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12 Jul 2018

Blog post: Thinking outside the box

When Soft Edge, a Polish tech startup applied to our Drive programme with an App for assessing hail damage, we knew it had potential. But first we had to test it. How do you test a product for hail when hail falls infrequently across Europe? You either sit patiently and wait for the hail to come or you find a way to overcome it as Craig Watt, Head of Customer Insight at Belron and Drive mentor explains.

They often say that size matters. But in the case of hail, it really doesn’t… No matter what the size of the hail stone, it can cause a lot of damage in a short space of time. Whether it’s hailstones the size of peas (quarter of an inch in diameter) or the size of grapefruits (a whopping 4 inches) in parts of Europe, hail is one of the most costly weather-related extreme events causing substantial damage to crops, vehicles, buildings and other infrastructure.

Currently, technicians assess hail damage in two ways:

  1. By counting the number and size of the dents manually and then passing this information onto the insurer. This is time consuming and involves the skill of a technician.
  2. By hiring a large scanner which costs thousands of pounds.

However it is assessed, at the moment it involves a significant resource cost for us – whether that’s for people or technology. So when Soft Edge presented their App which takes a simple photo on a mobile phone to assess the number and size of dents and then sends this straight to the insurer, the Carglass Belgium team saw the benefit immediately. It would not only reduce the time it takes to assess hail damage from 20 minutes to two, but there would be a large cost saving as no technical expertise is required, meaning our assistants could operate the App freeing up our technicians.

Soft Edge was selected to join our Drive Programme pairing up with Carglass® Belgium who had expertise in the auto damage repair market.

Next step was testing the App – and that’s when we hit a stumbling block. How could we test for hail when it comes so sporadically? I’m pleased to say that we came up with some very creative ideas – from using storm chasers to track hailstorms in Italy to golf balls stuffed in socks to create hail-like dents. In the end, we located a number of cars that were awaiting hail damage repair so we were able to use these to test out the App – simple!

And that’s how our Drive Programme works. Coming up with creative solutions and thinking outside the box is a real reality when you only have 12 weeks in which to get your product up and running. This App could potentially help us to save time and money with both our customers and insurers benefitting – that must be worth a golf ball and a sock!