Whoa, Slugger! Use Your Head Instead - BodyShop Business
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Whoa, Slugger! Use Your Head Instead

An estimator recently discussed online a young adjuster who came in to inspect a vehicle and insisted the shop use an aftermarket hood on a car that was less than a year old. The estimator said “No problem,” provided the adjuster sign a “Hold Harmless” form. The adjuster replied, “You’ll have to take that up with the owner.”

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“Not this time,” wrote the estimator in his online post. “I stepped closer to him, puffed out my chest, looked him straight in the eye and said, ‘I’m taking it up with you. You’re the one trying to make me use this A/M hood. Either you sign the form, or we’re putting a factory hood on.’ With that, I promptly turned around and left him standing in the parking lot.”

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In the end, the estimator got what he wanted. He was told to go ahead and use the factory hood … but did he really win? No. He may have won a battle, but he likely made an enemy for life. “So what?” you say. “At least he put that adjuster in his place.”

And what place is that? A repairer, more than anyone, should understand that “being put in his place” only creates hard feelings. All the time, I hear repairers say they’re being bullied or pressured by insurers and how, because of the hard feelings it creates, would never lift a finger for these people. Why, then, would repairers want to create these same hard feelings by bullying others? Because it was done to them first? “Tommy hit me first!” wasn’t a good enough reason – according to Mom – to have laid out your brother on the kitchen floor, so what makes you think this strategy is logical in business?

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Face it. If your “negotiations” still involve yelling, pumping out your chest and clinching your fists, you have a better chance of being cast in Rocky VI than of convincing your opponent to give you what you want. Negotiating is a form of mental sparring, so quit trying to physically intimidate and use your head instead.

Insurance adjusters are using their heads. Most know how to use logic to handle situations, and when you allow yourself to get emotional – and yes, saying something like “I was repairing cars while your mother was still wiping your @!#*” qualifies as emotional – you lose your bargaining power because now you’ve gotten personal. You sound more like a little kid – or maybe a mental patient? – than a responsible businessperson.

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“Comments like, ‘I’ve been fixing cars for 20 years’ go over like a lead birthday cake,” says an insurance executive who oversees shop relations. “Some shops also threaten and call the adjusters’ managers. Sometimes this works, but many times, it’s a disadvantage because it alienates the front-line claim employees against the shop.”

Is this to say all insurance adjusters handle everything perfectly? Absolutely not. But we’re not talking about them. They’re trained and prepared, so they don’t need any help. But how prepared are you? How many shop owners are good negotiators? “There are 50,000-plus shops in the United States,” says the executive. “About 15 percent are DRPs, and most are excellent negotiators. Another 15 to 20 percent have such a small customer base that they get no practice negotiating. Of the 50 percent or so left, half might be good negotiators and half not. If it’s 50/50, there’s about 16,520 shops that are good negotiators.”

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Leaving roughly 33,500 shop owners who aren’t. Do you fall into this group? If so, what are you doing to change that? Insurers (along with suppliers, customers, your mother-in-law, your bookie – who’s looking for you, by the way – the Girl Scouts, Congress, etc.) aren’t obligated to help you earn a profit. Just because you work hard and deserve something doesn’t mean you’ll get it. In fact, in business, it’s much the opposite:

You don’t get what you deserve; you get what you negotiate.

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