The Best Body Shops’ Tips: How to Leverage the Certified Repair Model

The Best Body Shops’ Tips: How to Leverage the Certified Repair Model

OEM certification programs are increasingly becoming a major topic of discussion among collision repair facilities across the country.

Scott Biggs, CEO and chairman of Assured Performance Network, recently shared how to leverage the certified repair provider model during an Elite Body Shop Academy webinar.

Biggs talked about the specialized business tools, processes and strategies that are crucial to successfully operating as a certified repairer in the changing marketplace.

“Nearly 90 percent of automakers in the country have a certification program or a repair network of some kind,” said Biggs. “This has permanently changed the collision repair world.”

Many shops are adopting a new business model based on becoming a certified repair provider.

Not only are the programs being designed to produce a certified repair, but Biggs said they are also focused on offering customers an exceptional repair experience. Part of this includes creating a repair plan that requires OEM procedures, documents every single repair and enforces quality control throughout the business. Biggs said these components will help the shop achieve and maintain high efficiency and profitability.

Four Contributing Factors to the OEM Certification Model

Just a decade ago, Biggs said there was a perfect storm of conditions that led to the creation of the compelling model that is altering the industry.

The first of these is commodization, which he defined as the process by which goods lose their economic value and are indistinguishable in terms of their uniqueness or brand in the eyes of the market.

“This means that your product and what you sell has the same price, look and name,” explained Biggs.

In this case, he was referring to body shops having many similarities in the early 2000s, which didn’t allow for them to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Biggs said the second condition that had a significant impact was the negativity buyers often associated with having a poor collision repair experience.

“About 62 percent of the time, if customers had a bad repair, they would blame it on the car manufacturer or the car, and they would have the propensity to change brands,” explained Biggs.

As a result, car manufacturers were spending excessive amounts of money trying to retain customers.

The threat of liability was another condition that Biggs said contributed to the OEM certification model.

“Liability always remains on the repairer or body shop,” explained Biggs.

With the advent of advanced safety features in automobiles today, he said functionality is integral to vehicle safety and is critical to the vehicle’s performance to ensure a proper repair.

“Even too much paint over a sensor could cause a deathtrap,” he said.

The fourth condition that created the perfect storm, according to Biggs, was that the majority of shops didn’t have the necessary equipment and training to repair vehicles properly.

“The shops in the industry had no choice,” said Biggs. “They realized they were going to need to retool, retrain and re-engineer. That was a daunting task.”

The Formation of Assured Performance Network

From his experience working with OEMs and shops across the country as well as sitting on various board of directors of industry associations, Biggs quickly realized something significant needed to be done to help bring about change. He established Assured Performance Network in 2004 to help address what was going on in the industry.

The non-profit consumer advocacy organization and certifying entity (501 C6) was created in 2008 to address customer service and quality issues as well as what he referred to as “repair capability.”

Within a few years, Assured Performance, the Automotive Service Association (ASA), the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) and the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers (AASP) signed a joint position statement acknowledging that OEM repair procedures are the industry’s repair standards.

“This is a milestone that has permanently changed the industry,” said Biggs. “Up until that point, it was never official that those OE procedures were, in fact, the default standard in the industry.”

Since then, Assured Performance has focused on certifying “best-in-class” collision repair businesses across the country. The company’s strategic partners include several of the largest auto manufacturers including Nissan, INFINITI, FCA, Hyundai and Kia, and others. 

Nearly 6,000 shops have been through the five-step Assured Performance auditing process, which includes management review and evaluation, proof of compliance, an onsite inspection and audit, and OEM approval. Biggs said that only the top five-to-ten percent of all businesses qualify.

“Our number one objective was to achieve full and complete market coverage with qualified operations,” said Biggs. “Certifying these shops has laid the groundwork for the next frontier.”

The Benefits of Certification

Every year, more rigorous requirements are adopted to raise the repairers’ technical capabilities and meet the industry’s growing demands.

In this environment, Biggs said a shop’s number one job is to increase the value of its business.

“If you took two businesses side-by-side and one is certified and one is not, the one that is certified is worth more,” he said.

Biggs highlighted some of the direct and indirect benefits of OE certification:

  • Being a unique differentiator and having the credentials to prove it;
  • Increasing market share through growth;
  • Gaining a competitive advantage to leverage OEM brands and credentials;
  • Developing and improving performance based on a certified repair culture;
  • The ability to attract, hire and train the best employees; and
  • The opportunity to build customer credibility and satisfaction.

Biggs also shared Kaoru Ishikawa’s model of 5M Quality Production Management Principals. He said many car manufacturers have been influenced by the Japanese theorist who referenced five principals: Man, Machine, Material, Method and Measurement. Biggs demonstrated how these principals could be applied to the collision repair industry and the certified repair model.

Man: Was the technician properly trained to repair the vehicle?

Machine: Was the shop that repaired the vehicle certified with the proper tools, equipment and facilities?

Material: Were OEM-approved parts and paint materials utilized?

Method: Were OEM repair procedures followed?

Measurement: Were the vehicle codes scanned and the actual repair documented to provide irrefutable proof the vehicle was repaired properly and is fully functional and safe?

“When you can provide all of that with proof and it can be upheld in court, you can provide a certified repair, which is the ultimate goal for your customer,” said Biggs.

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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