Paying It Forward in Vehicle Repair Education

Written by Betsy Fata, Solera Content Writer

If you pay attention to the automotive news cycle, you’ll hear a familiar refrain: there’s a widespread shortage of skilled technicians. Shops and dealerships have been hurting for entry-level workers for many years now, and the need is only increasing as more vehicles, often with complex technology packages, are rolled out to consumers. 

CREF, the Collision Repair Education Foundation, estimates there are 14,000 new job openings every year, due to turnover and workers leaving the industry, which means 14,000 new technicians are needed each year to keep the industry growing and thriving. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the job outlook for educated automotive service technicians is very positive—so, what explains the lack of bodies to fill these bays 

One potential deterrent could be the perceived difficulty of the career in relation to the expected pay. Sure, you can potentially earn more as a full-time Starbucks barista than as a first-year technician. Carpentry and trucking have starting salaries similar to this kind of trade work. However, according to CREF’s Director of Development, Brandon Eckenrode, if technicians are willing to put in the hard work in the beginning of their career, they can potentially make six figures in as little as five years. It may be that the level of difficulty and technical skill required is enough to deter younger workers from entering the field, despite the potential payoffs.  

The schools responsible for educating and training the next generation of technicians face constant uphill battles with each incoming class—lack of funding and scarce resources have contributed to a decrease in U.S. schools, with more than 100 of these specialized programs closing in the last five years.  

But it’s not all doom and gloom. CREF is one of several organizations determined to build up the industry’s workforce and educate skilled men and women to address the growing need for techs. Since 2013, the number of schools CREF supports has grown from 443 to 599, awarding grants and donating materials to the programs that sorely need the resources. 

Many educators are forced to come up with their own materials to train students or even dumpster dive for spare parts to show in class. With the support of CREF, these teachers can equip their classes with brand-new equipment, donated software and crucial items like safety glasses. 

Bodyshops have also started giving back to these programs and contributing materials and spare parts that will help the future workforce gain valuable experience in the classroom and in the shop. In case you’re not moved by our podcast on this topic and the stories of dedicated teachers stretching just $50 per student for an entire year of class, consider a high-school class whose program can’t afford to purchase professional shop shirts for the students. Knowing that a professional look can help students feel confident and work at their best level, local businesses have started sponsoring uniforms and outfitting students in the look of a polished, skilled technician—proving the old adage that even a small thing can make a big difference.  

CREF was founded under the name I-CAR Education Foundation in order to fund schools and train a workforce that was steadily aging. CREF created and distributed curriculum to the high schools and colleges so students could graduate with industry-recognized training and entry-level skill sets. In 2008, CREF became a solely philanthropic entity and has since raised over $100 million in support for these programs. 

If you’d like to learn more about education and donation opportunities with CREF, please visit collisioneducationfoundation.org 

Simple Tips to Protect Your Shop from Cyberattacks

Simple Tips to Protect Your Shop from Cyberattacks

Written by Betsy Fata, Solera Content Writer

Cybersecurity can seem like a complex issue. We all know we need it; however, the installation and facilitation of high-quality software and systems is pretty daunting. Luckily, we have some practical tips for shops and business of all sizes—and budgets—to follow for safe and secure business operations.  

Keep Customers First 

Treat cybersecurity as an integral part of customer service. Your shop goes above and beyond the call of duty to ensure customers leave your shop happy—you should be treating their data and protecting your systems the same way you treat their vehicle. 

Investments in high-tech systems may not be feasible for you; however, you can make cybersecurity a top priority through your actions and priorities. Meet weekly with your staff to discuss best practices and educate them on the cost of attacks—ransomware, a type of software designed to deny access to a system or data until a ransom is paid, is expected to become a $11.5B industry by the end of this year. Host a local IT team to present on tips for shoring up network vulnerabilities. When customers feel confident in sharing information with you, they’ll be more likely to return for service. 

Know Your Level of Vulnerability 

Every 14 seconds there is a ransomware attack somewhere in the world. If you’re doing business, your data is valuable. Hackers will try to destroy, obtain or make your data unusable unless you pay a ransom. It may be hard to imagine, but there are lists of connected devices out on the internet for hackers to query and unleash mass attacks on. These devices include, but aren’t limited to, everyday tech like laptops, phones and Internet of Things devices, such as an Alexa or a smart thermostat. If you happen to be one of the thousands of users running an outdated PC, you may be targeted simply due to lack of security updates on your device. However, by no means are attacks simply random or senseless—nearly half of all cybersecurity incidents in 2018 were committed against small business owners, and 71% of those were financially motivated. Just because you may run a smaller outfit doesn’t mean you’re not at risk. A monthly subscription for ransomware protection and a strong list of passwords (never written down) are simple ways to protect your business and devices from random or targeted attacks.    

Be Skeptical and Discerning  

A more recent tactic of cyber hackers is to appeal to targets on a personal level. A hacker may email or call your business under the guise of a desperate family member or friend seeking money or private information. They may claim to represent the IRS and ask for verification of your personal or professional identity in order to file your taxes. Be very cautious about giving away any information to someone over the phone or over email. Verify their identify by asking for a reference ID number or their name and agent ID. If they claim to be a personal relation, ask them questions that only the supposed individual would know. Go beyond public information such as name, address and phone number or personal data points like a dog’s name, something someone could find easily on social media. You won’t sound foolish, you’ll sound shrewd, even if it is in fact an acquaintance.  

Do What You Can 

Installing a million-dollar security software may be out of reach for you. However, there are plenty of inexpensive and free resources for you to protect your data and your customers. You may even look to hire an IT consulting company to perform a security health check. If so, be sure this partner understands your business before you pay for their solutions. Cybersecurity is a multibillion-dollar industry. You want to partner with someone who understands your business and your data landscape.  

There’s always more to learn about protecting yourself and your business from malicious cyber activity. Take an hour each week to skim cybersecurity-related blogs and test yourself and your staff to learn how to properly identify cyber threats. Here are a few resources we recommend: 

Staying educated is the first step to combating cyber threats—so keep your staff informed and be on the lookout for more tips from Solera. 

And listen to our new podcast, Solera Innovation Labs, where we feature industry experts and discuss the future of the automotive ecosystem. Subscribe to the podcast on your favorite channel to be notified when new episodes drop.  

Small Changes for Big Gains in Bodyshops 

In a recent episode of the Solera Innovation Labs podcast, our collision repair guru Don Mikrut interviewed Gethyn Davies, Head of Bodyshop Commercial Development for Audatex UK and a collision industry expert, on small changes a bodyshop owner could make for incremental improvements to their business operations. We’ve highlighted some of those small changes here, in a post originally featured on audatex.co.uk 

In September, we launched our ebook Small Changes, Big Differences in the Bodyshop, looking at how marginal gains can improve the bottom line of modern vehicle repair businesses. In this small changes series, we will delve into the incremental gains which can be made from streamlining bodyshop workflows, and investigate how bodyshops can improve profit margins by protecting the estimate. 

Streamlining the Workflow 

With the workshop placed firmly at the center of high-value work, it is easy for owners to focus on how quickly and effectively technicians are completing repair work. The danger here is that any costly inaccuracies within the shop’s wider assessment or administrative processes can quite easily fall by the wayside and impact the overall profits gained on each job. 

Although every repair is different, many bodyshops typically follow an independent staff model where techs have a decent amount of autonomy. When that model is deviated from, it impacts the amount of collective resources it takes to carry out repairs. While it may seem obvious, finding efficiencies in the repair workflow, from estimate to completion, can eliminate non-valuable work and protect every dollar made on each repair.  

It’s important to look at the individual processes themselves and consider whether any areas of your bodyshop are running on outdated processes. These may have been introduced initially as workarounds for specific issues or simply to get something done quickly. However, they are likely now standard practice and may not necessarily be the best and most effective ways to work.  

So, where do you start? 

Implementing a resource portal or documenting FAQs for staff to access easily can provide ongoing support and minimize periods of downtime which threaten the progress and overall profits made on repairs. While the impact may not be immediately visible, the small efficiencies gained will add up over time, shaving essential seconds, minutes and eventually hours from repair work. 

Protecting the Estimate 

The vehicle damage assessor is at the heart of bodyshop profitability. Every estimate must be carried out with maximum accuracy to ensure technicians have a clear blueprint of the exact work accounted for within the cost of the estimate.  

With bodyshops already operating within extremely tight margins, any work completed in addition to that accounted for on the original assessment inevitably adds on further time and costs required to complete the repair. When this occurs, the assessor needs to go back and revise the estimate to account for all the work completed.  

Taking simple steps to provide a constant flow of communication and in-repair images between the assessors and technicians can improve the clarity over the work required and allow workshop staff to raise questions when necessary to avoid any additional work being carried out and not captured within the assessment.  

While at first this may seem to add another step to the repair process, by documenting communications and providing the required evidence for each step, this could ultimately determine whether a profit is lost or gained on a job. 

To read more, download the full ebook here: https://www.audatex.co.uk/news/small-changes. And don’t forget to subscribe to the Solera Innovation Labs podcast to get notified when new episodes drop.  

Celebrating Innovations That Transform Mobility

Celebrating Innovations That Transform Mobility

Written by Betsy Fata, Solera Content Writer

Research tells us that humans have been riding horses as a primary mode of transportation for more than 5,000 years. We’ve only been driving cars for 100 years, but mobility has changed dramatically in just a century’s time.

Today’s cars are equipped with more technology than most drivers are aware of, typically run by a single computer or multiple systems monitoring the engine, transmission, air bags, pressure and temperature levels, sensors measuring objects on the periphery and much more. Mobility as we know it is fundamentally changing thanks to “four disruptive and mutually reinforcing major trends—autonomous driving, connectivity, electrification and shared mobility,” according to McKinsey. These trends are predicted to chart mobility’s course for the next century, and open up opportunities for new players in the automotive space to revolutionize the way we get from Point A to Point B 

Autonomous Driving 

Experts have identified five levels of autonomy in relation to mobility (note that there is arguably a level zero, at which the vehicle is not “smart” at all and the human performs every action). See here IIHS.org’s breakdown of the levels of vehicle automation. 

There is even a distinction between “automated” and “autonomous” cars that drivers should pay attention to: an automated car, or self-driving car, is not completely autonomous and needs a human to complete certain driving tasks; a fully autonomous vehicle, or a driver-less vehicle, does not need any human intervention. Even the newest Tesla model is considered Level 2 and its driver must be engaged in some aspects of the driving experience. Several intriguing statistics have surfaced to show that some drivers have not embraced the automated trend due to safety concerns or the simple fact that driving is pleasurable and they don’t want to give it up; needless to say, we’ll be watching this trend closely as technology advances, potentially in the face of human desire.  

Connectivity 

Vehicle connectivity refers to communication between vehicles via a network, or the Internet of Things, much like the question you ask your smart speaker at home. Gartner estimates that automotive connectivity will grow more than 30% by 2020 and will include “a range of add-on devices to accomplish specific tasks, such as fleet management.” In the past 10 years, hands-free driving assistance features like in-cabin phone calls and text-to-voice have been available to nearly every new car on the road, and more advanced features are quickly becoming standard. Newer over-the-air services help keep GPS and software systems up to date without a visit to the dealership for manual transmission of that data. Eventually, vehicles will provide highly-personal experiences based on passenger data. 

Electrification 

Although the advance of electric vehicles (EVs) was spurned at the turn of the 20th century by the gas-guzzling Model T, EVs have made up a significant portion of new vehicle sales in many countries. China and India seem to be promoting EV adoption in part to address increasing pollution, and Europe appears to be shunning diesel in order to embrace battery-powered vehicles. According to the International Energy Agency, the global stock of electric cars will grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 33 percent from 3.1 million units in 2017 to 125 million by 2030, mainly driven by government policies encouraging vehicle owners, fleets, and municipalities to embrace cleaner vehicles. As the world becomes more energy-conscious and governments enact strict policies around the use of fossil fuels, EVs are sure to be a much more common sight on our roads than ever before. 

Shared Mobility 

Shared mobility is the umbrella term for transportation resources that are shared among users through an app or platform like Uber. It includes modes of transport like bikes, shuttles or vans, hired cars, scooters and mopeds, all of which can be publicly or privately operated. These services are intended for short term use, to be borrowed and returned, or hired, for a fee. While this model isn’t necessarily new—the New York City taxi system began in the late 19th century—this modern version of shared mobility, with millions of participants including users, vendors, technology intermediaries, has significantly changed how people travel. New concepts of ownership have also forced insurance carriers, OEMs, tech providers, policymakers and drivers into debates of liability and culpability in the age of subscriptions and shared services. 

These four trends in vehicle innovation represent a shift in modern mobility and hint at larger societal changes, rooted in the advancements of technology. Each trend, and the ways they intersect, says something larger about the way we as drivers, passengers, and mobile users prefer to travel and interact with the many different transportation resources available to us. In the coming months, we’ll be discussing autonomy, connectivity, electrification and shared mobility even further and celebrating these achievements in vehicle innovation while cataloging the unique challenges they have all introduced into the automotive and insurance ecosystems.  

Supporting Customers When Disaster Strikes

Supporting Customers When Disaster Strikes

Written by Betsy Fata, Solera Content Writer

Natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, fires and floods present immense challenges to anyone affected by these events. And neither businesses nor consumers are immune to the complexities and potential catastrophes certain to arrive in the aftermath. As the southeast endures Hurricane Dorian, cost analyses surge higher and higher. “Dorian could cost insurers more than $25B…and bring total losses of as much as $40B,” according to a UBS analysis. While the US braces for another record-setting hurricane season, what steps can insurers take to mitigate the impact of these events?  

For many years, Solera has been providing crucial data, applications and digital services to insurance and automotive ecosystem partners to properly and swiftly complete estimates and resolve claims immediately following disasters. Our Solera | LYNX contact centers are prepared to manage various catastrophe situations including hurricanes, ice storms, hailstorms, tornadoes, earthquakes and other unexpected natural events. Through a formalized ramp-up procedure upon notice of an impending mega-CAT event, LYNX mobilizes and trains additional staff, which allows us to connect with several hundred policyholders at once during a widespread crisis. This offers many carriers the flexibility they need to serve their customers better during times of crisis. 

In addition to establishing a strong network of support like LYNX for customers to reach out to, insurers can provide valuable emergency services by implementing the following strategies. 

Keep communication lines open and active 

Having multiple channels available to your policyholders will ensure they get the help they need in the event of a disaster. Building a robust relief infrastructure, including clear communication plans, helps your company avoid creating more difficulties for your customers.  

Social media tends to be a second line of defense when traditional requests for help go unanswered. Implementing a relief strategy for your social media channels can provide faster aid to someone in a dangerous situation. For more guidance on improving your social response time, we suggest reading this great article 

Get innovative with your tech 

When Hurricane Harvey struck Texas and Louisiana in 2017, USAA used aerial images and data to create an interactive map of affected areas so residents could see top-down views of their homes and neighborhoods, even on their mobile devices. The first version of the tool was operational in 12 hours. (Source)

There’s an enormous wealth of public and private sector data available for insurers to base innovative disaster resources on. Artificial intelligence can analyze images to identify damage and build estimates as early as possible, speeding up the lengthy claims process and proactively starting inspections.  

Activate your employee network 

There’s no better assistance than a helping hand. Training your employees to handle crises efficiently and compassionately is the first step to providing exceptional customer service. Helping policyholders understand their eligibility for certain services and guiding them through complex processes with clear expectations goes far for a customer under stress. 

Carriers can also empower their local offices to contact customers and assist them in preparations before major disasters strike and provide frequent updates so policyholders can quickly get back on their feet and back to their lives. 

Media Contact:
Olivia Griner
Global Director, Public Relations and Analyst Relations
olivia.griner@solera.com

Bodyshop 30 under 30: Rising Stars – Congratulations Georgie Ford & George Pangborn

Bodyshop 30 under 30: Rising Stars – Congratulations Georgie Ford & George Pangborn

Not one but two of Audatex fantastic team have been recognized in bodyshop magazines 30 under 30: rising stars.

Congratulations to Georgie Ford and George Pangborn, who both thoroughly deserve the recognition for their hard work and commitment to the team.

The 30 under 30 event will take place on the opening evening of bodyshop live, to celebrate and recognize 30 people in our industry all under the age of 30 who are achieving great things.

You can see a full list of all 30 rising stars here. We look forward to celebrating their achievements with the industry on September 19th!