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Sink or Swim: Adjuster Trainee

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A local Mickey D’s manager is now a Progressive adjuster trainee," writes a Kansas repairer on Autobody Online’s discussion board. "I swear, he’s the same guy that handed me my McGriddle two weeks ago!"

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"AHH I get it now," writes a Michigan repairer in response. "That’s why Progressive adjusters are about three fries short of a happy meal."

"Could I get my McBlend supersized?" writes a Missouri repairer.

But among the requisite jokes comes the voice of reason from an Alabama shop owner: "The question is, why does the majority of the collision repair industry STILL give these people credibility by allowing them to walk into the shop and decide how the car will be repaired and how much they’ll pay for repairs? Does it need to be any more blatantly obvious that these people are NOT collision repair experts? As such, they have no business dictating repair procedures or prices."

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Thank you Alabama. You couldn’t be more right – insurers don’t have any business dictating repair procedures or prices. And more and more shop owners are finally realizing this.

More and more shop owners are also finally realizing that the true problem is, as an Idaho shop owner calls them, "backstabbing shops."

"Even if you go to an area with no [direct-repair programs], you still have to deal with backstabbing shops because vehicle owners are enticed to get more than one estimate. Why? Because insurers know shops will backstab each other to have the lowest estimate."

Despite many shop owners realizing that this cut-throat marketplace only benefits insurers, they still haven’t quite figured out what to do about it. In fact, some well-intentioned shop owners are actually making it worse. This Idaho shop owner, for example, says he’s tired of losing work to backstabbers so when he has the chance, he underbids the backstabber’s estimate to get the job.

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In his tunnel vision – "Don’t lose jobs to backstabbers" – he himself has become one. And, in the ultimate irony, reputable area shop owners probably look down on him.

But competing in this race to the bottom is not the answer. What too many fail to consider is that every time they give away work a little bit cheaper, all shops are expected to work a little bit cheaper. The precedent is set.

So how are you supposed to deal with "backstabbing" shops without becoming one?

Unify – so insurers can’t play shops against each other …

"Stop competing against each other," says a Pennsylvania shop owner. "Speak with other shops in a effort to improve the industry. And those who can’t see it, let those bottom feeders put themselves out of business."

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And empower your customer – the vehicle owner.

"I’m not in the business to fight insurance companies," says a shop manager. "Our business is to fix cars. The best way to do this is to give the customer the necessary information they need to make good, sound decisions.

"Of course, it’s necessary to haggle with adjusters on certain items, i.e. ‘blend within panel,’ or parts that come in that are clearly inferior even when the customer has opted for them, etc. But those things fall under the category of what’s ‘reasonable and necessary’ to get the job done right. And if you justify your needs, more times than not, you’ll get it.

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"Simply don’t let the adjuster or reinspector hide behind what ‘corporate’ says they will and will not pay. Make them justify it further, and if they can’t, it’s on to the vehicle owner. The owner makes the final call.

"I inform the customer. I give them the power to choose who’ll receive their insurance premium."

The time has come people. Sink or swim. Take action or quit complaining. Fact is, if you use your power as an industry and as individual shop owners, it won’t matter one McNugget where an insurance adjuster used to work or how ignorant he is of the repair process – because the only power he has over you is the power that you yourself give him.

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Georgina K. Carson, Editor

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