Fleet News

Risk management: Getting the best service to prepare you for the inevitable

IF you own more than a handful of cars, then chances are that at some point your drivers will have ‘a moment’.

Congestion is rising and drivers are covering more miles a year than ever, so it can be argued that the chance of having an accident is growing.

As a result, outsourcing to a third party accident management firm is becoming a popular option. For a fee, a firm will take care of everything that concerns an accident, from identifying drivers at risk to taking care of repairing and replacing damaged vehicles.

But how do you pick your supplier? All will have smiling sales people waxing lyrical about how good their customer service is, but it’s virtually impossible to be sure what service you will receive until the contract has been signed.

Fleet NewsNet has heard numerous anecdotes about problems with suppliers which only raise their heads once the partnership rumbles into life.

One fleet had outsourced to an accident management company, only to find that it had done a deal with a budget paint brand and would not work with any repairer that did not use the paint – which was not motor manufacturer approved.

The paint deteriorated more quickly than approved brands and adversely affected the residual values of the fleet vehicles.

Another firm forced repairers to use non-manufacturer parts, on which it made huge savings as fleets were charged for the more expensive manufacturer parts.

As a result, the parts were not covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, which led to large unexpected costs for the fleet.

So how can you establish, before anything is signed, that such practices are not employed by your prospective supplier?

Tim Rankin, managing director of insurance claims management firm WNS Assistance, says it is important to investigate the way prospective suppliers operate.

He recommends asking questions about labour rates charged by repairers and discounts on parts and paint. Commission details and any partnerships with paint or bodyshop groups should also be looked into.

Janet Entwhistle, managing director of BT Fleet, has this advice: ‘Firstly, the supplier must be easy to communicate with and demonstrate a proactive approach to keeping you informed at all stages. This is crucial in the latter stages of a repair, when a last- minute search for parts can cause delays. If they can’t demonstrate an ability to manage, then look to an alternative.’

Cost control is one of the key benefits an accident management provider must deliver, Entwhistle believes.

‘Look for a provider with an extensive and quality repair network that is regularly audited,’ she says. ‘Meet the team to gauge their professionalism and level of expertise. And don’t be fooled by ‘bells and whistles’ sales pitches, particularly those that concentrate on their system’s capability. Ask to be shown a claim being processed from start to finish so you see if they are able to deliver what they say they can.’

An important point is to compare and contrast what different firms are offering, in detail.

‘Don’t be sucked in by cheap headline rates unless you want to be at the mercy of hidden charges and unpredictable repair costs,’ Entwhistle warns. ‘Ask for a full breakdown of their costs so you can see their commission and labour rates. Any reputable provider will be able to do this.’

Essential questions to ask a potential provider

1. What is your average vehicle repair cost? Can you provide me with proof of this?

2. What are the labour rates charged by your repairers on cars and vans by regional area?

3. What are the parts discounts and paint indexes in your selected repairers?

4. How will you ensure that my drivers are sent to the best repairer in terms of cost and service in any particular postcode?

5. How much commission per repair do you earn?

6. Do you use a recognised estimating system to price each job?

7. Do you have qualified internal engineers who vet the cost of every job and how do you monitor their performance?

8. What are your current downtime and repair cycle times?

9. Do you have any links with, or are you owned by, someone who may not be truly independent and have my best interests at heart – for example, a paint company, credit hirer or bodyshop group?

10. Do you pay any rebates or commissions to any third party on the back of my business?

  • By Tim Rankin, managing director of insurance claims management firm WNS Assistance
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