Industry Leaders Share Insight About Future of Industry During 3M ‘Shop Talk’ Panel Discussion

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With a significant reduction in vehicle miles traveled since stay-at-home orders went into effect, collision repair shops across the country have felt the impact of fewer accidents.

3M recently invited industry leaders to participate in a “Shop Talk” panel discussion and share their insights about the future implications of COVID-19.

Participants included Mike Anderson, president and owner of Collision Advice, and Kristen Felder, COO of Engage Target Media and Collision Hub.

In the discussion, panelists were asked to share concerns they’ve observed from repairers as a result of COVID-19, as well as some emerging trends.

After talking to body shop owners across the country, Anderson has found most businesses have received their Small Business Administration (SBA) loan as part of the Payment Protection Program (PPP.). However, some facilities, especially those that deal with the largest national banks, still have not received their funds.

In regard to emerging trends for shop owners, Felder said business management is top of mind.

“For a lot of shop owners, the business just ran itself in a lot of ways,” said Felder. “Now, they are really thinking about their businesses and reflecting on the decisions they made.”

She said this includes employee development and how to retain and develop workers.

The panel host brought up the mass speculation that once there is a return to some semblance of normal, drivers will prefer traveling in personal vehicles rather than use mass transit. The panelists predicted people are going to start traveling in their own vehicles and miles driven is going to increase. As that occurs, accidents are expected to increase, and shops will find themselves getting busier.

Felder said this increase is already becoming apparent.

“We know airline travel is not where it needs to be, but some airline rental agencies are reporting that business is going back close to normal,” she said.

“When we get through this, you are going to hear a lot of pent up anxiety and people are going to be hitting the roads in unpreceded numbers,” Anderson agreed. “I think they are going to want to start driving… and taking more local vacations.”

He also forecasted there will be a continued focus on technology and new insurance processes, including virtual inspections and increased use of video.

“This situation has forced shops to adapt to technology really quickly,” said Anderson. “I think that shops that have younger, tech-savvy millennials are going to dominate and come out strong.”

However, Anderson cautioned shops to ensure they are looking at procedures and recommendations from a credible source.

“There’s no such thing as a certified YouTube technician,” he said.

Felder said shops should expect to see more changes in the claims handling process and insurers will likely struggle with how to hire and train field staff.

“Insurers are going to be struggling how to support that,” she said. “In the meantime, shops are going to feel the brunt of it and need to learn how to navigate through this because they ultimately want to get the car repaired.”

The panelists were optimistic about the future of the industry and encouraged shops to reflect on the positive changes ahead.

Looking forward five years, they predicted shops will continue implementing and following no-touch processes as a result of COVID-19. At the same time, businesses will be faced with how to best deal with safe and proper repairs, as technology continues to evolve and cars have an increasing amount of Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) features.

“There is a lot of positive that is going to come out of this,” said Anderson. “Shops need to prepare themselves to work on speed and efficiency. Anything you can do to help shops gain efficiencies is going to benefit everybody.”

Felder said shop owners need to take a close look at their business plans.

“There are businesses in this country that have solid business plans focused on the consumer, and those shops are doing OK,” she said. For businesses that focused on volume, she said, when volume is interrupted, it affects cash flow.

“There were some exposed weaknesses in the industry and I’m personally glad that we are going to have a chance to talk about it and work with shops to reinvent some things,” said Felder. “There are exciting things ahead for us.”

Stacey Phillips Ronak

Stacey Phillips Ronak is an award-winning writer for the automotive industry and a regular columnist for Autobody News based in Southern California.

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