are not getting enough ongoing training,” Anderson said.


The survey also found a sizable drop in the number of repair facilities with multiple estimating systems compared to the prior year. About 26.5 percent of more than 750 shops answering the estimating system question said they had two or more systems installed, down from 34.1 percent who reported having more than one estimating system in 2016.


AudaExplore appears to have lost the most customers among those with two or more systems during this period, with a drop of 8.5 percentage points in the number of facilities that said they use that system. Mitchell International saw a drop of 4.8 percentage points. This trend may be due to shifting insurer requirements, given that 40 percent of AudaExplore users say the primary reason they chose the system is because an insurer requires it. The same is true for 38.5 percent of Mitchell users.

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