Thursday, 25 October 2012 11:49

Clean Up Your Own House Before You Gripe About Someone Else’s

Written by insurance insider

“I wish I had a nickel for every time that happened.”

Yes, that’s an overly-used expression, but it applies to so many things. How rich would you be, for example, if you could charge a nickel toll for every worthless adjuster that walked through your door? I’m guessing that you are now imagining yourself as Bill Gates or Warren Buffett.

Well, if you’ve read any of my previous columns, you know that I am now going to give you the other side of that tollway coin. Yes, the one you just collected from one of my knowledgeable adjusters.

I personally believe adjusters are an underappreciated segment in this industry, especially as it relates to the perception of the body shop. More often than not, the lowly adjuster is viewed solely as a gate-keeper, standing between you and the pot of gold that insurance companies report making each year.

Truthfully speaking, we realize our house isn’t always in order in terms of adjusters, which is the reason we spend so much time, money and effort to train, develop and retain staff. Although you may view our efforts as pathetic or perhaps only “window dressing,” we view your industry’s corresponding efforts as non-existent.

Think about it: While we may not always do an exceptional job, the person most impacted by our lack of experienced adjusters is our own company. The cost of an inaccurate insurance estimate theoretically doesn’t cost your business money, provided you don’t assume the insurance estimate is 100 percent accurate. Most shops will use the insurance estimate as a baseline and make adjustments. Other more independent thinking shops will refuse to use it at all and write their own instead. So the biggest cost to a shop from an inexperienced insurance adjuster is probably the price of perception: If the adjuster doesn’t prepare a thorough estimate and there is a large supplement, the consumer may question the shop’s integrity.

I don’t want to undermine the price you have to pay for our inexperienced adjusters, but the price we pay for YOUR inexperienced “adjusters” can’t be measured. There’s a financial cost as well as the tremendous negative impact it has to CSI results.

We realize our house isn’t in order, but have you seen the mess in yours? Adjusters may seem like easy targets as shops lash out against insurers. I guess to some extent it’s understandable. I would be frustrated too if I was continually arguing why I needed time to do a specific labor operation. But before you throw a stone at the window of our house, take a look inside yours. I can see inside and you are in dire need of Martha Stewart, Better Homes and Gardens and a Bob Villa make-over.

The topic of inexperience or poorly-trained shop “adjusters” is one I’ve never seen discussed in any trade magazine or at any industry even. I’m not sure why. Maybe because writing a proper estimate, speaking professionally to a customer, and handling a claim from start-to-finish is considered Body Shop Estimating 101. To put it in school terms, it’s a prerequisite to do the job. If you classify yourself as a shop estimator, you can do all of those things. right?

Wrong. Similar to our adjusters, shop “adjusters” come in all shapes and sizes. Finding someone that has that trifecta of shop estimating skills is as rare as a Buffalo Nickel. If you have one, consider yourself lucky. I know how difficult it is. That’s why we insurers invest so heavily in training. (Please hold your laughter. Yes, we do invest a lot.)

I apologize for being cynical, but I wonder why shops spend so little time training their adjusters. Is it advantageous to have an inexperienced person writing estimates? Assuming that there is no financial gain, the lack of attention to the details of customer service is reprehensible in a day and age where customer service is a huge priority in any business. Your inexperienced adjusters hurt our business and the performance of your shop.

I can assure you that a shop with outstanding KPIs (key performance indicators) is usually the direct result of a high-quality shop “adjuster.” Poor performing shops are usually rife with inexperienced adjusters, high turnover and a lack of employee ownership of the customer experience and operational results.

Insurers are inherently process oriented. We can’t understand why shops have no problem seeing our dirty laundry but can’t see the clothes on the floor of their house that they just tripped over.

Please train your people and audit your staff like we do. If you do, all three of us win.

Got a comment or question you’d like to see the Insider address in a future column? Email him at Auto.Insurance.Insider@gmail.com.