Insuring a Strong Relationship
The glue that keeps Tiffany Menefee’s shop, Pronto Body Shop, on good terms with insurance agents has been her drive to build a good rapport with insurance adjusters in her area.
Menefee, owner of the El Paso, Texas, shop, acknowledges that it can be hard as a body shop owner to look at the situation from the insurance company’s perspective and vice versa. In fact, she has first-hand knowledge of how the two sides differ in training and procedure; before she bought Pronto Body Shop in 2015, she worked as an insurance agent for more than 20 years.
“Most body shops will look at insurance companies as the dark side because [they’re] the ones taking the money, but it’s really all for the sake of the insurance agent to build cases to present to the boss,” she says.
Menefee’s shop produces more than $1 million per year in revenue, with 40 percent of the work coming from insurance agents or adjusters recommending the business.
And, Menefee’s shop does this while remaining a non-DRP facility.
The reason? Insurance adjusters may not be privy to what is being done in terms of repair work and “what is going on behind the scenes,” Menefee notes. The lack of knowledge can cause tension and can cause body shop owners and insurance companies to disagree on repair costs.
The benefit to forming a strong relationship with an insurance adjuster, specifically for a non-DRP shop, is more accurate documentation of every repair and saving the shop and the insurance company time when it comes to negotiating over the phone.
In the end, Menefee has grown the shop’s annual revenue from $375,000 since taking it over in 2015 to its current $1.3 million per year.
The Starting Point
When Menefee took over her shop in El Paso she knew it was time to observe what goes on behind the scenes. Since then, she has been able to glean knowledge from being a shop owner and her experience being an insurance agent to work on creating a solid relationship with insurance companies in her market.
“We’re on the border of two cities and adjusters will actually argue over who gets to visit our shop in person,” she says.
Menefee advises all owners and agents to take required training seriously. Menefee herself has been through I-CAR training and other manufacturer training sessions, featuring both hands-off and hands-on training.
“Actually being in the shop and hands on, and having the technicians explain why he or she took off a part or did something, makes a difference,” she says.
Menefee took hours at the beginning of being an owner to spend time observing the technicians’ daily routines. Her background in insurance generally involved mechanics, she says, so she was largely unfamiliar with the day to day elements of collision repair.
The Consistent Setup
Menefee got started in her role as owner by training an existing estimator on insurance adjusting and training a new hire to do the same. After training each of them, she sent them to take a test for the state’s license for adjusters. Three estimators have licenses at the shop.
Menefee and her estimators take time to walk the floor and check on processes.
One aspect of establishing a good rapport is to know what goes on in the repair process and troubleshoot, if necessary. Menefee’s team is able to walk around often to do so because the facility is relatively small, at 7,500 square feet.
The other key ingredient to the relationship is to be honest. Say a technician was sick and the repair was delayed a day. In that case, Menefee says the manager needs to apologize and tell the truth to the adjuster.
“Just own up to it,” she suggests. “If you’re going to pay one day of a car rental out of pocket then that goodwill will go a long way with the adjuster.”
Once the door is open, the next step is to work on the shop’s documentation process, Menefee says.
Insurance agents and adjusters tend to be numbers oriented. They like to have paperwork, she says. So, when an issue, like a delayed part, does arise, the reason behind the repair being delayed does not necessarily correlate to the insurance person, who still views the situation in terms of money.
If that is the case and the delay is not the shop’s fault, then Menefee says it is time to pull out the correct documentation to show the company.
“A lot of the time we ordered a part and had to send it back because it was damaged,” she says. “So, if that’s the case then the team needs documentation to prove it happened.”
Documents that need to be provided to the insurance company include invoices and pictures of the repair. To take the process a step further and make it easier for the adjuster, Menefee will label the pictures of damaged parts with the part name and the parts number so that adjusters no longer need to sort through more than 30 photos to find the picture.
Pictures of parts are always labeled and then downloaded to the shop’s Dropbox, Menefee says.
The Goodwill Formed
Menefee will take time to go even one more step further and have her team mark the car up with a marker before the adjuster arrives. The team takes markers and labels the parts that are damaged and separate them from the rest. The process of marking the damaged car helps the adjuster to quickly see areas where scratches or dents might not have been visible to the naked eye at first glance.
“No adjuster wants to come out and see everything lying around,” she says.
By being consistent and following through with proper documentation as much as possible, if there are occasional times in which a photo is missing, there is already established goodwill between the owner and adjuster.
The beneficence continues to go a long way for her shop. Menefee recalls a time where she was discussing repair hours with an insurance adjuster and she requested 10 hours. The adjuster came back and said, “Hey, my boss can’t give you 10 hours so the most I can give is eight hours. But, I can give you an extra two hours on this other section instead of that one to make up for it.”
Often, the insurance agents won’t visit Pronto Body Shop for larger hits because they trust Menefee to send the correct invoices and photos. They reassure her that she doesn’t have to call them and get them back into the shop when there are supplements, she says.
SHOP STATS: Pronto Body Shop Location: El Paso, Texas. Operator: Tiffany Menefee Average Monthly Car Count: 50 Staff Size: 11 Shop Size: 7,500 sq ft; Annual Revenue;$1.3 million