As the UK cautiously emerges from lockdown, I am reflecting on the Covid year. There are no words to describe its enormity. Foremost remembering those who lost their lives to Covid and their loved ones dealing with grief. And those who continue to suffer long term health challenges, and their carers. Not forgetting NHS workers who have kept going in traumatic circumstances, and others who have put themselves at risk to deliver essential services. The social, economic and political impact of Covid will be studied for years.
For all the tragedy the pandemic has brought, what I can talk about with some positivity is how the year has shaped our business. Two words spring to mind: Resilience and Growth. We had a carefully designed and tested business continuity plan and a flexible technology platform and we were able to move to a home working business model seamlessly. We anticipated this would be for a few months but here we are more than a year later. Our initial response was to take a structured, rational, data-led approach to help our understanding of the situation. We set out to bring what was happening in the outside world into our business – through government announcements, expert opinion, data sources from various parties including government, google maps, RingGo; all valuable insights into traffic activity. We also introduced a daily management meeting to provide oversight of operations, service delivery, improvement initiatives, member activity, new prospecting and our brand communications in a remote world – we kept this dynamic to give ourselves the best chance of responding most appropriately. It’s easy to forget that in the first few days and weeks, everyone was learning and adapting, no-one had a disaster plan blue-print.
We’re lucky to have the combined expertise and resources of our member network to call upon. Regular dialogue throughout has ensured we had clear insight into what has been happening locally around the UK, and feedback from our members has helped us shape and flex our service delivery to ensure optimum performance.
Perhaps most rewarding is the resilient attitude of our people. We knew they would bring a ‘can do’ attitude and embrace the changes needed and we knew that would help bring back stability to our business. What was amazing was the innovation that came with it. And that’s where I reflect on the growth. Despite the challenge of working remotely and scaling our services to meet fluctuating claims volumes, our people grew; and with that our business grew.
I’m proud to say that despite the pandemic environment we secured two new contracts. One with The AA to manage all its total loss claims and provide access to our stores of over 5 million reclaimed parts; the second with a well-known claims management company, the news of which has yet to be made jointly public. Our commitment to adding value and operating as a strategic partner saw us renew a further three existing contracts with high profile insurer partners. Responding to the challenges facing our clients and the wider market as a result of the pandemic, we innovated and introduced two new products. The first, an Emergency Recovery Assistance service which helped to keep the highways clear and provided rapid support to key workers. The second, a Finance Settlement Service, designed to speed up the settlement process for vehicles which have outstanding finance. These new services have delivered such strong time and money savings that our clients have asked that we carry them forward and incorporate them into our standard portfolio of services.
Resilience and growth are similarly prevalent across our member network over the last year. The scale and adaptability of the network really came into its own. As providers of essential services, our members rapidly adopted Covid safe practices to keep their staff and members of the public safe and operated throughout, prioritising collection of key workers’ vehicles wherever possible. Being independent businesses with discrete sites, members were able to cover each other’s collections in the event of a Covid risk at a site, ensuring no disruption to services for clients. The market was seeing much reduced volume and simultaneously, strong auction performance. e2e was no different and our network members worked hard to make as many vehicles available as possible to bidding customers and to present those vehicles for sale in the best way to drive optimal returns. Covid (and more latterly, Brexit) impacted OEM supply chains causing delays in new vehicle parts which increased key to key times for vehicle repairs. Demand for reclaimed parts began to grow rapidly. Our members responded by bringing forward investment in new parts warehouses in order to increase stocks, technology to speed up ordering systems and delivery vans to ensure parts arrived on time and in good condition. The implementation of the ‘UK Standard for Reclaimed Parts From End-of-Life Vehicles’ provided the market with confidence in the quality of reclaimed parts and all members of the e2e network have been certified by the VRA as meeting the industry standard. Over the same period, e2e refined its collection network and also undertook a member on-site audit programme linked to pre-defined member standards.
Auditing at head office level has also taken place. e2e has been re-certified for ISO27001 and ISO9001, with great feedback received from the auditor. We strongly believe in continuous improvement, challenging ourselves constantly and regularly seeking feedback from our clients and when relevant their customers. This last year we have implemented a customer feedback survey which will help to inform our quality assurance programme and strategic service decisions.
And finally, coming back to our people, their well-being is a business priority. We have implemented many initiatives to help staff with their health and well-being including the support of mental health first aiders and introducing a regular staff well-being survey through T-Cup. In March we committed as a team to run, walk or cycle 1,500 miles to raise funds for the Great North Air Ambulance Service, our Charity of the Year. The camaraderie gave everyone a huge lift and we were proud to raise over £3,700 for this fabulous charity.
The last twelve months have reminded me that even in the darkest times, we can dig even deeper, we adapt, learn, and come out stronger. Our ability to come together and support each other for the common good is a force we can rely on.