Technology Can Improve Collision Repair Process — But Only If It’s Used

Mike Anderson of Collision Advice says industry stakeholders need to trust each other to create solutions that will benefit everyone.

Technology can save time and improve the customer experience. Image via Shutterstock.

The collision repair industry should embrace new technology to improve collaboration between repairers, insurers, parts distributors and customers, according to Mike Anderson, who presented “Embracing Technology to be Successful in the Collision Industry,” a CIECA webinar on Feb. 22.

Anderson is a former Virginia-based MSO owner, who now owns Collision Advice.

Anderson said the collision repair industry lags behind many others in using technology, and he thinks it boils down to a lack of trust.

“Let’s talk about what can be accomplished if we had full transparency and trust between all stakeholders,” he said.


Shops need to ensure customers’ personal identifying information is erased from total loss vehicles before they go to a salvage yard. Anderson said he is also concerned about how often he sees shops sharing pictures on social media that show a vehicle’s license plate.

“I appreciate techs want to post the quality of their work but at the end of the day, it’s about consumer privacy,” he said.

Anderson said it might be time to rethink the customer survey experience. Customers in a recent focus group reported “survey fatigue”: after filling out one survey, be it from the rental car company, insurer or shop, they tended to feel more negative toward the rest.

“Do we need to have all these different entities doing surveys, or can we just agree on one common solution that can be accepted by all parties?” Anderson said. “We have to ask ourselves if we want to continue with surveys, or are online reviews going to be the survey of the future?”

Customer Service

Anderson said technology can make shops “available” 24/7 to receive estimate requests or schedule an appointment, through their websites or Google business listing. An AI-powered chat feature could be used to answer questions, or to answer calls for a tow.


According to a recent “Who Pays for What?” survey, only 31% of shops research OEM repair procedures “all the time” and 29% “most of the time.” Anderson said the most common reasons for not doing that are “I don’t have enough time” followed by “I don’t know how.” Neither are acceptable excuses, Anderson said.

“That’s very scary for me on behalf of the consumer,” he said.

However, he acknowledged, there can be 300 to 400 documents to research just to replace a quarter panel.

“We need to use technology to figure out how can we speed up this process,” Anderson said. “I would like to see technology that can figure out the difference in estimates when a collision repairer comes up with one figure and the insurance carrier or third-party payer comes up with another.”

Another issue is the fact one-time use parts are not identified in electronic parts catalogs, only in electronic service manuals or repair procedures, so estimators must look up those parts separately.

“OEMs could supply info to third-party estimators to find symbols or words like ‘replace’ or ‘discard,’” Anderson said “I have to believe technology could do that.”

AI can be best put to use by giving it a shop’s historical data to figure out its optimum Work in Progress (WIP), to streamline the scheduling process to increase throughput.

“Listen, throughput benefits everyone,” Anderson said. “But what’s holding us back is getting down to trust -- between other software companies, equipment companies. We all need to learn how to play in the sandbox together.”

Parts Departments

Estimating systems are not 100% accurate at identifying one-time use parts, Anderson said. Improving that would help parts employees so they don’t have to research them.

The industry should embrace solutions that allow a vendor to export an invoice back into a shop’s management system, Anderson said.

“There are some management systems do that today but the problem is on the wholesale parts department side -- if there’s a part that’s not ordered from me, that throws the whole system out of whack. Let’s stop the madness,” he said.

He also suggested a website where a shop’s accounting department could go to find a missing parts credit, instead of having to spend time on the phone tracking it down, and programs to show inventory at the warehouse so repairers can make more accurate decisions on when to schedule a vehicle.

Accounting and Human Resources

Anderson suggested getting dealership accounting software companies involved in CIECA, so they can see how to make it integrate with body shop management systems.

There is also no software system for the industry specific to HR. Anderson, who conducts OEM certification training, said he often gets emails from shops whose technicians’ certifications are near expiration and need to get them in a class on short notice. A program could auto generate reminders to update certifications.

Software systems could also provide a more modern onboarding experience to anyone who comes to work in the industry.

Wholesale Parts Vendors

Shops want wholesale parts distributors that accept electronic parts ordering, process credits in a timely manner, have good inventory, great communication and the ability to scrub parts order by VIN, Anderson said. Dealerships also want electronic parts ordering, as well as distributors that pay bills on time and have minimal returns.

“Electronic is the common theme,” Anderson said.

Insurance Carriers

A focus group of about 40 field appraisers working for a top 10 carrier said they would appreciate, when they get an assignment, being told details like there are dogs at the customer’s house.

They also said they want the ability to figure out electronically the difference between their and the shop’s estimates, because it takes a lot of time to do so manually.

Refinish Suppliers

Anderson said shops buy parts from their jobber or distributor in as many as 13 different “buckets,” double the number from eight to 10 years ago.

“We need to talk about how we reclassify some of these things, what is actually paint materials and what is not,” he said.


There is a need for a program to streamline the process to write a repair estimate for a vehicle damaged during transportation, Anderson said.

OEMs also need to get the electronic parts catalog division to talk to the electronic service manual division so one-time use parts are identified, then push that to estimating systems.

A lot of shops are purchasing OEM scan tools but not getting the training to use them properly, Anderson said. Online training on using those tools would be helpful.

Equipment Manufacturers

Anderson said technology could be used to automate updates for equipment, as those can be critical to consumer safety. Network management tools could push out notifications to update equipment as needed.

Final Thoughts

“Software can be used for the good of the industry, to save people time and give them quality of life and a better consumer experience, it can be used to ensure safe and proper repairs and increase profitability,” Anderson said.

Anderson acknowledged technology comes with questions, like the morality of using parts price-matching software or the risk of data pumps that report estimates to vehicle history report generators like CARFAX.

“I just want to help everyone in our industry so that their team, or your staff, has a better quality of life,” he said. “The key to that is what can we do to help our industry go back to where people trust each other again? Let’s use technology to help our industry keep up with others.”

Abby Andrews

Abby Andrews is the editor and regular columnist of Autobody News.

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