mad or they might shut you down. We’d be a part of the insurance industry, not the auto collision industry.
If all insurers went with this type of program, it would destroy our industry as we know it. My mother said change is good, but in this case, I’m not sure it’s good at all.
I know this program has been tested in a few markets, successfully – as they say. And they plan to roll out many more in large metro areas. Maybe in those markets there are so many people, you never need them as return customers. Where I live, we still put a value on our customers. I’m sure that’s what Progressive is doing also. They’re putting a value on my customer who happens to have their insurance.
Fidel Castro couldn’t make people productive as a dictator, so I don’t think it will work for the insurance companies. The only scenario that would be worse would be if the government were to take over our industry.
Rick English, body shop director
Ganley Lincoln Mercury
I’ve been on the program for a year now, and I joined because of the volume and not having to deal with the customers. It’s basically a DRP, and any DRP increases your volume. You’re doing work at discounted rates, but the discount isn’t much so it creates more revenue. You’re going to get more cars into the shop. Think about it. Do you want to have two cars at $37 an hour, or do you want eight cars at $35 an hour? What’s the best scenario? It’s pretty simple: Volume is better. The Progressive program provides good volume.
If Progressive were to want more concessions in a few years, you don’t have much choice. But I don’t anticipate they’re going to ask for more concessions. They can’t keep the program alive if they ask for too much because people just won’t stay on it.
The way we’re set up, Progressive sends me a text message on my cell phone when there’s a car to go pick up. I go on the computer, download the estimate from my e-mail and then I go pick up the car. I’m 20 minutes away from the facility. I travel more than most of these guys. There are a few that are farther than me, but most of the shops are pretty close to Progressive.
I’m also on other DRPs with GEICO, State Farm and American National. Progressive’s program is appealing to me because they handle dealing with the customers, and I’m just fixing the cars for them. It’s eliminating a lot of problems like rentals, customer phone calls and all that. That’s the brunt of it Ñ you’re not dealing with customers. You’re not handling that end of the business. I’m just picking the car up, fixing it, bringing it back Ñ and they handle everything in between there.
When you’re fixing cars, you get a lot of phone calls. You get calls from rental car companies, insurance agents, follow-up people who are checking on how long the car is taking. We don’t get that stuff because we have a rep who comes in here just about every day. He’s here about supplements anyhow so he just goes down a list of the cars. They put in target dates, and if you’re near a target and you don’t think it’s going to be completed, he’ll change it. Then their people on their end call the customer and let him know. They also call and give an update on the status of the vehicle.
It’s a lot nicer not having to deal with people. … It’s not that I don’t want to talk to people. It’s just that not having to gives me more time to do other things.
It’s not a hassle dealing with an insurance giant as my corporate boss. I don’t see it as being any different from any other DRP. I don’t look at DRPs as hassles at all. I look at them as opportunities. Business is business. You do what you gotta do to make your shop busy. I have a busy shop because I don’t let other people get in my way. I don’t care to cater to some other body shop’s views on direct-repair work. I do what I gotta do.
There are some shops that are reliant on Progressive, and if Progressive pulled out, they’d be in trouble. But I don’t have my eggs all in one basket. I’m in a position where if they did pull out, I’m going to lose a little bit of work, but I’m big enough that it’s not going to affect me so much that I go out of business.
Being on this program doesn’t eliminate referrals [and word-of-mouth] like some opponents of the program say. I’m in a unique situation. I’m a dealership, and I have 25 stores. When people come in to Progressive, if they know we’re on the list, they’ll request me. I’ve had people whose cars I’ve fixed and they’ll ask Progressive what shop fixed their car the last time because they liked the work. I’ve had a lot of cars that have come back because they got in another accident. So it’s not like I’m losing that business. In some cases, these people are on the other side of town, and these are people I probably never would’ve seen in the first place. So I’m seeing new customers.