Anderson: Better training options and higher pay are key to winning and retaining good shop workers

To change. Simply put, that’s what Collision Advice CEO Mike Anderson thinks needs to happen to collision repair shops to find and keep technicians and other employees on the payroll.

“Something has to change. We can never get the best of the best until we can pay a better salary. … Fifteen to $18 an hour is not enough.

In 2017, the average body shop spent 10% of its sales on administrative salaries and in June this year that figure rose to 14%, 15% in some shops, Anderson added.

Anderson described ways for shops to better select and retain collision repair employees during the first session of this year’s Repairer Driven Education (RDE) series at the SEMA Show Monday in Las Vegas. Anderson asked three members of the public what they offer entry-level repair planners. They answered between $18 and $20 an hour with five to seven days of vacation after one year and 50 to 100 percent employee health insurance coverage. Compare that to Amazon, Anderson said, which has a long list of benefits, including 401(k) savings plan, paid tuition, employee and family health insurance, savings accounts, and more. health savings, maternity and paternal leave, and more. And fast food restaurants offer $19 an hour with paid time off and volunteer service.

So how do stores compete with these lines of work? In addition to increasing the starting salary offered, Anderson said benefits needed to be looked at differently. Consider rewarding great work with a memory, not just a monetary bonus. One example he shared was of a store owner who paid for cleaning service once a week for a month for one of his employees. Also, paid vacation [PTO]which gives employees extra money on top of their normal salary to take time off and gives them the flexibility to use the extra money to go on vacation.

It’s also about rethinking your store’s employee structure. Frontend estimator, CSR, backend estimator, a designated parts person, a full-time mechanic, a technician with an apprentice, another technician with two apprentices, a painter with a preparator and a carrier batch form a team that can easily bring to $300,000 a month in sales but, even better, each position could be promoted to create a career path instead, Anderson said. CSR at the front-end estimator to the main estimator, then up to the manager or parts to the CSR at the front-end estimator, and so on. This creates the opportunity for two more shifts than doubling sales and creating four-day workweeks, or even a three-day workweek once a month, he said.

Keeping an exemplary crew comes down to training and knowing how to prove the need for repair procedures to get reimbursed by insurance companies, Anderson said. This means answering four questions: Is the repair procedure required by the OEM? Is this an included operation? Is there a predetermined working time and if not, how long is it worth? Paint manufacturer bulletins found on the Database Enhancement Gateway (DEG) website,, Material manufacturer bulletins described in the Society of Collision Repair Specialists’ (SCRS) guide to comprehensive repair planning, scan tools, owner’s manuals and the vehicle itself all come into play in determining the answers to these questions, Anderson said.

“Five, six, seven years ago it wasn’t about who got the people,” Anderson said. “It was about who could get the car. … Today people have a two-month backlog, so it’s not about who gets the car, it’s about who gets the people. Your biggest competitive advantage over anyone in your market is culture – how you treat your employees, how you pay your employees, and how you recognize your employees.

Matching personalities to skills is important when considering hiring. Anderson shared descriptions of some of the roles. A CSR loves people and people love them – they can handle unhappy customers, are good at multi-tasking, and are good at filling out paperwork. Frontal Estimator is more extroverted while Senior Estimator is introverted – make the sale rather than researching repair procedures and working behind the scenes.

“When we set up our team and our cellular system, we started to see that there were people who were really good at certain jobs, and then what we did was we tested them for figure out what made them work,” Anderson said.

Seeing the success of each type of employee and matching candidates with those characteristics has led to faster hiring and a five-fold increase in sales in Anderson’s stores in two years.

Training for repair planners – also known, among other things, as planners and estimators – includes the following:

    • Technology skills – how to use the workshop management system and a digital camera to take photos of damaged vehicles
    • Communication skills – listen and communicate effectively with customers, CSRs, adjusters, technicians, management, third-party payers and others to explain why certain procedures were necessary to be reimbursed by insurers.
    • Vehicle terminology – names of parts and components
    • Understand the disassembly 100% – not what to remove, but why for a more complete disassembly.
    • Understand estimating systems, P-pages, estimating software and tools.
    • Understand how to identify collision damage – how vehicles are designed to deflect inertial forces, direct vs. indirect damage, look for broken or stressed spot welds, cracked and peeling paint, etc.
    • Understand the mechanical systems – airbag systems, safety restraint systems, suspensions and safety controls of these.
    • How to research, understand and document OEM repair procedures.
    • How to make informed decisions about parts (single-use parts and repair versus replacement).
    • Understand advanced painting processes and color identification.

And, Anderson noted, hiring experienced repair planners should include writing an estimate to see how well they write line notes and research OEM repair procedures. Or, ask them specific questions about a component and its repair to determine their knowledge base.

Rather than hiring new hires, Anderson recommends shops use online and in-person training resources from multiple sources, including OEM repair how-to websites, collision tips, the CSIS Master Plan Optimization (BOT), I-CAR, the three estimating systems (CCC, Audatex, and Mitchell), RepairLogic, and the Database Enhancement Gateway Estimating Toolkit ( DEG) for OEM owner’s manuals. There are also a few online photography training options available on YouTube from Accountable Estimating and Collision Hub, as well as in-person classes at Apple and Samsung stores.

Collision Hub also offers an online course in case documentation for repairers to learn documentation techniques to strengthen negotiations with payers. Collision Advice “Who pays what?” quarterly survey results can also be used to teach repair planners what is considered non-included. Anderson said stores should also consider reading the book “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your
Life Depended On It” by former FBI Chief International Negotiator Chris Voss and co-author Tahl Raz for more on negotiation strategies.

The RDE series continues until the end of the SEMA Show on Friday. Check out the full program here. Recordings of the previous year’s RDE sessions are available for purchase at

More information

Anderson also provided the following resources for workshops to use for training:

SCRS Quick Tips:

DEG Estimating Tips:

Nissan/Infiniti training

Porsche training

BETAG North America Online Training:

Ask I-CAR:

Body Building and OEM Material Repair Guidelines:

Mitchell Training Portal:

Collision Hub Estimating Training:

Vale Training Estimating Course:

Audatex Estimating Worklist:

Mitchell Estimation training videos:

Electronic Parts Catalog:



Feature Image: Mike Anderson, CEO of Collision Advice (Lurah Lowery/Repairer Driven News)

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