Allstate launched Virtual Assist two years ago to provide a method by which a shop could immediately reach an adjuster and get an answer about a supplement by showing the relevant damage during the video chat.
Gerber could use the service in-house in a similar fashion, according to Allstate.
“Gerber recently tested Virtual Assist using the collaboration software to create internal efficiencies before deciding to license the right to use it across its organization,” Allstate wrote in a news release. “The technology, licensed by Allstate, helps a body shop employee, or potentially a vehicle owner, connect with another employee using real-time video and skill routing technology to gain capacity, reduce overall cycle time and improve the customer experience.
“With Virtual Assist, Gerber’s hundreds of U.S. locations can help each other through their busiest periods. A decision on parts and labor is made in real time, and that helps reduce customer wait times. It all means a faster turnaround for a damage appraisal by an expert, which leads to a better experience for the vehicle owner.”
Gerber said no information which could identify a customer would be shared.
“We are exploring this path with Allstate because technical innovation in the collision repair space is moving quickly,” Boyd Group marketing Vice President Susie Frausto wrote in an email. “Gerber is proud to be taking a test, learn, and iterate approach. How Gerber ultimately uses the technology may become one of the small ways we differentiate ourselves.”
Allstate spokesman Justin Herndon on Tuesday explained why a collision repair chain would use Virtual Assist rather than having locations Skype or FaceTime each other.
“So, FaceTime is a great ‘one to one’ way to share live video,” Herndon wrote in an email. “Virtual Assist is different because it allows the (‘caller’) to be bounced up against a group of individuals that have capacity to handle the supplement right then and there as well as one that is licensed in the state. Virtual Assist uses intelligent routing to make sure the call is handled live by someone that can handle the caller’s need.”
Herndon made a similar point in 2017 in discussing why Allstate and a shop wouldn’t just communicate through typical video chat methods.
A consumer’s ability to chat with a collision repair facility and give or receive a video chat tour of vehicle damage could also make scheduling or approving additional repairs more efficient and consumer-friendly than other options today today.
“Getting the right work to the right resource in real time creates an opportunity for us to handle the entire process during a single customer interaction,” Tim O’Day, president and chief operating officer of Gerber parent Boyd Group, said in a statement. “This has the potential to be a game-changer for our business and the industry.”
Allstate in 2017 had offered to licensed the technology to other insurers, referring them to its telematics spinoff Arity, and Herndon said the Gerber Virtual Assist deal announced Tuesday wasn’t exclusive. Other repairers or even other industries could license the tool.
“As to availability, Virtual Assist was conceived and built as an industry solution and is available to companies who see value in licensing the collaboration tool,” he wrote. “This might be MSO’s, other insurers, IoT device support companies, or even roofing contractors.”
Allstate, May 28, 2019
Allstate’s Virtual Assist App is shown in this image provided by Allstate. (Provided by Allstate)
Allstate’s Virtual Assist is shown in these images provided by Allstate. (Provided by Allstate)