Mike Anderson Explains Why Collision Repair Facilities Must Be Extraordinary 

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Mike Anderson, owner of Collision Advice.

If collision professionals want to dominate, they need to “Be Extraordinary,” according to Mike Anderson, owner of Collision Advice. To do so, he said repairers must deliver an extraordinary customer experience, research OEM repair procedures, keep up with new developments and grow a team where people want to be part of the organization.

“In today’s collision repair industry, it is no longer enough to just be average,” said Anderson during a presentation held in April during the Southeast Collision Conference in Virginia. “You have to be extraordinary!”

When Anderson travels across the country, the No. 1 question he is asked is whether shops should renew their OEM certifications.

“The answer is yes,” said Anderson. “Certifications matter because of the subscription-based model OEMs are moving toward, which will change everything.”

There are two types of OEM subscriptions, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and vehicle ownership. SAAS allows users to connect to and use cloud-based apps over the internet. For example, drivers can sign up for heated seats or navigation.

With vehicle subscription programs, drivers pay a monthly fee to swap out cars. Anderson said many luxury brands, such as BMW, Cadillac, Lexus and Volvo, have rolled out programs where insurance and maintenance costs are included and only certified shops can fix the automobiles.

“There is going to be a paradigm shift where OEM referrals are going to start influencing where vehicles are going to go because of subscription-based apps,” explained Anderson.

He said a well-thought-out subscription program enables customers to make a shorter commitment compared to a lease, include all expenses associated with operating a vehicle in a monthly payment, select what cars they drive, use on-demand features and personalize OEM interaction.

For auto manufacturers, vehicle subscriptions provide an annuity revenue stream and the opportunity for frequent interactions to help understand consumers’ transportation needs.

Delivering an Extraordinary Customer Experience

Anderson said many shops expect getting certified will automatically bring in customers.

“That’s a mistake,” said Anderson. “We need to accept responsibility for getting work to the door.”

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Mike Anderson and team members Charel Lock, left, and Tracy Dombrowski, with Jeff Hendler.

This entails gaining customers’ trust and spending time on the front end, educating them about why the shop is the best choice.

“When somebody wrecks their car and calls the body shop, they feel negative emotions,” said Anderson. “We need to make them feel better that they have contacted the right place and everything will be OK.”

After asking for a callback number, he suggested mentioning the shop is certified and technicians have advanced training.

“If you are truly certificated, that is a differentiator,” said Anderson.

Anderson explained customers are looking for “social proof.”

“Just because you say you're good doesn't mean you are,” he pointed out. “They want social proof that you can be trusted.”

Examples are posting a listing on an OEM shop locator and sharing online reviews.

Anderson said the top indicator impacting customer experience is being informed. With the supply chain shortage, for example, he recommended providing the “no update” update when parts are on back order.

“You can't tell customers parts are on back order and then not call them for three weeks,” said Anderson. “You need to call every week or every couple of days and say, ‘I have nothing new to report.’”

Today’s customers, according to Anderson, have liquid expectations, meaning they are fluid and ever-changing.

“We’re moving to a world where consumers expect concierge service,” he noted.


Before the pandemic, 36% of accidents occurred outside of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., according to NHTSA statistics. Since then, Anderson said that percentage has increased to 43%. As a result, he stressed the importance of having a digital presence 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, which includes the company’s online reviews and certifications.

OEM Repair Procedures

Anderson also shared information about connected cars. In 2019, there were nearly 50 million (up from 29 million two years earlier), and 7 in 10 households are expected to have one by 2023, according to Statista and CCC Intelligent Solutions. By year-end, it is anticipated 73.6% of vehicles will be connected through telematics, meaning the OEM will be notified following an accident.

Before a repair, Anderson recommended shops check the OEM procedures to determine if the car is connected and put it in service mode. Otherwise, when it is disassembled, the OEM, the dealership service department and/or customer will likely receive a notification there is a problem.

In Anderson’s experience, the two main reasons shops don’t research OEM procedures are lack of time and knowledge.

“You need to learn how to use technology to give your people back more time,” he advised.

By using technology to conduct tasks such as entering parts invoices, analyzing the VIN and sending texts to customers, Anderson said it provides time for employees to research procedures.

Learning a manufacturer’s safety inspections is also essential.

“Most OEMs, if not all, will have safety inspections for vehicles involved in a collision,” Anderson explained. These include seat belts, steering columns, trim panels, pedals, etc.

As part of a total loss, Anderson reminded shops to remove a driver’s data, including their contact list and garage door code.

Marketing

Anderson recommended shops implement marketing programs at community events such as first responders’ classes, Recycled Rides programs, car club open houses and ladies’ nights out. He also suggests geofencing, which puts an electronic internet fence around specific GPS coordinates. Once a potential customer pulls up the GPS coordinate on the phone, the shop’s ad appears.

For shops becoming EV certified with a charging station, Anderson advised claiming the station and adding a listing on apps like PlugShare.

Cybersecurity

A big concern for insurers, according to Anderson, is cars getting hacked. “If you have an EV charging station where somebody must use their credit card to get the vehicle charged, there are people who can… hack your EV,” he said. He recommended locking down the IT infrastructure and ensuring the data pumps pulling data on the business’s computers aren’t open.

Electric Vehicles

With 30-45% of cars projected to be electric by 2030, Anderson said shops will need to make decisions based on the demographics in their area. The Western U.S. continues to see the highest rates of battery electric vehicle (BEV) adoptions and BEV repairable claim frequency, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA). Some parts of the country, including the Mountain and Eastern regions, are experiencing a more rapid increase in BEV claim frequency.

“This suggests that the trend is expanding across the country, especially as charging infrastructure becomes more prevalent,” Anderson noted.

He said EVs will do what aluminum did not---separate the shops.

“Lack of knowledge on an EV will not only hurt the vehicle, but it can also kill you,” he shared.

He encouraged shops to learn when to remove the high-voltage battery, the ideal storage area, how to monitor and check it, and fire suppression.

Growing a Team

Since the pandemic, Anderson said there are fewer people doing more work. Nearly 80,000 collision technicians are needed between 2020-2024, according to the TechForce Foundation in 2020. He advised shops to grow their teams by participating in programs such as the Collision Engineering Program, powered by the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Foundation and Ranken Technical College.

The program was designed to attract and develop entry-level talent for the collision industry and enhance the retention and advancement of technicians.

With the industry competing with employers like Amazon, Anderson recommended building a culture, evaluating how technicians are paid and the benefits offered, including flexible work schedules and career paths.

“I don’t believe in stealing fish from another man’s pond,” said Anderson. “We need to recruit by offering a more competitive compensation package.”

Stacey Phillips Ronak

Columnist
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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