Dealers could be losing huge profits by focusing on new customers rather than offering services such as accident management to existing ones.
The recession has acted as a distraction to many who may have been chasing new custom in a depressed market, it has been claimed.
Of course, sales staff are there to do everything they can to sell new vehicles, but surely this assistance should extend to helping people when they have an accident.
Tim Eaves, head of relationships at Accident Exchange, said: “Why wouldn’t you extend the same level of sales support and customer service if that same customer were unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident?
“At a time when they need help the most, the benefit in customer retention, satisfaction and loyalty is invaluable.
“It also provides significant business gain. These customers will deliver an average of £1,800 in OE parts, sold hours and materials, credit hire commission for a like-for-like replacement vehicle if the accident was not their fault and in 40% of cases will buy a new vehicle in the next year.”
Kyle Harris, managing director of Britannia Assist, said that whether times were good or bad dealers must realise they can create a way to deal with their customers’ accident needs.
Harris said the key to customer retention is to contact people.
Mystery shopper visits to dealers found that when someone posed as a customer who has had an accident, receptionists often referred them to their insurance company. It means frontline staff are not aware of the opportunity. Training is essential.
Harris added: “What amazes me with dealers is they see their customers throughout the year, usually during the warranty period, but how many times is accident management on the agenda so they can enforce this message.
“Manufacturers are particularly to blame for not reinforcing this message at source with their dealer groups.”
It is important for everyone within the business to be familiar with accident management. It should not be treated as “something the bodyshop department offers”.
Eaves said: “People only think about accident management once they’ve had an accident. It’s emotive. Even when they do call you, they have invariably forgotten the service you’re able to offer them, so it’s down to you to remind them.”
Aside from the customer retention aspect of accident management there is also profit to be made from credit hire referrals.
This means replacement vehicles are more likely to be suited to the person’s lifestyle rather than the B-segment car a bodyshop will probably give them.
Selling accident management to customers is as important as selling the car in the first place.
People need to realise they have the right to choose where to send their vehicle to be repaired while mobility in the event of a non-fault accident reinforces the importance of accident management.
Harris believes part of the problem lies in the fact dealerships are restricted in the amount of material they can put on display.
However, he said there are solutions. Harris said: “Dealerships need to raise awareness through their correspondence. They could put a message with every invoice, service reminder and on their website.
“A lot of dealers have newsletters which give details about vehicle sales and products, but the amount of information regarding what happens in an accident is minimal.
“Accident management is treated like a backroom service, which is a shame because the revenue streams could be the difference between a poor year and a good year.”
Darren Gilling, managing director of accident management company Call Zebra, said dealers were now looking to incorporate their own branded accident management solutions within their customer services by introducing 24/7 vehicle damage helplines, national roadside recovery and replacement vehicle and repair management.
Specialist legal services are also offered so customers can make one call and have all aspects of their claim dealt with by the dealership.
Gordon Grant, manufacturer account director at Accident Exchange, believes a one-size-fits-all approach to body repair no longer works.
He believes the existing approved repair network model adversely affects the cost base for insurers, reduces the efficiency and profitability of bodyshops and lowers repair standards to potentially fatal levels.
The company actively supports PAS125, calling it “a positive step forward”, but believes a nationwide network of body repair specialists will benefit all the key stakeholders in the industry – from insurers to bodyshops and manufacturers.
Grant said: “There are 48 different vehicle marques in the UK and, clearly, the non-manufacturer approved bodyshop cannot expect to be a proficient repairer on all.
“If a repairer specialises in repairing a limited number of makes it will be able to control its investment levels, be more efficient thanks to product familiarity, have limited and better controlled supply sources and consequently be more profitable.
“That increased profitability can in turn be shared with the insurer, and by default, the consumer, making everyone a winner.”
The ideal scenario, according to Accident Exchange, would see a repairer achieve the generic standards of PAS 125 alongside the attributes of the Vehicle Manufacturer approved status.
However, the company admits that for the benefits of specialism to be achieved, the industry must change as one and breaking the existing status quo will be difficult.
Accident Exchange believes a vehicle’s safety, or EuroNCAP rating, is now just as important as its environmental credentials.
Cars are more complex and repairing them is a speciality.
Anything less compromises the safety and integrity of the vehicle for the public.
Kyle Harris, managing director of Britannia Assist, is unsure whether the volumes would be available to make segmented repair viable.
If the work was there and manufacturers had encouraged their dealers to retain bodyshops it may work.
However, Harris said dealers no longer had bodyshops because they had lost interest and did not run them properly.
Despite his doubts, Harris did say multi-brand bodyshops could work as many were consolidating.
Respondents to a Car Crash Line survey agreed that completing a claim was the worst thing about having an accident, ranking it higher than the impact a crash had on them or trying to find a trustworthy repairer.
Offering an accident management service could take a lot of this stress away from people, making it an attractive proposition for customers, which in turn should aid retention, said Harris.
Improving customer service
According to Accident Exchange there are key ways dealers can improve customer service and maximise revenue from accident management and credit hire referrals.
- Assess the value of the customer and brand loyalty which an accident management scheme will generate
- Set a target to improve earnings from accident management - and then watch your customer satisfaction soar
- Don’t rule-out an accident management scheme simply because you do not have your own bodyshop
- Make a partnership with a sound, local bodyshop and come to an agreement on what the extra business which you can provide is worth to the bodyshop
- Work hard at promoting the scheme to your customers, both buyers of new and used – “education, education, education”.
Drivers' attitudes to accidents
Car Crash Line surveyed 1,000 motorists nationwide to gauge drivers’ attitudes to crashes.
The responses revealed how much an accident management service could benefit dealers.
It revealed that only 33% of motorists would automatically tell their insurer of a “no claim” accident, fearing a rise in charges and dreading the red tape involved.
In addition, 24% would expect a premium increase even if they were involved in a no-fault accident.
Austin Snelgrove, director of accident management specialists Car Crash Line Group, said: “Clearly, the credit crunch is having a huge impact on UK drivers’ attitudes; they believe it’s not in their interests to claim, even for accidents that aren’t their fault.
“More than 16 million UK drivers could be unwittingly invalidating their insurance in an attempt to save money or avoid red tape.”
The survey showed how dealerships could target drivers’ attitudes by offering an accident management service because most people felt dealing with a crash was more stressful than getting a mortgage offer.
They also thought it was more annoying than filling in a tax return, applying for a passport or changing bank account.