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Rental Runaround

Ever since the economic downturn, insurers have gotten more aggressive with car rental tactics, causing strained relations between body shops and their customers, not to mention lost productivity. But there are ways shop owners can fight back.

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Since the economic downturn in 2008, insurers have become more aggressive with their car rental tactics. And these tactics often put the customer in the middle and strain their relations with collision repair facilities, which could result in a negative overall experience for them. Here are some of the tactics I’ve experienced:

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• Minimal up-front rental allowances and/or time allotments. Claims adjusters are telling the customer that the repair should take “X” number of days, and the shop shouldn’t go over that. I’ve even had customers say they were told by an inside adjuster or even a car rental representative that their vehicle was ready when it wasn’t.

• Constant phone calls and messages. Inside adjusters and car rental companies will pepper you with phone calls and messages demanding why a delay has occurred, with the irony being that often these adjusters have next to no experience in the auto body repair industry. A shop then has to make multiple calls to multiple parties, none of whom actually own the vehicle. Who has time for this?

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• Inciting panic among customers. Insurers will alarm customers about possible delays so much that they feel threatened and put increased pressure on the shop fearing that the insurer won’t pay for their rental the full time the vehicle is in the shop. Insurers will even go so far as to tell the customer to ask the shop to pay for some of the rental.

• Small rental allowances. Often, insurers don’t give enough rental allowance to allow a shop time to get parts. Plus, they don’t pay in advance, which prevents steps that could be taken to pre-order parts on smaller jobs.

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Educating the Customer

With this barrage of new tactics insurers are using to minimize their rental costs, how can shops find time in the day to do what makes us money? I find that educating the customer and making them an active participant in the communication with the insurance company works wonders.

The days when the shop handled everything are gone. Besides, I don’t think that strategy is effective in the claims process. Get the vehicle owner involved so they know what’s going on and don’t panic when there are unexpected developments.

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Start by asking the customer up front how many days the insurance company told them the repair would take. Also, ask how many days of rental the insurer allowed for. This will help you understand what the customer’s expectations are. Give them an estimated time for the repairs that’s currently known – without factoring in the wait for parts and for insurance company approvals and/or additional visits.

Explain to your customer the average number of days it takes to obtain parts for their vehicle make/model. A two- or three-day part wait time is normal, but sometimes it’s longer. Explain the need for future approvals by the insurer and/or appraisers and what the response time is in normal situations.

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Inform your customer about insurers that are difficult to work with. Also, that some insurers don’t even have their own field appraisers, and so they have to hire appraisal companies, whose response time may also play a factor into when they can expect to get their car back. Then, that appraisal company has to submit the estimate and/or supplement to the insurance company to be reviewed prior to it being approved. Later, it’s sent to the shop, whereupon the shop finds that it’s missing the required items to properly restore the vehicle to its pre-loss condition.

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On smaller repairs, ask the vehicle owner to get the insurance company to approve the shop’s estimate up front – and make sure that the insurer has paid for the bulk of that estimate before they come in. Don’t take in small jobs with insurer estimates that are too short or are missing too many critical items. This will only leave you with a simple repair that takes too long in the shop.

If the insurer is bullying the customer, tell the customer to tell them to stop! If a customer voices their displeasure over this harassment, the insurer will often soften their approach.

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Talk to the car rental companies you work with to make sure their efforts to please an insurer don’t conflict with your relationship with them. Discuss parameters and mutual guidelines so that their communications with insurers won’t cause harm to your operations.

Communication Is Key

Educating and communicating with the vehicle owner from the beginning to the end of the repair will create the best customer experience possible. And managing the time you spend doing this will insure that your productivity and profits don’t suffer. A


David Mosso is a sales manager with Precision Auto Body in Reseda, Calif. Reach him at [email protected].

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