Canadian Underwriter

Focus On Accreditation

April 1, 2007   by Andrea Orazigambrill

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Toronto’s Canadian Collision Industry Forum (CCIF) met in January 2007 at the Toronto Airport Marriott to discuss several important industry issues, including national accreditation.

The CCIF is a forum for Canada’s collision repair industry to share information, best practices and solutions to national issues and challenges. Established in 1998, CCIF has drawn support from a variety of industry stakeholders such as collision repairers, insurers, suppliers, trainers, service providers and trade associations.

The forum has already developed a set of national standards for collision repairers; it has been working for more than a year on how to incorprate these standards into a national accreditation program.

At its meeting on Jan. 27, more than 350 conference participants attended CCIF sessions that addressed the following topics:

* an update from the auto recycler and aftermarket part sectors;

* an introduction to the transition to waterborne paint; and

* an innovative approach to designated repair programs (DRPs).

In addition, Jay Perry, the chairman of CCIF’s national accreditation committee and the principal of Automotive Business Consultants (ABC) Inc., gave a progress update on the national accreditation program.

The CCIF has noted in past literature on the topic that it would be preferable for the collision repair industry to move towards the concept of self-regulation in order to pre-empt any government intervention to impose national standards. The CCIF has posted a schedule online that lists program “milestones” for 2007 and beyond. Future milestones include establishing facility standards and starting facility registration in 2007, insurer use of the system by 2008 and public promotion of the accreditation system in 2009.

Claims Canada sat down with Perry to discuss some of the issues surrounding the ambitious project.

Claims Canada: To begin, what is your roadmap for introducing national accreditation to the auto collision repair industry? What stage are you at in the process?

Perry: In April 2007, we’ll be in Vancouver, where we plan on bringing forward another piece of the puzzle. The goal at this time is to give more clarity and answers to the questions: ‘Well, what does this accreditation thing encapsulate? How is it going to be rolled out? What is it going to look like? If I’m a shop owner, what does it mean to me? What’s it going to cost me?’

We’re going to start to answer those questions. That’s where we are at this stage. Vancouver is the start of the conversation. It’s a model that we’re putting out there. It’s just like the architect’s model of a building he has in his head — it isn’t the real building.

We’re going to put the model out there. It’s going to be evaluated by the industry during two months between CCIF meetings [i.e. between the CCIF’s April 2007 meeting in Vancouver and a June 2007 meeting in Newfoundland].

We’ll gather the feedback that we have. We’ll announce what that feedback was. We’ll say, based on that feedback, ‘Here’s an adjustment, here’s a tweak.’ Or, if someone comes up with a better model, we might say: ‘We threw the whole first concept out, because the new model looks even better and we’ll test the waters again.’

We’re to a point where the rubber is meeting the road, but we’re still in the definition stages of many of the components. We are putting it out to the industry for feedback. Then we go with a full-blown survey and see the results of the survey. We’ve gone in very carefully, making sure that the giant steps that we take are not down the wrong pathway, but rather small steps down the right pathway.

One issue that has been very important to the stakeholders is that we’re not some sort of elitist group trying to establish ourselves. One of the things that we are going to unveil in Vancouver is that national accreditation is for everybody. Everybody fits into the system. We’ve accommodated absolute, total inclusivity.

CC: Do you continue to receive support from the insurance industry to adopt a national accreditation program?

Perry: Yes, of course.

We’re not soliciting any insurance opinions or their support at this point in time; the reason is, we believe this should be done by the industry itself. The lines of achievement should be defined by the people who are actually doing the work and who have to bear the definition of accreditation as it goes forward.

Having said that, we feel that there is a tremendous amount of support for this whole idea by the insurance industry.

One aspect of accreditation that should be of interest to the insurance industry is that the insurance industry will know, once accreditation is implemented, what the collision repair professionals say the standards for professional collision repair should be.

Insurers should look at that with great interest, because if they are going to do business with the collision repair industry, broadly speaking, they will be asking themselves: ‘Are we doing business with shops that are recognized by their peers?’

And I don’t mean this in the sense that ‘Joe says he likes Jim,’ but from a totally unbiased, database-driven, ‘Do-I-meet-the-standards-or-don’t-I-meet-the-standards?’ approach. The public is going to be protected in that they will know exactly what status the shop they choose to do business with has achieved on a professional scale. The same unbiased approach will help the insurance industry make a decision about whether or not to do business with a shop.

CC: Do you think the insurance industry should take part in the establishment of the regulatory body?

Perry: No, I don’t think so. Again, from our perspective, this is an industry initiative. We fully expect criticism from other industries with which we have to do business.

I think the insurance people should have a say. But the absolute definition of what is a professional needs to be done by the professionals who are best qualified to define [it].

CC: Can you suggest a group that would make an appropriate regulatory body for a national accreditation program?

Perry: The professionals within our industry will define that group. As we’ve defined it, for someone to be a member of our committee, he or she has to be a career collision professional. Commitment to the industry is the defining factor, as far as involvement [on the committee is concerned].

Regardless of size or location, this is an inclusive initiative. We want everybody to participate and have their voice heard.

CC: Is it realistic to assume that one national accreditation program could represent collision repair centres in each and every province? What about a regional-based, provincial accreditation program?

Perry: I think the funny thing about a provincial approach is this: because they are [based on] a regional, politics-driven situation…the standards between provinces [don’t] make any sense from a professional standpoint. If we applied that same degree of variation to [the standards applied] to lawyers, chiropractors, or doctors, it wouldn’t make any sense at all. This is about a professional standard, as opposed to a political standard.

CC: How is the proposed database advantageous to the industry?

Perry: It contributes to a lack of bias. Assuming accreditation is database driven, let’s take a look at the following scenario. Let’s say your shop is XYZ, and mine is ABC. We populate [the database with our data] and guess what? ABC comes short [of meeting the standards]. XYZ doesn’t even know who I am, but [thanks to the information in the database], I still know what I need to achieve the standards of XYZ.

CC: What are the major roadblocks in establishing this program?

Perry: I think we are having a hard time making people comfortable with the whole concept. People are still skeptical. It’s not a plot to take over the world: we’re just trying to do what other profes
sional industries are doing.

As professional industries mature, part of the process is towards an accreditation program. We have an advantage over the rest of the world, in that we will be inventing ourselves. There isn’t a cookie-cutter prototype for this program in another country.

CC: Is there anything that the insurance industry can do to facilitate getting this incentive off the ground?

Perry: If the insurance industry could speak in one voice, we would like it to say: ‘Yes, accreditation is good for the collision repair industry.’ We would like to hear the insurance industry support us in educating ourselves and keeping our accreditation. Since the insurance industry is dependent upon the collision industry to provide for our mutual customers, I think accreditation would benefit them as well as us.

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