We’ve read the horror stories. Considered the warnings.
Even still, we want our DRP!
Yes, you heard me correctly. We’re currently making a giant effort to get on direct-repair programs so that we — like so many others — can one day complain about the problems within the DRP system.
And you have a front-row seat.
Every journey begins somewhere. For us it was in late 2001. My husband, Johnnie, came to me excited about a business proposition. His father, a frame technician for more than 30 years, had an inside lead on a prominent garage space available for lease. It was a primo spot for a Philadelphia shop — solid middle income residential neighborhood, properly zoned and at the “T” of a major intersection. What’s not to like?
OK, neither of us ever worked in a body shop a day in our lives. But we weren’t going to let that stop us. Business is business, right? We had Johnnie’s undying love for all things motorized, our own know-it-all college credentials and enough cash saved to startup without filling out a loan application. Johnnie’s brother, Anthony, was finishing his accounting degree and agreed to jump on board, too.
We had it all figured out. One business plan and a few I-CAR classes later, Classic CollisionWorks was born.
Since opening day, we were spoiled with a large amount of walk-in traffic. However, the person who coined the phrase, “The customer is always right” should view our security tapes. We soon realized those courses in glitzy suburban super shops
couldn’t prepare us for running a shop in the heart of Philadelphia.
For some reason, our street-smart clientele interprets customer service as a sign of weakness. If you run across any of the following three basic hustles in your facility, you understand a day-in-the-life of a Philly shop owner.
The simplest scam I like to call “crocodile tears.” That’s the setup where the husband sends the wife in to pay the final bill. When it’s time to fork over the deductible, the pity party begins: “I never got this estimate. THEY told me all I had to do was give you this check,” followed by Oscar award-winning waterworks.
Then there’s the “switch-a-roo.” That’s when the customer gives proper payment and leaves praising the workmanship. Everything seems kosher until the check bounces. Once the customer gets home, he calls to cancel the insurance check and ask for a re-issue to his home address. The customer gets his shiny car, the repair money and a free keychain — all with
the assistance of the insurance company.
Last we have “the enforcer.” On the day of delivery, the customer gives us a portion of the amount due and insists, “That’s all THEY gave me.” This intimidation tactic is followed by threats of bodily harm and other Wild West tactics in an attempt to have the car released at gunpoint.
Notice in each case, the “savvy” customer uses the insurance company against us — the out-of-the-loop, non-preferred body shop. But now we’re ready to turn the tables. With our newly expanded facilities, we’re at a crossroads — continue with more of the same or take steps for change.
The only sensible solution available is teaming with the insurance companies.
Problem is, even though we’ve expanded our facility to 12,000 square feet and are one of only four major shops within a community of some 50,000 insured drivers, we still aren’t on the map — at least not according to the direct repair powers that be.
It’s time we got a little attention.
Of course, part of the Ole Boys Club we ain’t. In fact, shops in our area don’t make the lists, period. Instead, insurance companies currently refer customers to suburban shops miles from customers’ homes. So we’re poising ourselves to provide a solution for insurance companies interested in providing a qualified, convenient facility for their customers.
The question is, can we break the mold?
You’ll know as soon as I do, since throughout the year, I’ll be giving you the behind-the-scenes nitty-gritty on our quest for DRP. That’s right. I’m gonna tell it straight — the good, the bad and the ugly. We encourage any suggestions from the veterans out there, and for newbies like us, we don’t mind if you take a few notes.
Wish us luck!
Writer Monica Dorsey is a partner at Classic CollisionWorks in Philadelphia, Pa. You can reach her by e-mail at [email protected].