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Insurer-Relations Profile

The relationship between insurance companies and collision repair shops has, historically, been much like the relationship between a dog and a fire hydrant. (If you have to ask which role shops play, the moisture in your brain has short-circuited your thinking ability!)

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But times are changing, and as they do, the relationship between repairers and insurers also changes.

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Is it changing for the better? Are more shop owners deciding to "partner" with insurers to become part of direct-repair programs (DRPs)? Are these partnerships profitable for both parties?

Don’t get dogged. Read this year’s Insurer-Relations Profile for the answers.

Why do 80 percent of respondents say they’re losing work due to insurer steering? Reasons include:

• "The freedom of choice is often hidden or not mentioned by claims reps."

• "A lot of people don’t know they can get their cars fixed wherever they want."

• "The scare tactic used locally: telling insureds their vehicle’s repairs won’t be guaranteed unless repaired at certain shops."

• "Steering happens continuously — every day — because I’m not a DRP shop."

• "Insurers tell customers they’ll have to pay the difference if they choose their own shop."

67.3 percent of respondents say problems with negotiations are due more to company guidelines than individual appraisers, while 32.7 percent say problems are more the fault of appraisers than company guidelines.

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Respondents involved in a DRP arrangement increased from 36 percent last year to 44.8 percent this year. Why are shops involved in DRPs? Reasons cited include:

• "Increases traffic. No delays in repairing vehicles."

• "It brings customers to our shop who wouldn’t come otherwise."

• "To make billing and supplements move faster."

• "It simplifies the claims process for our customers, our shop and the DRP insurer."

Of those on DRPs, 91.3 percent say they’re better off due to their DRP arrangements, while only 8.7 percent say they’re not. Reasons cited for why they aren’t better off include:

• "We’re doing their preliminary work, taking photos ($5 value), labor to prepare and send faxes, additional annoyances."

• "No significant volume is directed to us."

Reasons cited for why they are better off on DRPs include:

• "We get more work with the DRP arrangement."

• "Pre-qualification programs make us all better. Minimum standards for repair separate quality shops from those less desirable or questionable shops."

• "We don’t have to deal with adjusters on those claims, so it’s better service for insureds."

• "DRPs generate volume even though you must give concessions."

Since joining DRPs, 55.6 percent of respondents say their profit margins have increased, 4.2 percent say they’ve decreased and 40.3 percent say they’ve stayed the same.

Despite giving concessions, 93.8 percent of respondents on DRPs say they can still repair vehicles to pre-accident condition. When asked if the DRPs are good or bad for the industry, 48.4 percent of all respondents (DRPs and non-DRPs) say they’re good, while 51.6 percent say they’re bad.

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Improving Insurer Relations

What can be done to improve relations between collision repair professionals and insurance-company staff? Here are a few suggestions from this year’s respondents:

• "Insurance personnel could get educated in the automotive field — starting at the top, down to the adjusters."

• "The only help for shops is the removal of the government anti-trust exception for insurers."

• "Insurance appraisers and company people should be made to periodically fix autos with aftermarket parts."

• "Shops need to be more professional and honest."

• "Give appraisers more latitude, penalize dishonesty and raise the assumed hourly rate."

• "The estimator and appraiser should work together in the beginning and discuss repairs."

• "A more educated exchange: Shops educated about insurance; appraisers educated about shops."

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