These were the five most frequent suggestions given on our “2000 Industry Profile” when we asked respondents (shop owners and managers) what insurers could do to improve relations with collision repairers. A few other respondents gave suggestions on what BodyShop Business could do to improve relations, and several of those suggestions sounded something like this:
Print articles that educate shops about insurance and how insurers think.
Ask and you shall receive. This month we’re doing both. The article, “Stop! In the Name of Estoppel” is about how a funny-looking word can help you laugh in the face of adversity. How? I’ll show you:
A shop owner and an adjuster agree on $6,000 to repair a vehicle. Soon after, the shop starts the job. A few days later, an envelope arrives with a check for $5,000. “Huh? What’s going on?” asks the shop owner to himself, as he dials the adjuster’s phone number. The adjuster tells him that $5,000 is all he’s going to pay. End of conversation.
But that’s not the end, since this shop owner knows the funny-looking word. He writes the insurance company a letter saying the insurer “has been estopped from changing the agreement we made.” Several days later, the shop owner visits the bank – where he deposits another insurance check. This one’s for $1,000.
Along with educating you about insurance, we’re also educating you about how insurers think. In our cover story, “Learning to Play Nice”, we took those five repairer suggestions/complaints and asked insurers to honestly address them. Let me tell you, getting honest answers isn’t easy. Even when we promised insurers anonymity to eliminate the chance of repercussions – from their employees, from repairers, from their mothers-in-law, etc. – many still gave us the “corporate policy this” and “corporate policy that” jargon that sounds like it went through a team of lawyers. So we didn’t include those answers in the article. What we did include are comments from two insurance-company employees to whom we granted anonymity in exchange for answers that said something – something that just might help you to better understand insurers and to better run your own business.
Don’t care what insurers have to say? Wish they’d just get their noses out of the repair process and let you – the expert – make the repair decisions? That’s highly unlikely considering that, according to “Claims” magazine, the auto repair industry took in $25.6 billion in revenue in 1999, and $22.4 billion of that was collected from insurers. It’s safe to say insurers aren’t going to throw up their hands and declare, “We’ll just pay the bills. The rest is up to you!”
But how educated you become about insurance – and about how insurers think – is up to you. I’m not saying you have to become buddies with insurers and invite adjusters to your son’s birthday party, but you do have to work with them. Education ensures that when you do, you’ll be their equal.
Editor Georgina Kajganic can be reached by e-mail at