Partnership brings results

Partnership can really add value to an insurance business. Likewise, adding an insurance product can also enhance a service like scratch and scuff – smart – repairs in the UK car market. Insurance Edge chatted with Tim Harris, Managing Director at ChipsAway to find out how they co-created a product that was ideal for their customers.

IE: ChipsAway is a service that people need when something bad happens, what made you consider adding an insurance plan as an extra offer on your website?

TH: In the main, the experience that many people had when dealing with a car insurance claim wasn’t that great. We probably all know someone who has returned to their car, seen a bump and then found that the car park operator isn’t interested. So the answer used to be make a claim, but that can mean you lose your excess, and your NCD. Not good.
Over time we’ve built up ChipsAway into a 200+strong franchise business and we’ve done that by making it very transparent, and convenient – as it’s home or workplace based. You know lots of people find visiting a body repair shop a little bit of an intimidating experience, with some confusing jargon, technical terms and so on. ChipsAway solves all that and we wanted to go the extra mile and offer an insurance plan on top. Just to make the cost easier for people, and offer that peace of mind – you get three repairs, subject to a cost cap, per year.

IE: So tell us why Stubben Edge (SE) and how they built the right policy product.

TH: What I like about Stubben Edge is that they have a real `can do’ attitude, they want to develop a new product, try a new approach. That’s refreshing because there is still a bit of cautious, traditional thinking within insurance and for us, that can be frustrating because we want to solve a problem from a consumer’s angle. Not an insurers.

IE: How does modern digital tech help deliver that add-on product for ChipsAway?

TH: The way SE built it from scratch, in a very short time-frame, was impressive, the back end of an online insurance product isn’t something that anyone really sees online, but it has to work perfectly. You have to think about issues like compliance, GDPR issues regarding customer data, contacting them at home or work and so on.
Then you need to consider if this is a leased car being repaired. Many people lease rather than buy, but what they forget sometimes is that the vehicle has to be returned in the same condition at the end of that 3 or 4 year period. So sometimes you need that smart repair attention to make sure the car looks its best and the customer isn’t being hit with some end-of-lease charges for bodywork repairs, wheel refurbs etc.

IE: That’s an interesting point; the car market in the UK has moved from ownership to renting. It may become a rideshare market in urban areas, and then there are things like ADAS and semi-autonomous features to consider.

TH: What we find at ChipsAway is that drivers who use ADAS systems are often generally more careful car renters, or owners. We’re starting to see more complex repair and calibration requirements on modern vehicles where the cameras, or LiDAR sensors are in the bumpers. The industry, and I mean the repair and insurance industry together in this case, needs to make sure that everyone is carrying out repairs to the same high standards.
These are just some of the considerations that you need to build into your insurance plan of course, because a nearly new electric or hybrid car with lots of ADAS may well take extra time to repair. The tech is fantastic, but I’d like to see manufacturers specify their cars much better, so that everyone knows what ADAS and other systems have been fitted to that particular model, during that model year.

IE: It can be every expensive going back to a main dealer to get a small scratch sorted out too, that has to be a factor in people choosing a smart repair service instead?

TH: Definitely. Some of the prices quoted are very high and the dealerships may act on the side of caution and recommend that a part is replaced, rather than repaired. In the end it’s about consumer choice and when your brand offers that power to the customer then you win a bit of loyalty.

IE: So does ChipsAway have plans to expand into insurance authorised repairs?

TH: We do, it is definitely something we are looking at right now. My feeling is that from an insurer point of view, you can offer the customer the option of a smart repair at home, and then have all the tech calibrated at a specialist body shop in some cases. On other cars, you can carry out the entire repair & test at home, it depends.
There are so many variables when it comes to ADAS, even within one marque, because a great deal of this tech is selected at the point of purchase, it isn’t a standard fitment across the range. This is another reason why we are investing in training.
All our ChipsAway franchisees will be accredited ADAS repair operatives in 2022, and we feel this is the right way to go. Manufacturers have to have the confidence that all repair specialists are working to agreed standards across the sector.

IE: In general, where do you think technology is taking car claims?

TH: I think in some ways, say self-driving cars, we are at the first iteration of what it will eventually become. So realistically, you’ll be looking at a car driving itself along a motorway in a few years. But complex city commutes in severe weather – that will take time to build as a system that is 100% reliable.
The other thing to consider is that as tech gets smarter manufacturers will be keen to simply replace entire parts, instead of offering a repair option. So more written-off vehicles after low speed impacts perhaps. I believe on manufacturer is already saying that total replacement of a camera/LiDAR bumper is the only option for their customers.
If you let the car makers control the repair route, it will push up claims costs though because some body parts are complex, time-consuming to fit and then they have be tested thoroughly before the car is returned to the customer. If the insurance industry wants to stay in this space, they need to work closely with manufacturers on agreeing industry-wide rules and regulations.

IE: You worked with SE on creating rewards for your customers as well, how has that been received and do you think insurance brands can do the same thing once they learn more via customer data?

TH: It’s been well liked by customers yes, although I’m slightly conflicted on insurance plan rewards in general. I mean I see what the Meerkats and others do with cinema tickets or whatever, but I think that your customers are all unique, with all sorts of likes and dislikes – they don’t enjoy the same things just because they bought insurance.

IE: Do you find social media works well for ChipsAway, if so which are the best channels?

TH: The thing is our service is something that people use because a bad incident has happened, so they are relieved when their car is fixed, that’s the main thing. So we do value our high Trustpilot rating – that’s important. With video, we tried doing a few time lapse clips of repairs, which appeals to some in a Repair Shop TV show kind of way, but it isn’t really a product that people can talk about much on social media.

IE: What’s next in 2021 for ChipsAway?

TH: More growth for sure, as lockdown and more working from home opens up the opportunity for us to reach customers at home and do a great job for them. We are seeing interest in our franchise business model because it’s something you can do while maintaining social distancing, set your own hours and not have to depend on a shop or office being open to actually do your job.