I should preface this column by saying I might count myself among I-CAR's harshest critics. Not at all in terms of the training I-CAR offers – I've always been a believer in the value of ongoing technical training through I-CAR. My shop was the first in my market to earn the I-CAR Gold Class designation way back in 1991, and I believe we are the only one in the state to have maintained Gold Class status every year for more than two decades. And we haven't done that because any insurance company requires us to do so. We've done it because I believe the training is good for our technicians, good for our customers, and therefore good for our shop.
But where I have thought I-CAR has fallen far short at times in recent years is in terms of customer service. Trying to get information or help with class registration or Gold Class renewal requirements or other issues has been a frustrating experience more often than not.
I start with that disclaimer only because I think it makes the praise I'm about to heap on I-CAR all the more noteworthy. Earlier this year, I-CAR contacted me (and, I believe, all Gold Class shops) to explain a new tool they are providing to help us manage our training needs, one that will make planning and executing our training efforts significantly easier.
The tool is called the "Training Schedule Report," and I think it may be the best thing I-CAR has put together in some time. The report summarizes for a Gold Class shop exactly which classes each of our employees must take prior to our shop's next Gold Class renewal date. Next to each class on the report is the name of the online I-CAR training alternative (if one exists) for the classroom course.
Clicking on any of the classes listed brings up more details about the class and a button to start the registration process. Perhaps most helpfully, the report also shows when and where each class is being offered (within 200 miles of our zip code) in the coming months.
I received the report for my shop six months before our Gold Class renewal date, and using the report, it took only a few minutes to get my employees registered for all the courses they need during that six-month period. I-CAR also has simplified the registration process, making it easier, for example, to sign up multiple technicians for the same course.
Even if earning or maintaining the Gold Class designation isn't important to you, I think registering with myI-CAR to get the report of what it would take to earn Gold Class could give you a good sense of what classes your employees should perhaps be taking.
There are several things (like color-coding some of the columns) I-CAR could do to make the Training Schedule Report even a little easier to review at a glance. But it goes a long way in helping us plan and budget for training, and in helping simplify the process of maintaining our Gold Class designation.
I hope I-CAR will continue to focus on customer service improvements just as they have with the new training programs (online and "live") they are developing.
One suggestion: By registering my techs well in advance for all the training they will need in the next six months, I ended up with a pretty hefty training expense all in one month. I love the convenience of getting it all scheduled at one time, but I'd also prefer to spread that expense out over time. It would be great if I-CAR could allow you to register all at one time for classes over the coming six or 12 months, but only have the registration fee for each of those classes charged to your credit card 30 or 60 days ahead of each of the classes.
What would you like to see I-CAR change or improve? Drop me an email with your suggestions.
Camille Eber is the second-generation owner of Fix Auto Portland East in Portland, Oregon.