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Barrett Smith at AASP/NJ Meeting: Insurers Are Out of Control

To help bring forth practical solutions to help collision repairers overcome some of the industry’s most common obstacles, the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers of New Jersey (AASP/NJ) welcomed business coach Barrett R. Smith of Auto Damage Experts, Inc. to lead a special discussion, “Are You at the End of Your Rope? Thinking There Has to be a Better Way?” during its June 16 virtual membership meeting.

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An industry veteran who has served as both a body shop owner and an insurance adjuster (among other roles), Smith began by sharing that he has seen shop/insurer relations worsen over the years.

“The insurance companies are out of control,” said Smith. “It’s not getting any better; it’ll get consistently worse. It’s what I call ‘boiling the frog.’ Many of you probably heard the old adage where the frog will swim around in some cold water. You turn up the heat gradually, and the frog fries without knowing what happened to it. That’s kind of what is happening to this industry.”

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Smith noted that as insurers gain more power, shops are losing the ability to manage their businesses. As a result, they “are being put into a position of significant liability by not stepping up and doing the right thing for the right reasons and the right way.”

To combat this trend, Smith showed attendees ways to regain their power by putting customers first and working to empower them. He detailed what he called “the seven Es,” a philosophy to “expose, edify, enrage, empathize, empower, equip and encourage your customers to do the things they need to do to make sure that their safety and economic welfare are protected.” This means that when an insurer fights a claim for necessary OEM repairs, the shop must let the customer know this is happening. The customer can then either contact their insurer directly to push for payment or pay for this work out of their own pocket. Because a shop is responsible for the liability of a repair for the life of the automobile, the shop can tell the customer it will turn the job away or ask that consumer to sign a hold harmless agreement should they refuse the necessary repairs. Attendees who have used these tactics claim it has successfully resulted in the customer choosing to have the repairs done right rather than put their safety at risk.

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“It’s about standing up for the customer,” said Jerry McNee, president of AASP/NJ. “You know what your cost of business is. Insurance companies have trained us to accept things like cost shifting. If we allow this to continue, it will lead us down a path to destruction.”

With insurers not paying for storage proving to be another hardship facing shops these days, Smith suggested there should be no reason why a facility would not charge for this if the insurer or customer is delaying the repair. This would lead insurers to quit delaying things and speed up the process, which will benefit all parties involved – the shop, the customer and even the insurance company itself.

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AASP/NJ also welcomed Rick Palmer of PMCLogic, who described and demonstrated a tool that works with all estimating systems in giving collision repairers an accurate paint and materials estimate.

“One thing people don’t have in shops is time,” said Palmer. “We strive to do everything we can to take people out of this process. We’ve made it 100% automated so you can get accuracy with your invoice.”

For more information on AASP/NJ, visit aaspnj.org.

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