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Q&A: Activate Group CEO Hannah Wilcox and CCO Victoria Turner on Motor Repair Network’s British Insurance Awards success

BIA 2021 6 outsourced partner of the year award
Motor Repair Network CEO Hannah Wilcox picked up the trophy from David Calvo Do Allo, client success manager, Companeo

Following its success as Outsourced Partner of the Year, Post caught up with Hannah Wilcox and Victoria Turner, from Motor Repair Network’s parent Activate Group, to discuss the key ingredients behind its winning entry - and how it is looking to build on the victory.

Victoria Turner and Hannah Wilcox
Victoria Turner and Hannah Wilcox

Broadly, what were you looking to demonstrate to the British Insurance Awards judges through your award-winning entry in terms of the abilities and culture of the people that you have at MRN?

Entering the BIAs was an opportunity for us to showcase our partner-led approach when it comes to working with our customers – we’re not just a ‘black box’ service provider. It is this way of working that allows us to develop a true understanding of our customers business, their future strategy, and the challenges they’re facing.

How we help solve our customer challenges comes down to the positive and collaborative attitude instilled throughout the team. While technology is a key contributor to achieving customer and client success, it’s nothing without a dedicated customer-focused team behind it – the use case behind our award-winning entry was only possible because of the people and culture we’ve worked hard to put in place at MRN and across the wider Activate Group businesses – sopp+sopp, Activate Accident Repair and Activate Parts. 

Being recognised in such a prestigious category at the BIAs is a fantastic achievement and proves that we were true to our company value: ‘make it happen’.

How important is technology as an enabler for both staff and partners?

Technology is a key contributor to ours and our customers success. This has been the case since day one when we took the decision to build our own claims management system. This gives our customers a level of agility and flexibility that they need and that they’ve come to expect from us.

The industry has gone through exceptional levels of change over recent years, and this shows no sign of slowing. As vehicles become more intelligent, customer expectations continue to rise and data volumes explode, supply chain partners need to have solutions that can be integrated, unify data from disparate systems and be live quickly. Having our own CMS at the heart of our solutions and services means we can adapt well to our customer requirements giving them confidence that a consistent, first-class customer-led journey is delivered every time.

For our people, technology enables us to collaborate and execute more efficiently across all teams and extends into the teams of our partners. In the case of our award entry, having the ability to quickly change system workflows and processes in-house meant we could react to an ever-evolving business challenge while maintaining service levels and customer experience throughout.

There are several technology ecosystems emerging within the sector and the ‘as a service’ model is becoming more and more popular. As a result, our customers are looking to build supply chains that encourage collaboration and deliver innovation. We see the continued development of our in-house technology and integration with ‘best in class’ partners as a fundamental pillar of our future strategy and key contributor to recent successes.

What does the recognition of the British Insurance Awards judges mean for MRN?

It’s fantastic to be recognised as Outsourced Partner of the Year by the BIA judges, especially when the judging panel was made up of such respected figures from across the industry.

We’re a relatively young company who are committed to delivering successful outcomes for our clients and their customers, so receiving recognition with a win like this is extremely rewarding and validates our ‘trusted partner’ approach is the right way to do things. We’d hope there’s insurers, brokers and MGAs who would now consider MRN as their accident management partner who may not have prior to this win. 

As well as a boost to MRNs reputation, it’s great to see our people recognised for their achievements and dedication to our customers during a very challenging time.

What do you think are the biggest lessons MRN has learned over the past 12 to 18 months; and what do you see as the biggest challenges on the horizon?

One of the biggest lessons learnt from the past 12 to 18 months is to be successful you must work hard and be adaptable – whether that is operationally or in our approach to service implementation and delivery. In reaction to the pandemic, our customers’ needs were evolving at a dramatic rate, and they looked to us to be proactive in the ideas and solutions we brought to the table. This meant going beyond ‘business as usual’ and taking an innovative approach to problem solving.

This experience presented us with a fantastic opportunity to identify any areas of our processes that could be improved to deliver further customer benefits while, in turn, enhancing the operational efficiencies of our service offering.

Our view on the biggest challenges ahead will no doubt be shared by many in the industry - capacity and resource. Despite market forecasts, demand for repair capacity has remained constant while capacity has dramatically reduced. This has been caused by a combination of Brexit - with non-UK technician resource leaving the country resulting in a skill shortage – and the pandemic causing a reduction in repairer capacity due to sickness, furlough and resource leaving the market. These issues are further multiplied by challenges throughout the supply chain when it comes to procurement delays and availability of mobility solutions.

The availability of parts is also having a detrimental impact on repair capacity due to increasing key-to-key times as a result of parts delays.

At MRN we believe we’re well placed to solve the parts and capacity challenges with our unique hybrid repair network – which consists of a growing number of owned AAR body shops , 175 plus outsourced repairer and 400 plus mobile repair partners; our own parts supply chain solutions through Activate Parts; and our real-time informed solutions for intelligent triage, smart deployment and effective repair management.

How are you looking to build on the BIA success?

Off the back of the BIA success, we’ll be stepping up our go to market activity over the coming months and bringing a truly differentiating proposition to the industry that sets us apart from other accident management solution providers.

As part of Activate Group, there’s a range of value-add services and benefits for MRN customers and we’re excited to give insurers, brokers and MGAs more choice and flexibility when looking to make changes to their supply chain.

Finally, what qualities do you think MRN has that make you stand out as a valued outsourced partner?

We thoroughly believe in putting the customer at the heart of everything we do and appreciate that there’s not a ‘one size fits all’ approach to solving their repair management challenges. Working with our customers as a true business partner enables us to develop a deep understanding of their business and be proactive in the way we help them solve their problems.

Also, being part of Activate Group means that MRN customers can benefit from ongoing innovation and investment in our market-leading accident management solutions and services.

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