Wednesday, 30 November 2005 09:00

Straight talk with customers keeps business thriving without DRPs

Written by Dick Strom

CCRE Update

Barry Roberts, owner of Reno Auto Body in Reno, Nevada, succeeds in the collision repair business by not catering to insurers. The advice he gives to other shops wanting to become profitably independent is incredibly down to earth, accurate, and typical of that given by fellow Coalition for Collision Repair Excellence (CCRE) sponsor-members: 

"Insurers are not the collision industry's customer. Repairers have no legal contract whatsoever with insurers; our contract is with vehicle owners needing our services. At Reno Auto Body we emphasize producing a great repair experience for each of our mostly repeat and referral customers, and on educating these and future customers on exactly what an 'as close to humanly possible' repair consists of, not on pleasing insurers."

Reaching out

Roberts continues, "We're presently working on a new 30-second TV commercial that will run for six months, that will include what we tell each potential customer who walks through our door - their insureds' rights and a heads-up warning of the typical word-tracks their insurer may be using to steer their vehicle away from our shop.

"We also tell them the reason insurer- generated estimates and those from insurers' favorite shops may be 15-20% lower than ours is due to their use of inferior non-OEM un-NHTSA-tested crash parts, not paying for reasonable and necessary operations and materials, etc. We also tell customers they must take the time to read and understand the true intent of their insurance policy, and what they are entitled to in a repair. We make them understand that we are truly independent, and so we will be truly truthful and not hide things from them that insurer-dependent shops might."

Post-repair inspections

Roberts goes on to then ask them, "Have you ever had your vehicle repaired by a DRP shop? We are experts in reconstruction of poor repairs, and have been providing Post-Repair Inspections for almost ten years. We also help consumers with documentation to assist them in getting their vehicle re-repaired by their insurer, who is responsible to cover all costs until the vehicle is repaired correctly."

When someone comes to us holding an insurer-generated estimate, we tell them it is the insurer's "…first-best-guess estimate. We tell them our first estimate is, likewise, our first-best-guess, but that when we get the vehicle torn down we will provide the insurer with a NOD (notice of deficiency) itemizing each item the insurer missed. We write estimates in dollars, not in time units, which eliminates getting hung up on labor rates. And we itemize each part of each procedure involved in the repair; we have less hassle with adjusters when they see the actual labor operation broken down into its integral parts, and each one charged for separately."

Informal education

"From the moment customers enter our office they can't miss the collision trade magazine articles posted that stress the importance of correctly repairing the vehicle, and what this entails. We reason with them on their level, saying, 'You wouldn't accept a burnt steak from a restaurant, so why would they be willing to accept substandard collision repairs, that may also potentially affect the safety of your family?

"We need to be above insurers and their game, and CCRE has helped us do that. As an industry many of the issues we are now facing should have been seen coming years ago and been dealt with at that time. But they weren't, and so insurers have taken advantage of the collision industry's disorganization. But knowing there are shops across the country that are working together to organize this industry and make it both profitable and honest again is one of the best benefits of being a CCRE sponsor-member.

Shop owners have an obligation to vehicle owners to do it right, and that's the way it's done at my shop. Our customers appreciate it, and come back to us when they need future repairs, in spite of insurer attempts at steering them away."

The CCRE represents the interests of collision shop owners operating as independent business entities and helps them to pursue legal remedies for illegal job "steering." We invite your participation, and will not disclose member information to insurers or the general public. www.theccre.com.