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Estimates control your business

Thursday, January 17, 2019 - 09:00
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PALM SPRINGS — From cycle time to profits, quality and safe repairs, estimates control the success or failure of your collision repair business. So are you doing them correctly?

Roger Cada

Roger Cada with Accountable Estimating presented on the ADAS/safety system impact on the estimating process and how this will then impact your business at the Collision Industry Conference on Jan. 17 in Palm Springs.

“If the estimate is not fully completed, you will find the car slows down in the business model; cycle time will be slowed down; quality will be impacted and profits. If it is not on the estimate, most technicians will not fix it. So then there are quality shortfalls that happen and that impacts CSI,” Cada said.

“The estimate controls your whole business. If we don’t do everything that is required to provide the repairs required to make the vehicle owner whole, we put the customer in jeopardy.”

Repairers first need to know what is covered by a customer’s policy. “Questions need to be asked of those paying the bills, and we need to figure out how we are going to document everything to make sure you get paid,” Cada said. He outlined the following as a guide:

  • Time to diagnose the damage?
  • Time to research all repair strategies?
  • Time for a tech to connect the equipment, tend the battery, perform the physical diagnostics, and all recalibrations?
  • 4-wheel alignment/confirm the vehicle thrust line to set the systems?
  • Time to test drive for the system to relearn or recalibrate and confirm?
  • Fuel cost when the recalibration requires it to be topped off?

Diagnostic times are also often a gray area. Cada recommends not establishing “cookie cutter” diagnostic times. “Each repair should be handled on its own merits” based on OEM recommendations and guidelines, Cada said.

Once you determine the repairs that are needed, you need proper documentation. “We have to find a way to start keeping records to maintain what we did,” Cada said. “You need bulletproof documentation.”

In terms of record keeping, which Cada suggests maintaining for 20 years back, he recommends having:

  • Signed releases
  • Images that clearly show all damage, repair procedures and quality control
  • All OE repair information used in the repairs
  • Identified DTCs
  • Screen captures of successful resets or recalibrations
  • Images showing the placements of the targets
  • Pre & post structural measurements
  • Vehicle owner discussions of any non-related safety issues identified

This includes photographs of vehicle damage and repairs. Cada strongly recommended taking all of your own photos, and not relying on owner or insurance photos, as they may not be available if needed in the future.

Another part of documentation relates to conversations you need to have with the owner and what is decided. This includes a signed release to access and share vehicle data, along with documented test drive paths, mileage and fuel levels and what may change based on test drives, calibration, etc., and if identified, any unrelated structural or safety-related data.

Protecting yourself with bulletproof documentation is vital because of your liability. “You are liable for your repairs for the life of the vehicle,” Cada said. And if a third-party service is used, “the liability remains with the repairer who selected the provider.”

Event attendees concluded the presentation with a vote — 90 percent in favor — on whether to create an Estimate Committee to address estimating issues.

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