Inflation, increased taxes, and the rising cost of necessities are all realities that currently affect the global economy. Over the last year, there’s been a steady return to normalcy post-pandemic; however, consequences of the restrictions have been far-reaching across industries, including in the automotive space. Shortage of replacement parts and a noticeable lack of skilled tradespeople are a few issues the auto body repair subsector currently faces. Add electric vehicles to the equation; for some shops, it’s a recipe for delayed services and customer complaints. To further explore these challenges, CSN Collision Centres interviewed a shop in its network, CSN Dana’s, located in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
How does the shop handle the time constraints of completing repairs within tight deadlines?
It’s been difficult; there’s a lack of parts and technicians. Parts are the most significant issue we’ve encountered in the last year, and it’s even more prevalent now. There’s been improvement with some manufacturers, while others still struggle with delivery. Due to the shortage of parts, service timeline can be negatively impacted. Non-drive vehicles are the most affected, with wait times for parts ranging from weeks to months. These are problems experienced by most auto repair shops across the country. That said, communication and transparency are critical elements to delivering excellent customer service. We always inform our customers of timelines and deliver against them.
With the rise in automotive technology, how do the abovementioned constraints affect electric vehicle repairs?
Electric vehicles (EVs) are challenging simply because we don’t have enough information yet. It takes us more time to repair EVs as we must conduct research for repair compliance and to bring the vehicle back to like-new condition for the customer. Being part of the CSN network has many advantages. In this case, access to knowledge and experience from shops that repair EVs is a considerable benefit. At CSN Dana’s, we lean on data for our daily repair procedures and ensure alignment with manufacturers’ instructions. Depending on the complexity of the repair, it could take us up to a day to get all the required information before moving to the planning stage. This has a trickle-down effect on timelines and can be a stress factor for customers when not shared with them.
What strategies are employed to ensure accurate cost estimates and minimize potential financial challenges for customers and the repair shop?
We are upfront with all our customers (non-drive and drive) about the repair schedule; we share an approximate timeline for delivery and keep them up to date on the process, including completion of the repair plan, availability and delivery of parts and an estimated pick-up date. We have a structured process to keep our customers in the know.
How do you stay updated with the latest industry regulations, safety standards, and repair techniques in the face of constant change?
There are several sources of information that we tap into. The internet is helpful for all updates, especially those related to tech. Websites such as All Data and OE connections are valuable resources, we get information from manufacturers, and we have an open line to other shops in the CSN network (for example, shops with EV experience share information on parts, repairs, etc.).
How has employee attrition affected your business?
In the Maritimes especially, there’s a lack of skilled technicians. Although we’ve only lost two technicians to retirement and another facility in the last three years, finding the right technicians with the right skills is a struggle as our business grows. CSN Dana’s is in a small community with a population of 100,000+ people; with such a small pool to choose from, there’s a high level of competitiveness amongst auto body repair shops. Moreover, there aren’t enough people going to school for the trades. When recruiting, whether within the community or outside of it, we give priority to those that have a background in the industry, we also work with trade schools and recruitment companies.
What challenges have been faced with staff training?
Our staff can access training resources provided by the shop, CSN Centres and our partners. In addition, we receive training from paint company vendors, and we have resources that help with body repair techniques. We also have an internal training program for new hires; senior technicians train and bring the junior technicians up to speed. Lastly, we have standard procedures and guidelines that serve as reference points for all technicians.
What steps have been taken to improve employee retention?
We’re fortunate to have a great staff that we intend to keep happy and satisfied by offering flexible hours and ensuring they feel valued and respected. We also do fun social activities to encourage team bonding.
What support would be most beneficial in addressing some of these challenges?
CSN already offers a lot of support to its member shops. The ease of finding the information would be most helpful. Additionally, having a centralized knowledge source and a quicker turnaround when requests are made on repair procedures would be beneficial.
What other challenges is the industry facing?
Keeping up with insurance procedures is a significant challenge that adversely affects repair timelines. Every insurance company has a different approach, and it takes much of our repair time to figure out each one. Although outcomes are the same, they have varying business methods with no standardization. As a result, it’s challenging and time-consuming for the administrative, estimating and repair planning teams to follow all procedures.
As the economy normalizes, the automotive industry and its subsectors must regain operational efficiency. To that end, having a network as a support system becomes beneficial. Some benefits of being a part of the CSN network include organizational support in prospecting for new business, recruiting, training, promoting and marketing shops, and other areas. Contact a representative now to get started.