Hopefully, you were able to sing along to the modified lyrics to the song “War,” a hit performed by Edwin Starr. If you aren’t familiar with it, it is a famous song protesting war. And that probably also means that you were born in a different generation where war and protests are things you’ve only read about.
Speaking of protests, there was an informal one staged by collision repairers a few years ago. Leaders in the industry were dissatisfied with I-CAR’s direction and the level of service I-CAR provided. The training I-CAR offered was deemed outdated and to some degree was becoming more irrelevant by the day.
I-CAR listened and took action, making significant change to its training curriculum, structure and delivery methods. This led to additional, much needed changes in the requirements to attain I-CAR Gold and Platinum status.
In my humble but wise opinion, I-CAR finally did something right. They listened to their customers. They asked the entire industry for input – and then delivered.
There are pundits out there who question I-CAR’s motives. “They did it for the money,” stated one uninformed repairer. “They did it because insurance companies made them do it,” cited another uninvolved repairer.
If improving the level of training and competency of technicians is an ulterior motive, then I-CAR guilty is as charged. While you may not like the new requirements or costs, the decisions were not made in a vacuum. Many of the brightest minds in the industry participated this cataclysmic shift within I-CAR. And yes, if you were wondering, the brightest minds in the industry aren’t solely insurance company representatives.
Has I-CAR’s implementation of Pro Level training requirements been beneficial? From an insurer’s perspective, it was a significant win for the entire industry. The days of a painter taking a class on steering to attain I-CAR Platinum are now as outdated as the misconception that anyone with a toolbox on wheels is a professional body technician.
I-CAR still has a lot of other changes to make, but this is a solid foundation to build upon. I wish they would have made these changes sooner but it is indicative of the entire industry. Repairers and insurers are notoriously slow to adopt and implement change. Why should a supplier to the industry like I-CAR be any different?
I realize that there are some challenges with the new I-CAR Gold Class system and cost is at the top of the list. Small independent shops to large consolidators have publicly expressed their concerns with the cost of the training. But aside from the cost, there is no denying the need for ongoing education specific to your job and responsibilities, especially when you consider the alarming rate of change in the way vehicles are being manufactured. You will not be equipped to properly repair many vehicles without training.
I realize that there is still a lot to be desired relative to I-CAR training, but at the present time there isn’t a better alternative. I believe that the cost to train technicians would be a moot point if there was a financial incentive. Most shops don’t believe that there is a return on investment. In some ways, I agree with the premise that there is no direct return, even though there are least a few insurance companies that require Gold Class status. Insurance companies should pay a higher labor rate to those shops that have made significant investments in training as well as tooling and equipment.
“If you truly believed that, you would change it,” you might be thinking. My answer is that it isn’t that simple. The complexities of labor rates and the impact it can have on the pricing of our insurance products could make a carrier non-competitive and lose market share almost overnight. That is one example of the differences between repairers and insurers. Repairers can make a decision for their business, take accountability and understand the short- and long-term impact. Insurers do not have that luxury or the latitude to take immediate action. A decision made in one department could adversely impact several others, unknowingly to those taking the action. Policyholder retention and growth are the primary drivers of most decisions made by carriers in today’s extremely competitive marketplace. That is why there is such a focus on cost and customer service.
For now, a shop’s return on investment in training can be found in a safe and proper repair, professional technicians and reduced cycle time.
Although I would never say that I-CAR Platinum or Gold Class designations guarantee a proper repair, I believe that they increase the probability of one. Ongoing training through the Pro Levels 2 and 3 ensure that a technician’s knowledge improves and that he or she grows professionally.
I-CAR still has a lot of work to do but the longest journey starts with the first step. Hopefully, 2013 will bring about the next level of change that is needed, including more testing. This has always been a sore subject amongst those who have ever paid for or taken an I-CAR class.
The reality is that unless more insurers require I-CAR Gold Class or Gold Class shops are compensated at a higher rate, the altered lyrics in Starr’s song will continue to resonate with many in the industry.
“The Insider” is an auto insurance company executive who wishes to remain anonymous. This column reflects solely the opinion of The Insider as it offers an unvarnished look at various issues impacting the collision industry.