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Effective collision repair negotiation starts with education, training

Monday, April 17, 2017 - 07:00
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I’ve been receiving a lot of positive feedback about my Achieving, maintaining OEM certifications will be key to sustainability column. People ask me, “What’s next, and how do we communicate the information in your article to insurers?” My suggestion is to educate your insurers by using the documents and processes available to you.

I was in a shop recently and overheard an estimator talking with an insurance adjuster about using a used quarter panel to repair a vehicle. The estimator referred to a statement from an OEM position paper stating that used weld-on panels are not recommended for use in collision repairs. The insurance adjuster said that wasn’t good enough because it was only a recommendation and not a requirement. 

We can argue the meaning of recommendation, but the estimator had a better justification available to him, he just didn’t know it. So I stepped in and acted as a mediator. I asked the estimator to look up the repair procedures for quarter panel replacement on the vehicle. As the three of us reviewed the process we found that the OEM required the quarter panel to be resistance welded during replacement. 

During this education process the insurance adjuster learned it would be impossible to resistance weld an LKQ quarter panel after a spot weld cutter was used to remove it from the donor vehicle. I asked the estimator to copy and paste that statement into the line note after selecting an OEM quarter panel as the method of repair.

This statement provided the justification the insurance adjuster needed to explain to his supervisor why the OEM quarter was selected. Knowing the OEM repair procedures proved beneficial in this discussion, and using the cited repair process allowed the repair to move forward with little or no debate. I believe insurance adjusters are just like you and me, they have to report to a supervisor and need to be able to justify what they allow on a damage appraisal. 

As we move through the wave of change I talked about in my earlier article we need to rethink the way we discuss repairs with insurers. We need to step away from negotiating a repair based on opinion and desire, to educating how a repair should be accomplished using OEM processes.

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Once upon a time the collision repair facility was considered the repair authority and the insurers generally relied on the repairers to select the method of repair. Over time the tables have turned. Insurers required their adjusters to become I-CAR certified and unfortunately many collision repair facilities did not follow suit. This gave the insurers the edge so they became the industry professional and began dictating how repairs should be conducted.    

Today, with more collision repair facilities becoming OEM and I-CAR certified, the tables are beginning to rotate back toward the repairer having the knowledge as the repair authority. This positive change will continue when it is done in a professional manner.  

The following William Glaser quote illustrates my point, “If you want to change attitudes, start with a change in behavior. In other words, begin to act the part, as well as you can, of the person you would rather be, the person you most want to become. Gradually, the old, fearful person will fade away.”

To be considered professional we have to conduct ourselves in a professional manner. Treat those around you with the respect you would like to receive and eliminate the arguments through an education process. 

There is an old adage, “Those with the most information win.” In the collision repair industry that has proven to be true, in many cases. Insurers would cite I-CAR procedures and collision repair facilities would have to take their word for it if they did not have the training themselves.

I have heard repairers say we need to level the playing field. I disagree, we must raise the level and elevate the standard. As more collision repair facilities educate themselves, gain certifications through OEM and other sources, they will gain the respect of the insurers to once again be considered the repair authority.  This is the true path to sustainability. Right now collision repair facilities have two choices, become respected as the repair authority or be passed by those that improve their knowledge and educate others. 

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