One of the struggles to get paid our new rates found its way to the supervisor of a large A+ plus insurance company (one of my non-DRPs). Without naming names, it is a good company with which I like doing business. He personally came by my office to discuss my request. I told him about our increased cost of doing business, the price of state-of-the-art equipment we need to retain our reputation for high quality repairs, and the expense of maintaining a well-trained staff - all elements of sustaining a business for 27 years.
His response: "I've also been in this business for over 25 years, and you shop owners all think you're the best, so what makes you better than the other shop who tells me the same thing."
I countered that my years of experience in the collision repair industry, along with my reputation for quality, and integrity, speak for themselves. I patiently explained that you can't expect to go to Ruth Chris for a steak and pay the same price as at Sizzler.
His response: "If you go to the grocery store and buy a cheap loaf of bread and an expensive loaf of bread, they will both fill you up."
Full is full, right?
He didn't know it, but what he told me was that "quality" didn't matter. I mean horse manure will fill you up if you're only trying to get full. He completely missed the point - good bread is about nutrition and good health, not about getting full. Quality costs more, and safety is priceless.
I went home to another sleepless night asking myself the question, how can I show this man that we deliver a quality product? After lying awake for hours, the answer came to me - I don't have to! How can I explain quality to someone whose only concern seems to be cost? I mean he said "full is full," right? "Wrong!" Full is not full, and quality does cost more! Just like the fine restaurant whose reputation precedes it, their food speaks for itself. We need to let the quality of our work do the talking, and demand that we get paid the price on our menu.
Reputation speaks for itself
My customers are my credentials. They speak for us and our reputation speaks for itself. If this were not true, our rates wouldn't be an issue because there would be no collisions for us to repair.
Does this insurance company executive really believe that one loaf of bread is the same as another. If he needed brain surgery, would he want the receptionist at the hospital performing it instead of the doctor. After all, she knows the entire hospital lingo because she has worked in the medical industry for 25 years - she has seen it all. Does that give her the ability to determine how and what procedures are performed, and to direct the brain surgeon on what do?
Although this gentleman claims to have been in our industry for over twenty five years, he hasn't! Our industry repairs collisions; his sells policies and processes claims. According to the law, we are allowed to charge a reasonable rate based on the rates of our peers. So who are my peers? Do I include anyone and everyone - or just other facilities like mine?
Remember he said both loafs of bread will fill you up. If you eliminate quality from the equation, all collision repairs become the same. If you take integrity, reputation, training, and equipment out of the picture, you will see how this executive views our industry. What do you think would happen if he takes his wife out to McDonalds for their next anniversary dinner instead of Ruth Chris? McDonalds has great, quick service, with food that will get them full.
Acceptable collision repair goes way beyond service. It is about our quality. It is about our reputation, and the assurance and confidence we leave with our customers after they have received their repaired vehicles. It is about our mission statement with a commitment to our customers to do a quality repair they can trust. It is about being entitled to make a reasonable profit while delivering a quality product.
The bottom line is about demanding respect as the collision repair experts and standing up for our rights and the rights of our customers. It's about not allowing the receptionist at the hospital to call the shots on a brain surgery just because she's worked in the industry. It's about trusting in the doctor's judgment. We are the doctors of the collision industry. Isn't it about time we start to act like it and quit allowing the receptionist to call the shots.
In business for 26 years, Lee Amaradio, Jr. is the president and owner of "Faith" Quality Auto Body Inc. in Murrieta, Cali-fornia. With 65 employees, he attributes his success to surrounding himself with good help. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.