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It’s Not a Toy

It’s smart to assume that your collision repair customers are assuming that you’re competent.


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“Open up. Wider … wider. That’s good. Now hold still, and don’t scream like the last time. You scared the other patients in the waiting room, and you gave me a headache.”

If your dentist didn’t know the difference between a filling and a root canal, would you continue going to him? (If so, you’d likely have a mouth full of crowns and a dental payment plan that rivals your house mortgage.)

When you visit the dentist with a toothache, you assume certain things: that he knows his craft, that his diagnosis of your toothache and advice regarding what work needs done to your tooth are correct, that he won’t cause you further pain, that he’ll bill the insurance company correctly so they’ll pick up their fair share, etc., etc.


Maybe it’s not wise for customers to put so much faith in professionals, (Personally, I’m suspicious of nearly everyone. But this paranoia – wisdom, if you ask me – was only made possible by experience: a lot of bad experiences with a lot of incompetent people.) Still, the fact remains, many customers are very trusting – or simply too lazy to learn something for themselves.

Regardless, it’s smart to assume that your collision repair customers are assuming that you’re competent. And being competent means more than simply knowing how to repair the vehicle correctly. Quality repairs are important, but you need to understand all aspects of the business – and this includes knowing your business rights, the rights of your customers and having some insight into the legal aspects of insurance – for your repair shop to be successful these days.


Why isn’t knowing how to repair cars enough? Because … well .. it’s just not. Let’s use understanding your customer’s rights as an example.

Why should you have to learn about the rights of your customers? Shouldn’t they get off their lazy behinds, turn off “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and learn their rights for themselves? In repairer wonderland, yes. And some diligent consumers actually do know their rights (though many of these consumers also happen to be lawyers or married to lawyers).

But the thing you have to remember here is that consumer rights also affect your business. For example, do you know the differences between the rights of insureds (first-party claims) vs. claimants (third-party claims)? Do you know that these claims are governed by different laws? If you don’t, then you probably don’t know that a claimant is typically under no legal obligation to give the at-fault’s insurer an opportunity to inspect the vehicle prior to repairs. You also probably don’t know that a claimant has an unequivocal right to OEM replacement parts.


But if you, as a shop owner, don’t know these differences – and neither does your customer – you could make some serious mistakes that may come back to haunt you. Let’s say you don’t start repairs because your third-party claimant customer wants you to wait for the insurer to inspect the vehicle. Let’s also say your customer tells you to use A/M parts because the insurer said it won’t pay for OEM. If you do all this – after all, it’s what your customer wanted – you could very well find yourself picking up the tab for “excessive” rental car charges because the insurer claims the repair took longer than it should have since your shop waited for them to come out to inspect the car. And, if the A/M part fails, you could also find yourself redoing the job for free because the insurer claims that as a third-party claimant, your customer had a right, at the time of the original repair, to demand OEM. But didn’t.


Not fair? Maybe not. But if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Your business isn’t a toy. It’s your livelihood. So why should you know any less about your livelihood than a dentist – or, better yet, an insurance company – knows about his?

Georgina K. Carson

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