Paul Cooper, director at the Institute of Customer Service (ICS), told the convention that consumer affairs programmes like Watchdog have raised customer expectations.
“People can tell the difference between real customer service and lip service,” he said. “You can make mistakes, everyone does but, if you do, it is important that you make a great recovery.”
Eliminate costly rework
Good customer service, Cooper argued, can eliminate the need for costly reworks and promote clear communication.
On the other hand, not providing a good service can result in soul-destroying criticisms, and high staff and customer turnovers.
It can pay-off financially too. In the US, Toyota compared its best and worst dealers for customer service in relation to performance in other areas. It found that the top dealers for customer service were 81% better in terms of net profit as a percentage of total sales, and spent 30% less on advertising.
When looking to form an effective customer service strategy, Cooper said: “Think of it this way: It might be your mother. Would you be happy for her to be treated like that?”
Since Thatcham and BSI developed the PAS125 specification for the body repair industry, 219 applications have been received.
BSI’s Scott Hanney announced only 16 Kitemarks have been awarded, but he expects this to rise to nearly 50 by the year-end.
He told the audience that the dates for a series of free Focus Days would be set by the end of the year. He added: “By Christmas we hope to have trebled our Kitemark bodyshops.”
Thatcham’s Jason Moseley attempted to clear up confusion over the estimator standard, telling the audience that, at the time of launching the scheme, the best estimator training level was the Thatcham two-day course.
Now bodyshops must meet the ATA estimator standard to receive the Kitemark.
#AM_ART_SPLIT# MVRA backing
The MVRA was the first trade body to back the Kitemark standard, and chief executive Mike Monaghan warned: “I fear for the future of the industry if it does not adopt the Kitemark standard.”
Gary Brench, of ClaimWatch, carried out a study into repairers’ views of PAS125. He said: “Everyone agrees with the idea in principle, insurers see it as a tick in the box for corporate responsibility, and people that have gone through it are very positive about it.”
One advocate is David Hyland, general manager at Fylde Coast ARC in Blackpool, who said: “The Kitemark brand has set us apart. Customers have received it well and there have been real cash benefits to the business.”
Consultant Alison Carey, of CWMC, reported that the cost of implementing the scheme ranged from £2,000 to £50,000 but the ‘best guess’ was about £20,000.
Insurers are taking more interest in the standard with several now mandating it for the bodyshop networks. And a major carmaker is also poised to mandate PAS125 for its approved repairers by the end of next year.
Pass rate concerns
The IMI’s Steve Schofield reported that out of about 20,000 technicians in UK bodyshops, 891 have registered for ATA, with 387 technicians having achieved the ATA repair standard.
In 2007 there have been 496 Accident Repair ATA assessments, with pass rates of 58% for technicians and 21% for estimators. Schofield said: “It is not a quick fix, it is about what it will look like in five years time.”
Dave Shepherd, of Deejay Training, was critical about the low pass rate for estimators, blaming 15 years of under-investment and reliance on computerised estimating systems. He added: “The main area of concern is that the highest failure rate in the six elements of the course came in the part you go to an estimator for – assessing and pricing the job.”
Adrian Peck, of Carter & Carter, which runs the National Accident Repair Skills Network (NARSN), envisaged a structured training model to guide 14-16 year old apprentices through the grades from technician to senior technician to estimator, and on to management development programmes.
He recommended a ‘blended’ solution combining distance, on-site, regional and national learning, and said: “The future of accident repair training is a network of people that can deliver ATA training.”
Thatcham’s Jason Moseley summed-up the challenge, saying: “It is absolutely critical that we get young people into the industry and run good apprenticeship programmes.”