Friday, 19 December 2008 12:11

Amaradio -- Change is a Journey, Not a Destination

Written by Lee Amaradio, Jr.

I write articles about our industry. I give shops my opinion on what I think they can do to turn this industry around because we need “change.” I have become an industry advocate and placed a well-deserved bull’s eye on my back. I will say what most other industry people only think.

    This all started because I was so frustrated that I could no longer contain it inside. Always striving to stay ahead of the competition, our shop decided years ago to deliver a quality product. Through the years the standard by which collisions are repaired have changed so much.Even though I was a quality shop if I were to repair vehicles today by those ten-year-old standards, I would no longer be delivering a good, honest repair to my customers.
    Take a look at anything from cell phones to computers and you will see that 10-year-old technologies no longer measure up. We are continually raising the bar with everything in America; this is just the way things are. Remember the first cell phones that needed to be installed in your vehicle? What if we tried to sell those cell phones today? People would laugh at us. Things have changed!
    Remember the Shade Tree mechanic – where is he today? Today’s vehicles require diagnostic computers that tell the mechanic what is wrong. Cars have changed. Try to change spark plugs on some of today’s vehicles and you will be shocked at what an ordeal it is.
    Although the equipment required to repair vehicles today is quite a bit different than the old days, some collision shops are still repairing collisions and charging the way we did ten years ago. This really needs to change!
    I remember when color match was the main concern of my customers, cars were different, and the consumer was less demanding. Today the customer expects the color to match; the old days of trying to sell a color that isn’t spot on are gone. The consumer has become so accustomed to getting things done correctly that they expect it. So if an insurer tells you that they refuse to pay for a blend or to color sand and buff, we can no longer take “no” for an answer. We should charge them and not worry when they tell us that the shop down the street never blends anything.

So how do we keep up?
Change is how! Many of today’s shops have fallen behind the times and are being encouraged to stay in the past by the insurers. I have heard so many times that “we are the only shop that charges for this or that.” Maybe we are the only ones doing it. I know of shops that still pull things on the floor and, believe it or not, they are on many of the insurers preferred list.
    Why would an insurer recommend a shop that they know is substandard? Because they save money. This is the only reason. They know that they assume no liability for the repair; so they are essentially off the hook.
    If a question about the repair were ever to make it into a courtroom the insurer would say, “We are not the repair experts, we don’t tell them how to repair the vehicle, they are the experts.” We all know this is true, we hold the bag, and we are the ones responsible!


    If we assume all of the liability for the repair, why do the insurers write estimates that we work by? Why do shops even look at an estimate that is written by a rookie adjuster that doesn’t have a clue how to repair a collision? Some are taught by their superiors not to even look at our estimates for the simple reason that they are trained to purposely leave things off the estimate.
    Common sense would tell you that they shouldn’t even have the right to write an estimate or have any input into the repair process unless they were the experts and shared the liability. We are the collision repair experts and, by their own words, the insurers are not the repair experts.
    The law says that the insurer has the right to reasonably adjust our estimates. There is nothing in the insurance code that gives an insurer the right to write an estimate or control the repair process. Adjusting an estimate is completely different than writing one.

Make the changes now
If you want things to change for your shop you need to start today. I suggest that you tear down every vehicle and write a complete estimate. If an adjuster tries to hand you an incomplete scratched out estimate, don’t accept it. This takes diligence on the shop’s part because the insurer will delay the repair and pass the buck on to you.
    We have every customer authorize a teardown. We take a ton of photos for the adjuster but we work for the consumer and our responsibility lies with them. The BAR requires us to do this and when we do it any other way we are non-compliant with BAR requirements.
    The vehicle owner is our customer and we need to educate them at the time of drop off. Let them know that you work for them and have their best interest in mind. Explain the potential delays could be if you have trouble coming to an agreed price with the insurer.
     Next you need change the way you deal with the insurers. It’s time to educate the insurers that you deal with about why you are charging for any item or procedure in question.
    Show them OEM documentation or use ALL DATA documents. I have found that when you prove that something is required, the insurer is powerless to deny it. Now you move the liability over to their side. In 30 years, I have never found an insurer willing to assume any liability for any repair.
    Anyway, yes, I am trying to change the industry and I’m willing to put myself on the line, because someone needs to. The days of sitting back and waiting for something to change are gone.
    I will speak out and tell the truth about what is going on. I will continue to change this industry one shop at a time, one insurer at a time, one tech at a time, one training program at a time.
    I will continue to write articles and give information and hope that you will be that one shop that “gets it” and realizes that the “change” starts with you.