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Blog: Replacement vehicle services - building a stronger customer journey

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While many of us work from home, looking out of our windows it’s hard not to spot the rising number of vans and other light commercial vehicles on our roads. James Roberts, business development director for insurance at Europcar Mobility Group UK, argues it’s not just Covid-19 that has prompted this rise but the phenomenal growth of online shopping over the last few years which had already brought more delivery businesses into the market.

Department for Transport data for 2019 van activity showed a substantial growth in van use. In 2019 there were 4.1 million licenced vans on our roads – an increase of 93% in the last 25 years – covering 55.5 billion miles over the course of the year.

The DfT survey also indicated that 16% of van journeys in 2019 were to collect or deliver goods. It’s hard to estimate how much this will have increased in 2020, with more home deliveries due to the effects of the pandemic. And with the approaching Christmas rush, we will probably see this figure rise even higher. But the fact of the matter is that increased traffic volumes, drivers making more journeys than before to meet customer demand, plus wintery weather conditions means we are likely to see an increase in the number of accidents involving commercial vehicles over the next few months.

This increase in the accident rate will undoubtedly add to pressure on a repair sector that is already working with less staff and reduced capacity to comply with social distancing requirements. The turnaround for repairs could well, therefore, take longer than normal. Yet vans are vital to the health and growth of so many businesses and no company can afford to be off the road for longer than absolutely necessary. In fact, our own research ahead of the pandemic, found that more than 58% of UK businesses use their vans every day of the week, and another 23% use them for between four and six days per week.

Such reliance on commercial vehicles means that, in the event of an accident, body shops need to be able to provide a suitable replacement vehicle quickly. However most only have a very limited courtesy fleet for customer use following an accident. This means additional vehicles will need to be hired ad hoc, or the customer will need to find their own solution which will do nothing to enhance the customer experience.

Motor insurance providers working to differentiate themselves from the competition, want their customer journey to be as easy and convenient as possible. How their body shop network underpins their service is, therefore, crucial. Having access to replacement vehicles through a reliable and flexible supply chain means they can not only meet customer expectations but also control the quality of the vehicle provided. Plus there’s better control over costs.

With such a busy time of year coming up, and where the postal and courier companies are known to snap up much of the van stock, body shops should think about the benefits of longer-term rental agreements (lasting around three months) that will enable them to allocate vehicles where they’re needed but without the higher costs of daily rental or the long-term contractual obligations of leasing. And this means there’s a ready-made solution for busy periods. It also makes sense to work with rental providers that can ‘customise’ vehicles by adding tow bars or racking, for example, so that customers can carry on business as usual even when their normal van is off the road.

Now more than ever flexibility and adaptability are key to customer service. And using long-term rental to complement a body shop’s owned fleet of courtesy vehicles gives insurers and their body shop networks the flexibility they need to keep customers satisfied during challenging times.

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