What kind of technology will it take to fuel the next-generation of collision estimators? If you have read my past columns, you know I am an advocate of training and a believer in information as the toolbox for the front office in your business. Like everything else today, things are moving very fast. Vehicle technology is driven by safety and the need for higher fuel economy. Changes in the business climate in the United States and the world are filtering down and impacting every shop owner.
So here's the question that has been keeping me up at night recently: How do I find and build my next-generation estimator?
What skills will your next-generation estimator need and how will we as an industry provide the tools and training to collectively build our future?
If you thought the last five to 10 years were moving too fast, you better grab a cup of coffee and get to work. The trends are starting to shift in our favor with growth reported in accident volume, and things are starting to get better in terms of work being more available and customers returning to the front door.
One big difference is today's customers are demanding more value and service for their dollar and, please remember, I subscribe to the concept that we all have more then one customer in every repair. I consider the vehicle owner, my staff and whoever is paying the bill to be a customer. After all, each must be satisfied for them to stay my customer in the future.
Our industry has vast resources available to help build our future employees, from great technical schools to industry education programs and original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and vendor programs. But what about estimators?
In my experience, much of the industry training creates a great foundation for building estimating talent, but today an estimator must do and know so much more than before. An estimator is tasked with damage analysis, advanced sales, procurement, profitability, quality, customer satisfaction, liability, SOP compliance and above all, customer safety, not to mention learning how each vehicle manufacturer organizes its parts catalog to find what needs to be repaired or replaced. Oh yes, there is one more not-so-little piece: translating the damage on the customer's car into collision estimating software.
Imagine hiring new estimators and being able to train them to create an estimate by looking at an exploded image of the parts on a car – all the bits and pieces for let's say, the door, in one graphic, from the outside door handle to the inside door handle and everything in between.
Now take it one step further and know you can train that new hire to always look in the same place on the computer screen, because no matter what brand of car they are estimating and repairing, they'll always find the fender liner in the same image with the fender, right where it belongs.
Add to that the ability to run a simple yet advanced vehicle pre-repair electronic systems health check, and you are getting the idea of the level we all need to be prepared to reach to train our next generation of estimators – and ourselves for that matter.
Think about what it takes to become a collision repair estimator today: start in the classroom with repair techniques and OEM repair requirements, and add hands-on vehicle damage analysis and information collection.
Technology has changed every part of our daily lives. We all do more with less effort and rarely think about it.
The day is right around the corner when computer and mobile technology will enable our next generation of estimators to do more with less effort.
Placing these advanced new tools in your front office toolbox will answer the question: what kind of impact will the technology being designed into vehicles today have on our ability to build the next generation of collision estimators?