Shop Strategies, COVID Edition: Collision Repair Owner and Entrepreneur Develops Technology Claims Solution for Industry
Written by Stacey Phillips, Autobody News
Published Dec. 21, 2020
Bill Park, co-founder and board member of Spartan Ventures, said his background is rooted in the auto body repair trade.
While growing up, Park's father told him if he wanted to drive something nice someday, he would have to “figure it out.”
After painting his first vehicle when he was 14 years old, he realized he had found a hobby. He attended the University of Arizona to become an orthopedic surgeon and repaired and painted cars at night. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in molecular and cellular biology and minoring in math, he couldn’t find a job. A doctor told Park he felt his passion lay elsewhere.
“That was a wake-up call and I decided to open a body shop,” said Park. “What drives me is creating an organization where people can show up and do their best work. I want to be an integral part of creating the opportunity for people to really enjoy being productive, serving others and challenging themselves to become a better version of themselves.
"I believe people live a happier life when they are productive and have a voice in their day-to-day work.”
AXIOM accident repair centre in the United Kingdom.
His vision for Spartan Ventures is to create global businesses within the automotive collision and hail repair industry. The companies include AXIOM Collision Repair in the U.S., AXIOM accident repair centres in the UK, The 300 Advantage, PDR Mobile Solutions and The Claims Bridge International.
I recently talked to the entrepreneur about how he has operated his companies during the pandemic and the recent platform technology his team developed to support the various entities and the industry.
Can you provide an overview of your companies?
At AXIOM Collision Repair in the U.S. and UK, our goal is to deliver 85% of all repairs in three days or less. We accomplish this by using what I refer to as the AXIOM triage method for scheduling and repair allocation. Damage minimization is a key factor as well.
The 300 Advantage provides hail repair management solutions for body shops, dealerships and fleet companies. With a national team of mobile repair technicians, we have more than 30 teams working in the field at any given time.
PDR Mobile Solutions supports the hail repair business estimatics, analytics and field operations for our mobile hail technicians.
The Claims Bridge International consists of a team of experienced U.S. and international insurance, reinsurance, claims and repair executives who joined forces to “reimagine” catastrophic auto hail claims and find a better way of handling these events for customers. We recently developed a technology solution for the industry.
What were your biggest challenges this year operating a national repair network during the pandemic?
It has been a difficult year for everyone. I’m appreciative of all of our employees, colleagues and customers across the U.S. for soldiering through 2020 and showing amazing resilience in a year that has seen the most significant economic disruption of our lifetimes.
The No. 1 challenge for us was access to customers and their vehicles to properly assess hail and/or crash damage. The fear factor of COVID-19 had a massive impact on when customers would file and/or take action to settle their claim. People just didn’t leave their homes unless it was absolutely necessary.
The silver lining here is that consumers are more engaged with self-serve options. With the consumer being more involved from a digital/virtual perspective, this will allow our businesses to prosper and leverage technology solutions to improve the customer experience.
Lastly, insurers had so many different requirements due to COVID-19 it was difficult to deliver what they needed, especially in the format they wanted. It was very challenging and no doubt frustrating for customers, and I feel that drove cost higher.
COVID may have stopped many things, but not accidents and hail storms! The silver lining is insurers are becoming open-minded and willing to interact with their insureds and repairers in a digital environment. It’s not an easy leap, but a necessary one that will drive future interactions.
How have you overcome these challenges?
Overcoming customer fear was outside our span of control; however, we offered a contactless digital assessment tool that the vehicle owner could use to triage the damage. We also provided a variety of additional contact-free services, as well as a concierge service. Our goal was to provide a level of peace of mind with customers, so they would feel their well-being was top of mind.
The biggest challenge with insurers was providing the proper documentation to support the damage on the vehicle in this new norm. Photos and video were some options used, but this was all very difficult to process and time-consuming.
How is COVID-19 driving more collaboration and innovative technology solutions across the industry?
I believe the pandemic’s challenges have fostered more collaboration and people’s mindsets are becoming more focused on solving problems rather than hoarding solutions. As a result, barriers will come down, insurtech solutions will grow, and innovation will be top of mind.
Fortunately, we have access to estimating platforms that can link the entire supply chain, but can only be used by people outside of the insurers’ legacy systems. This puts unnecessary constraints on the entire ecosystem.
The industry norms, legacy systems and proprietary platforms often mean insurers are not taking advantage of the latest technology. However, COVID-19 has encouraged many insurers to reassess the role technology can play and I am sure 2021 will see insurers partner to accelerate their digital transformation.
What prompted your team to develop an InsurTech technology?
During the pandemic, we looked at ways to engage the claims process and the insureds’ needs through a virtual, contact-free experience. As a business owner, one of my priorities is to look for technology that can bring speed and ease of settlement for the customer.
I partnered with an international team, The Claims Bridge International, to develop an end-to-end digital solution for managing hail claims and repairs called EziClaims Suite.
What are some of the highlights of EziClaims Suite and how will it help the claims process?
Imagine 180,000 claims being filed from a hail event in a matter of a few days. When you think about the number of people impacted by a hail storm it’s not surprising that the claims system and repairer networks get overwhelmed quickly.
EziClaims Suite was designed to solve that problem by providing the customer an instant link to a web-enabled app where they can initiate a claim and document the damage. This provides the vehicle owner with an immediate solution to resolve the claim, and it provides the insurance company with the data necessary to assess the overall severity of the storm.
This is an imperative step to properly allocate the resources necessary to serve customers.
The Claims Bridge provides access to a national paintless dent repair (PDR) network that can reduce the wait time for repairs. It’s not uncommon for customers to wait eight to 12 months to get their cars repaired. The expanded repair network will reduce the wait time considerably, which will improve overall customer satisfaction.
What are your views on 2021 from a business perspective and the ongoing impact of COVID-19 in the U.S.?
I think 2021 will be very similar to 2020, unless industry leaders act soon. Contactless and virtual solutions will need to be an integral part of serving the customer; if not, it could be a real disaster from a customer experience standpoint.
People are ready to self-serve and the industry needs to accept that and stop saying, “We don’t do it that way” or “It can’t be done that way” or “Put your statement here.”
Looking ahead, I feel optimistic about 2021. We will be prepared to serve our customers both virtually and in person. The expectations around the pandemic are in place across the country and there is a tremendous amount of effort being put forth to enhance the customer experience.
In light of the current challenges, what is your advice to business leaders?
2021 can be the year of innovation to be sure, and the collision repairers who figure that out will reap the benefits long into the future. My only fear is that organizations will be too afraid to be bold.
My advice is to “Never let a good crisis go to waste” (Churchillism.) There has never been a more perfect time for a digital shift than today.
I’m 100% confident we can figure this out, and the benefits will be huge across the entire ecosystem. Those who believe it can be done will get it done.
Think of Netflix and Blockbuster. Blockbuster could have owned Netflix for $50 million, but they didn’t have the vision or courage. The rest is history.