Ten minutes with… Hayley Thomas

As competition for capacity creates innovation in the vehicle repair industry, Modern Insurance Magazine caught up with Hayley Thomas, Commercial Director at Motor Repair Network, accident management specialists for personal lines claims. Hayley shares insight and trends from the vehicle repair market.

Picture of Hayley Thomas

How did you get started in the insurance industry?

Like many perhaps, it wasn’t planned. Following my studies, I got myself a call centre job servicing repairs for LV Insurance. I found that I really enjoyed the fast-paced environment of the office and soon after moved into a Team Leader role.

I eventually TUPE’d across to LV. LV were fantastic at supporting career progression and I was lucky enough to secure a place on their Management Trainee Scheme which fast tracked me into a Claims Manager role.

I spent 15 fab years in total at LV= which saw me undertake several roles in AD Claims Management, Total Loss, and Networks and Engineering, before leaving in 2017 to join Nationwide Accident Repair Services as Head of Strategic Accounts.

In April of last year, I was thrilled to join Motor Repair Network as Commercial Director.

What do you do for Motor Repair Network?

As Commercial Director, I lead a team of account and project managers, and together we partner with our insurance customers on their accident management strategy.

We provide data and market insight, and pride ourselves on getting to know the specific objectives of each customer and looking for innovative ways to keep improving the service we deliver.

What’s happening in the vehicle repair market?

The repair industry has been on quite a journey over the last couple of years.

When COVID hit, repair volumes fell, and despite government help we’ve seen a reduction in the number of body shops in the market.

With volumes now back to almost pre-COVID levels there’s strong competition for repair capacity.

Several other factors are also coming together to affect repair times and increase costs for repairers. The combined forces of COVID and Brexit have led to parts delays – since June parts order times have increased significantly.

Longer new-car lead times are putting pressure on the rental vehicle market too. This affects anyone looking to offer replacement vehicles.

On a positive note, these challenges are pushing innovation in the industry. We’re seeing supply chain partners working more collaboratively than ever to solve capacity issues.

What’s the outlook for the rest of 2022?

The industry has responded proactively to current challenges. At Motor Repair Network we’ve worked with insurance partners to bring in innovative processes that remove complexity and minimise the impact of parts delays. We’re also working with customers to make sure we respond to the cost increases that repairers are facing.

We’ve bolstered our UK repair network to ensure we have the coverage we need in high demand areas. We’ve also announced plans to open more owned body shops through our sister-company Activate Accident Repair in 2022.

The end of self-isolation rules was welcomed by the industry and has certainly helped to ease workforce challenges.

All that said, there’s no quick fix for some of the issues and it’s likely we’ll see longer repair times continue throughout the year.

In general, motor vehicle claims are lower in the summer months, so this will be an opportunity for the industry to regroup and prepare for the winter peak.

The pandemic has certainly changed working habits and it will be interesting to see what effect this has on road accidents as we get ‘back to normal’ in the months ahead.

What are the priorities for Motor Repair Network?

We’re well-placed to support customers in the current climate, and growing repair capacity will continue to be a key focus in the months ahead.

Our hybrid repair network is made up of our owned line of Activate Accident Repair body shops, strategic repair partners, and specialist layer of mobile repairers. This gives us the flexibility to increase capacity when needed.

We’ll continue to onboard new repair partners this year, and have exciting plans to open more of our own purpose-built repair centres around the UK.

For my team a focus on communication and working in partnership with our customers is also key. This is a time of change, and we’ll be sharing data and insight on what’s happening so customers can keep ahead of the curve and stay competitive in the repair market.

What opportunities do you see for insurers in improving the way they handle vehicle repairs?

Now I’d say the biggest opportunity we have seen is to review communication strategies in line with changing repair times.

We’ve been working with customers to ensure we set the right expectations from the start, and provide additional, regular timely updates through our fully configurable claims management system. It’s so important that customers feel supported and informed throughout the journey.

Longer term, there are some great opportunities in tech-led solutions that allow a self-service experience for repair booking and updates.

For most people, the accident repair process is a one-off and it can be confusing. Striking the right balance between online convenience, and the reassurance of human interaction is the key to success in this area.

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