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CHANGE

Coping with the only constant in collision repair

Column by CHELSEA STEBNER

Change; if you’re green you’re growing—if you’re ripe, you’re rotten. It’s a silly saying but it’s true.

Another tried-and-true cliché: if the rate of change on the outside is greater than the rate of change on the inside, then the end is near. Yikes! That one comes from our old friend and mentor named Outlaw.

This past two years or so has been rife with uncertainty. The only constant was the change that waited for us every single day in the news; from the government, from our health authorities, from our education system and within each of our businesses. How did you manage to cope with the shutdowns, the constant changing requirements from the levels of government, the uncertainty of whether we’d be able to keep our doors open and whether there would even be work to do? What kind of rapid, reactive decisions did you make to ensure the longevity of your business?

At the beginning, we laid off one-third of our staff, locked our doors and moved our customer-focused processes to contactless. We used Bodyshop Booster—a great program we’d been dabbling in for six months prior—for capturing initial images and triaging claims. We promptly started sanitizing vehicles and fogging them for both customers and staff safety. We offered pickup and delivery. We adapted, sometimes daily, to government orders. Claims went down across our market by approximately 40 percent. We kept our core staff busy while preaching handwashing, social distancing and following the rules.

The adaptation of our own processes has been a learning curve. We removed some waste from our processes and realized that over the last year some of our processes were outdated and it is high time to evolve them along with the many changes our businesses are going through. With the constant change, we’ve had the opportunity to add an operations leader to our team. With her background as an engineer, the process changes, along with her teaching us accountability and sustainability, we’re slowly but surely moving forward. We are still in the thick of COVID. The topic continues to dominate conversations and conjure frustrations between and antivaxxers and the public.

Is your staff on the edge of burn out? Do you have a full team? Are they home-isolating with a child under 12? Have they been vaccinated? Have they had an exposure? This is a constant HR issue that will continue to rear its ugly head throughout this pandemic. Mental health was a big priority for our team this last year–but this Fall we hear, “let’s get back to business and back to normal!” The reality is all the aforementioned issues are still very much part of our world.

As if the last year and a half has not been enough, we are now starting to see a different challenge coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic–supply chain interruptions that are rearing their ugly heads and they seem
to be ramping up instead of winding down.

What are you doing in your shop to manage this supply chain issue that only seems to be increasing? It is a constant adaptation of our processes as we navigate this. Sometimes I think we are fighter pilots, constantly dodging bullets and making sure we’re ready to react quickly!

We are changing and adapting how we write estimates, but more importantly; how we are educating customers on setbacks we might face during the repair of their vehicle? We’re booking longer estimate appointments, utilizing a bigger skillset of our team, teaching customers about loss of use and replacement cost insurance and how to navigate the consequences of a collision. We are adaptable, us collision repair folk. We earn our livings in a reactionary business. No one plans an accident. We step up and react and help and rebuild. We’ve adapted for years; through sheet metal changes, through solvent to water base, unibody and full frames, computers, seatbelts…basically I can list every component of a vehicle and, even in the 20 plus years I’ve been in the business the change is never-ending.

If the constant change and the COVID burn out is hitting you, reach out. To me, to a trusted business friend, to a mental health professional. Business is hard at the best of times, but we are a hardy bunch. The best thing about this business is the people in it. And that’s all of you.

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