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Customer Experience Top Priority in Bodyshop of the Future

Press release   •   Jun 27, 2016 13:24 BST

The bodyshop of the future will be fully focused on the customer experience
  • Industry experts debate key challenges for the Bodyshop of the Future at ‘Repair Focus’
  • Efficiency and quality customer service key to providing hi-tech customer experience
  • Improving the image of the industry and attracting high calibre talent crucial
  • Industry urged to work collaboratively to identify future technology requirements and guide investment in skills and equipment

The bodyshop of the future must be fully focussed on the customer and making use of all available technology to deliver an efficient and high-tech experience. Just one of the views from cross-industry experts who gathered to discuss what the ‘Bodyshop of the Future’ would look like as part of the Thatcham Research ‘Repair Focus’ conference.

Bringing together over 450 influencers from the crash repair, insurance and vehicle manufacturing industries; automotive safety and crash repair experts Thatcham Research sparked a lively panel debate recognising the future technology, people and investment challenges facing the crash repair industry.

Whilst the need to provide a high tech customer experience was one hot topic, experts including Andy Macdonald - Senior Body Repair Program Manager at Tesla; Malcolm Banner - Managing Director at the National Accident Repair Group and Kevern Thompson - Chair of the SMMT’s Vehicle Manufacturers Body Repair Working Group, were keen to identify some of the changes and challenges immediately facing the crash repair industry in a world of connected, complex and mixed material cars.

Specialist services for new entrants
There was broad agreement that the investment power of larger groups would inevitably lead to further consolidation of the UK repair sector – a trend already in evidence. Crash repairers will also likely need to look at providing a range of additional vehicle services on top of structural repair, such as re-calibration of safety systems, cosmetic work and associated mechanical work, in order to achieve shorter repair cycle times.

Specialising in any one of these areas could still provide plenty of scope for forward thinking repairers though, the panel agreed. As could the opportunities provided by new players in the market such as Tesla, with technically advanced vehicles and demanding a bespoke repair service to provide a hi-tech customer experience in line with the manufacturers’ cutting edge brand values.

From an insurer perspective, Simon Smith - Operations Director at Solus Accident Repair Centres and AVIVA representative on Thatcham’s Executive board stated, “The industry as a whole needs to focus on what matters to the customer and then we can be clearer about the next steps. At the moment there is a great deal of emphasis on the repair itself, whilst there is still too much failure elsewhere in the end to end system. This is where we should focus our minds as this will reduce cost and enable us to spread the margins throughout the supply chain to invest in the future.”

Leadership and direction
Continued investment in skills and equipment and the need to improve the image of the industry in order to attract high calibre talent were also seen as future imperatives by the ‘Skills’ panel, chaired by Tom Hudd - Technical Services Manager at UK Assist Accident Repair Centres.

Panellists including Christine Maskill – MD at NCR Bodyshops and Dawn Swailes - HR & Training Manager at Nationwide Just Car Clinics, agreed the need to recruit from a wide range of different skill sets, including technicians, people leaders, process improvers and innovators, and to focus on nurturing and developing these people to produce future managers and opinion leaders. Apprentices will continue to have a vital role and imminent reforms to the funding framework will place more emphasis on employers and training providers in developing suitable training programmes and standards.

Dean Lander, Head of Operations at Thatcham Research agreed, ‘Supporting young talent to enter this industry is imperative. However, if you cannot then offer leadership and direction, then despite investing sums of money into an apprentices’ development, they will not stay in your business. It has been proven time and time again that mentor training and management training are critical.’

Future Proofing
Underpinning the future bodyshop is the ability for the repair industry to gain early knowledge of technology trends enabling sound investments in people and equipment. There was broad agreement amongst contributors that Thatcham Research have an important strategic role to play as a conduit between insurer, manufacturer and repairer, as well as in identifying and sharing new technical challenges and the development of new skills.

“It’s clear that there’s now a greater understanding of the trajectory for the industry and an increasingly urgent need for investment in people, knowledge, skills and equipment to strengthen and future-proof the repair sector,” concluded Thatcham Research Chief Executive, Peter Shaw.

"The industry needs to shift from analogue to digital to reflect manufacturer and customer expectations and for those who can do so the future is very exciting."

Repair Focus panellists:

Bodyshop of the Future

Simon Smith (Chair) – Operations Director – Solus Accident Repair Centres
Andy MacDonald – Senior Body Repair Program Manager – Tesla
Malcolm Banner – Managing Director – National Accident Repair Group
Tony Young –Director – ITAS
Kevern Thompson – UK Operations Manager & SMMT Chair of the Vehicle Manufacturers Body Repair Working Group – Gate Business Solutions Ltd

Skills of the Future

Tom Hudd (Chair) – Technical Services Manager – UK Assist Accident Repair Centres
Christine Maskill – Managing Director – NCR Bodyshops
Robert Snook – Director & Co-Founder – Business Success Global
Dean Lander – Head of Operations – Thatcham Research
Dawn Swales – HR & Training Manager – Nationwide Just Car Clinics

Thatcham Research is the independent voice of automotive safety & repair, advising motorists, insurers and vehicle manufacturers to help reduce accident frequency, severity and costs and to realise the vision of ‘Safer cars, fewer crashes’.

As well as its world leading crash and track research, Thatcham Research tests and accredits crash repair parts, vehicle repair technicians, and a number of other products and services within the collision repair industry for insurers, motor manufacturers, equipment manufacturers and suppliers.

A founder member of the international Research Council for Automobile Repairs (RCAR), Thatcham has also been a member of the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) since 2004.