When it comes to the inspection side of the industry, L'Tonya Carr, president of Carr Appraisals Inc., knows a thing or two. The company was founded by Steve Carr, an ASE certified Master Tech, in 1985. It began as a small, regional provider, then incorporated in 1987 and began nationwide service at the urging of a major U.S vehicle manufacturer. Carr joined the company on a full-time basis in 1989, after spending several years in human resources for a Fortune 50 company. Mr. Carr officially retired in 2010 and total ownership of the company was transferred to L'Tonya Carr.
Utilizing a network of certified, technically knowledgeable and experienced field inspectors, Carr Appraisals provides confirmation of repair facility diagnosis and an opinion as to the cause of mechanical breakdown failure. From a general administrative standpoint, noted Carr, the company is similar to most inspection services, in that it receive requests from vehicle service contract providers/administrators. A rep then reviews the technical needs associated with those requests, dispatches the most qualified inspector within the area and provides a detailed report of findings.
But technology has had an impact here, like in every aspect of the automotive industry, but finding a balance between faster/cheaper and high quality can be challenging. "Technology has significantly impacted the speed at which inspection information is received, processed, returned and analyzed, thereby reducing claim costs," said Carr. "Fifteen years ago, inspection written reports were delivered via snail mail, 35mm cameras were used and you didn't know if you had a bad/blurry photo until film was developed (oftentimes too late to make a correction). Today verbal reports are provided from the repair facility, written inspection reports are available via a Web site within 24 hours and photos can be transmitted to the client directly from the repair facility during performance of the inspection."
Time, for an inspector, is money, Carr noted, and because of that, technology has helped in tremendous ways, although it hasn't allowed them to do more inspections in less time. At the same time, various factors have conspired to decrease rates overall, so in order to maintain the same levels of income, inspectors are required to take on additional work. Quality, she said, can suffer in that environment if the inspector isn't careful. "Although not generally from a 'technical knowledge' standpoint, but rather in photo documentation, written documentation and problem solving," Carr said. "The necessary and required supporting documentation for inspection findings/conclusions, from a legal standpoint, is far more critical today versus 20 yrs ago."Certification Could Help Solve the Problem
One way she advocates ensuring the quality stays high despite changes to the process is certification. Some of the items she would like to see addressed under a certification process include report/photo documentation standards; fact finding methods;, understanding evidentiary facts versus personal commentary, understanding why VSC providers/administrators expectations differ, and for contractual reasons why they need answers to very specific questions/conditions; and the development of standardized inspection procedures to include a code of conduct.
"Claim administration today is very different compared to a simple standard service contract 10-15 years ago," she noted. "Legal ramifications associated with these changes have a direct impact on how an inspector's opinion should be presented. This is a primary reason why I strongly believe an inspector certification program is long overdue. I have high hopes that FIPAA's efforts in this area, will soon effect the necessary and appropriate change. Certification would address consistency issues as well, and I believe, advance the overall value of an inspection."