Like many small businesses, your repair facility has seen a dramatic reduction in activity since the middle of March. Perhaps you have had to apply for programs under the CARES Act or make some adjustments to staffing with the goal to bring people back once the economy emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic. You have gone through your backlog of scheduled repairs and now face a leaner revenue stream. What are you doing to get it back on track? Decisions you make now will have implications on your future, so it is important to have a clear picture of what you want your business to look like as people get back on the roads.
Assessing Today for a Better Tomorrow
At this moment, nearly every business is assessing what they can do to safely serve customers and generate revenue opportunities. For many, this includes finding ways to deliver contactless experiences so consumers feel safe and will continue to transact. According to Apptopia, companies such as Instacart, Walmart Grocery, and Shipt saw their daily app downloads surge by 218%, 160% and 124%, respectively, compared to February levels.
In the collision repair community, contactless experiences are being handled through new pick-up and drop-off services, and growing use of digital estimates; in March and April alone CCC saw a nearly 1200% increase in consumers submitting vehicle damage photos to shops requesting a digital, or virtual, repair estimate.
While everyone hopes the pandemic will release its hold on the economy, it’s important to realize that during this period consumer experiences are changing significantly. Many activities, tasks, and transactions previously only done face to face now have a virtual component. Services offered in response to social distancing will become commonplace, and consumers will emerge with different expectations. These shifts will impact your business over the long term and should inform how you plan for the future.
Preparing for What’s Next
It may seem daunting to consider ways to adjust your business plans and investments when things were working fine only a few short months ago, but you’re not alone, as many businesses are trying new and different approaches. Restaurants have found ways to ramp up digital payments and curbside deliveries, gyms and yoga studios have taken their workouts online, and doctor offices are holding routine appointments virtually. Patrons and patients are happy to have these services offered, even if less than perfect. For the moment, expectations for how these services should be offered online haven’t been formed yet, but they soon will.
This then is the perfect time to introduce your virtual approach -testing and adjusting processes in an environment where consumers will give you more leeway. The key is to get started now so you are ready to deliver on the new digital expectation of consumers as we emerge from the pandemic to a new normal.
For most shops that have adopted photo estimating in recent months, implementing the capability has been quick and effective and the learning curve is painless. Best practices include:
- Displaying (prominently) your ability to accept online estimates on your website as well as your social media pages.
- Creating a poster of your online estimate QR code for your storefront window. This will encourage passers-by to connect virtually.
- Updating your Carwise.com profile to enable online estimate requests.
- Providing the vehicle owner with a link to view the estimate online after you receive a claim assignment from an insurance company.
- Making follow-up calls within 24 hours of getting online estimate requests to demonstrate a high level or service.
The new virtual channel into your collision center is more about the estimate itself, in effect, you are creating a lead stream. If a consumer has reached out to your business through the online estimate request link on your website, that means they have a repair opportunity for you. Use the lead as an opening to communicate with the vehicle owner. Learn more about the facts of the loss. Couple the facts that you have been given with the photos to triage the repair. The initial goal is to open a line of communication to build trust with the vehicle owner quickly and professionally. Even though the interaction may be digital, the human element is still a key factor. Ultimately, you and the vehicle owner may decide to schedule the repair right away. Alternatively, you and the vehicle owner may decide that this repair should be scheduled in the near future. Because you built trust and the vehicle owner has a good experience with you, they will be back to complete the repair.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the economy to significantly slow and businesses to be challenged. A virtual process will serve your business now and as we emerge from the pandemic. Repair facilities that are in tune with the new expectations of consumers will come out ahead in the long run. Will yours be one of them?
Written by Bart Mazurek, vice president, CCC Information Services Inc.