The considerations of mobile repair work
Story by MAX REID
As a host of economic hurdles continue to put pressure on Canada’s repair shops, what other revenue streams could you explore?
For most of the body shop industry’s recent history, the struggle has been how to bring more and more services in-house—first paint, when it was a separate department, then the advent of in-house mechanics in body shops and now ADAS calibration, which has become a full-fledged department in some cases. But what if you want to do the opposite? How could you position yourself to offer some of these services on your customers’ terms, at their homes or businesses?
There’s a long, unwritten list of do’s and don’ts from managers who have offered mobile repair services in the past—some have seen their businesses reach new heights and solidify their position in the community—while others have been overwhelmed by the unforeseen complexities that can accompany these services.
The first aspect of the mobile industry that managers tend to overlook is the issue of liability. Taking what is usually a highly regulated and controlled procedure, such as a dent removal for example, and bringing it to a complete stranger’s driveway poses a whole host of challenges to be met and overcome.
Technicians don’t normally have to deal with issues such as bad weather or a lessthan- ideal workspace when working from their home shop, but when these services are offered on the road, anything is possible. Vern Gervais, national director of glass operations for NOVUS, says some of the body shop industry’s biggest competitors have entered the mobile services arena. “When we look at the largest competitors in the industry, [mobile repair] is a significant part of their business. The reality is that it’s an industry standard, so you must decide if you want to be in the industry or if you want to be someone who watches the industry from the sidelines.
“There are many elements to [NOVUS’] mobile strategy—direct customer contact is only one part of the business. That aspect of the business, as we approach automation, will become more difficult,” Gervais told Collision Repair.
“The flip side of mobile is business-to-business, where we go to our commercial customers, fleets, transportation companies —companies where it’s difficult to get those vehicles to us. That opens the door for an existing franchisee to solicit different types of work from their customers.”
Other questions include how a shop determines which technicians work in the field and which work in-house. Having your top technician on the road meeting with customers seems like an intriguing idea at first, but when it comes time to check the books at the end of the month, you may find that less work was done by that technician, due to the time spent traveling to job sites, and perhaps your internal metrics even start to change to reflect the workflow of a different team.
Also, with gas prices soaring over the past year, the prospect of spending both labour hours and gas money on repairs that are generally low stakes can be a tough pill to swallow for a collision center manager in 2022.
Liability is another consideration, but no more so than in your own production shop. “Every one of our commercial operators, they’re all insured for every potential scenario that could happen,” Gervais said. “There’s nothing we would do in your driveway that would be different than what we would do on the shop floor. Our equipment is safe, our safety procedures are the same, our repair processes are the same. “Fortunately, glass removal and installation is a clean operation. There is a multitude of new equipment that allows for one-person installation. I don’t see it being a big challenge and I can tell you anecdotally that never in all the years I’ve been in this business have I encountered a problem in a private residence.”