By Steve Knox
Toronto, Ontario -- October 5, 2018 -- In August, I found myself in a conversation that has stuck uncomfortably in my mind. During lunch with a colleague—a veteran in the Canadian collision world—we were discussing industry changes, and how repair businesses have needed to adapt to address them. The cars we work on are not like the old ones. Customer expectations are much higher, legal implications of poor repairs are huge, and so on.
I began talking about how I have an upcoming CCIF event to attend, and I asked if he would be going. His reply was, “What’s the point of those anyways?” I was floored. Early in my career, there was a CCIF event coming up locally. An insurance field appraiser came into my office and asked if I was attending.
The visitor explained how the presentations at those meetings are so important to our industry and how I should be going. I thought, “I have enough on my plate here, why would I go and rub elbows with a bunch of insurers?” I didn’t go. Years passed, and I kept working in my little shop in the back of a dealership, and kept selling the same high quality work in the same manner as we always had. Being in a Ford dealership, I saw new technology in cars coming through, but hadn’t paid much attention to how these new cars may affect me.
One day, I had an issue of Collision Repair land on my desk. I thumbed through it, and saw photos of some of the insurers I knew, and some of my local competitors at a big meeting in Toronto - CCIF. The article went on to discuss how they were talking about upcoming changes in technology, software and hardware to support these changes, and the effects that it will have on the industry.
“Hmmm,” I muttered to myself, “There might be some good information there. Perhaps I could show how our shop is interested in keeping up with the cars that are being sold on our showroom floor.”
The following January, I went to Toronto for the big meeting. I ran into most of my product supplier’s specialists they employ. They answered my specific questions that had been plaguing me about their products. I met image desk people and insurance managers who I had only spoken to over the phone, and was able to begin a face-to-face relationship. I heard how the issues I had were not mine alone, they were industry issues. I heard of changes that were being forecasted to affect our repairs over the next decade. I found out that my little corner of the dealership was no different than all of the other collision centres out there. This was my true introduction to the community that I was already part of.
As the years have passed, and I’ve attended meeting after meeting, I’ve learned how truly important attendance is at CCIF. Our industry is changing now so rapidly that we need now more than ever to stay on top of it. Connected cars are being sold every day in Canada. If the average vehicle on the road is near ten years old, we all had better be ready to have an entirely different business model less than ten years from now.
These issues are being discussed at every CCIF meeting this year. I told my colleague all of this, and hope the message struck home, but I am all too aware of the fact that he isn’t the only member of the collision repair community to wonder about the purpose of the CCIF and like-minded organizations. It is easy to disengage from the changes hitting the collision repair community. It is easy to be cynical about efforts to prepare for the future.
My message to the Canadian collision community is this: if you want to understand where we are going as an industry, and learn about how to survive, reserve a seat. It’s important—none of us are in this industry alone.