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After a short period of kowtowing to insurers, we came to our senses and realized that if we want our DRPs, insurers need to respect us. Enter: our “house rules.” Part 2 of a year-long series.
During the first months in the business, we were willing to take on any challenge an adjuster threw our way. If the estimate called for an unreasonable amount of repair time, we took it on the chin. The last thing we wanted was a reputation as a “difficult” shop, unable to handle a hard hit.
So we fell in line, hoping to earn our stripes.
That was until extended production time caused missed delivery dates and irate customers. It was nearly impossible to keep up with adjusters writing train wrecks without replacement parts.
After being burned one too many times, we finally got the message: Insurance companies make money collecting premiums, not spending their profits on claims.
Negotiating payment from insurance companies is a constant tug-of-war. Every small victory on our side comes at the expense of the insurance company.
But now that we’ve decided to try to get on direct-repair programs, it’s a whole new game. We have to decide how to provide quality service to our customers without hindering future relationships with the insurance companies.
After a bit of soul searching, we decided it all comes down to one thing: respect. Without it, a business partnership cannot be successful — and working with an insurance company is no exception. But there’s no way we can earn respect if we’re constantly licking their boots.
A lot of us in the collision repair industry continue to undervalue our worth. We have to break away from the mindset that it’s OK to sacrifice profits as long as we stay in business. The privilege of working on cars for a living is not enough. So the first thing we have to do is shed the hobby shop image.
And that’s just what we’ve been doing. We got down to business and got our state certification. Then we began attending estimate training courses covering add-ons and missed operations to beef up our knowledge base.
These days, before an adjuster attempts to make blends and R&I hours optional operations, we lay down the “House Rules”:
1. Unless we’re familiar with an adjuster, he’s not permitted to even look at a vehicle without a house estimator present. In most cases, estimates are prepared in advance and handed to the insurance representative. We express our expectation for a smooth repair process, pointing out the steps our shop must take to bring the car back to pre-loss condition. After all, insurance companies don’t let us tell them how to write a policy, so why should we allow them to dictate how to repair a car?
2. A supplement is a supplement. There’s no limit to how many times we’ll call for a legitimate supplement. If an estimate is not written properly, we leave enough voice-mail messages until they come out for their second, third or eighth visit. Verbal authorization for additional work is not sufficient. All supplements must be faxed before additional labor work is assigned or parts are ordered.
3. All adjusters are held accountable. If a job needs a new door, and they insist we bend the safety/reinforcement and slap on a new skin, something ain’t right. We’re no longer willing to let adjusters earn their yearly bonuses by cheapening our work. So we cut right to the chase and offer a deal. We’ll follow their suggestions to the letter, as long as they submit a letter accepting all liability for the procedure. Of course, we still haven’t run across anyone willing to take us up on our offer.
4. We reserve the right to ban unreasonable adjusters from the building. Anyone working with our organization must work within our standards. After all, our name is on the product. If an adjuster makes a practice of writing grossly inadequate estimates, we write a letter to the claim rep documenting the problem and request a qualified estimator. Not only do we no longer waste valuable time bumping heads with power-hungry adjusters, but local offices are becoming aware of our commitment to a streamlined process.
5. We expect the check to be in the mail. When supplement checks aren’t received in a timely manner, the file is sent to a collections agency. We’re not interested in lip service. Though customers are ultimately responsible for payment, we’d rather not hold vehicles for supplement checks. Of course, some adjusters have selective memories when it comes to issuing supplement payments on cars no longer in the building. Thanks to our collection agency, the corporate office promptly receives a bill with the balance due. Before you know it, the claim rep takes over and the check’s in the mail.
Naturally, some adjusters resent our “House Rules.” But the majority — including a few that gave us the cold shoulder — actually work with us to make the process simpler for everyone involved.
Because of our new no-nonsense approach, instead of ruffling feathers, adjusters are actually volunteering the information we need to join their programs. Although we still have many challenges to face, we’re confident that, no matter how the chips fall, we can move forward with our heads held high.
Writer Monica Dorsey is a partner at Classic CollisionWorks in Philadelphia, Pa. You can reach her by e-mail at [email protected]