Running a Shop

How to Help Your Insurance Adjuster Help You

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Shop: ICS Collision Center Shop Owners: James and Tera Wilson Location: Derby, Kan. Staff Size: 9 Shop Size: 10,000 square feet Number of Lifts: 2 Average Repair Order: $4,180 Annual revenue: $1.3 million


Insurance adjusters can be seen as a thorn in a collision repair shop’s side, but with a shift in perspective and a few learned lessons, adjusters can quickly become a shop’s ally, even helping to streamline the repair process. 

James Wilson, owner of ICS Collision Center in Derby, Kan., says his shop was able to cultivate an above average relationship with its insurance adjuster, leading to improved customer satisfaction and cycle times. 


The Background

Insurance adjusters are often boxed in, Wilson says, stuck between what they want to approve for your shop, and what their employer is willing to pay. That’s why it’s so important to have an understanding relationship between your shop and its adjuster. 

He says insurance companies need to do three things: verify damage, go through claims, and indemnify  drivers. 

When a driver suffers an accident, they bring their vehicle into a repair shop—the shop runs diagnostics on the vehicle and crafts an estimate and a repair plan, according to its original equipment manufacturer’s repair procedures. Wilson says this is where insurance companies come in, and essentially, “pay for what they want from the list.”


The Problem

“I would say many insurance companies are functioning off a 15-year-old mindset,” Wilson says, “They want to negotiate.” 

Shop workers are trying to follow precise OEM repair procedures, while insurance companies are trying to save money, he says.  

This presents an issue for customers, who have to pay for what insurance won’t, and also shops, Wilson says, which could suffer as well. 

“[Insurance adjusters] can make it difficult for the shop and the customer because they can slow down cycle times,” he says. 

The more phone calls customers have to make, and the more hoops shops have to jump through, means the longer cars are sitting, losing shops money.  

Wilson says his shop and its adjuster had “a very challenging relationship” before he and his staff were given a “behind-the-scenes” look at the specific parameters adjusters are pressured to work within. 

“He can’t write for these items or he’s in jeopardy of losing promotions at best, his job at worst,” Wilson says, pointing out that’s when he knew his shop would need a different approach. 

The Solution

Wilson says his shop has an above-average relationship with its adjusters because of effective communication, education, and documentation. 

“If you don’t have enough soft skills to have basic communication with [your adjusters], they are not going to care about you, your shop, or your client,” he says.

That’s why it’s important to take the time to educate your adjusters, in addition to your clients. 

“Most adjusters understand what it takes to safely repair a vehicle, but they are still learning,” he says, adding that providing adjusters with factual documentation, like printed OEM repair procedures, repair plans, or photos of the damage, makes their lives easier,

“I learned years ago, we just have to stick with the facts,” Wilson says. “For every line item, have a photo and supporting documentation if you have it.”

Providing documentation is a huge benefit, as is how you relate to your adjuster.

“Develop a rapport with the adjuster to make it work,” Wilson advises. “Be an active listener, show empathy toward your adjuster, and understand that they can only do so much.” 

At the end of the day, both shops and insurance adjusters are only trying to do their best, he says. That’s why it’s crucial to educate customers as well. 

“I can call the adjuster all day long, but they aren’t going to listen to me because they don’t have a contract with me,” he says.

At ICS Collision Center, Wilson says his employees work diligently to educate customers on the front end, walking them through every step of the repair process to ensure they “don’t get trampled by insurers.” 

Wilson says his employees even explain smaller details of the process, like parts selection. They also help to advise customers of their consumer rights, by providing them with detailed informational packets that are crafted by business consultants hired by the shop.


The Aftermath

Wilson says his shop’s top priority is a complete and safe repair. In order to perform the repair, someone has to pay for it, and by having a reliable relationship with his adjusters, the payment process is much smoother for all parties involved. 

“Our adjusters know we are choosing the harder path, because it makes it easier for them,” he says. 

In turn, he says, at ICS Collision Center the repair process has been streamlined and customers are walking away with more knowledge than when they entered.


The Takeaway 

Wilson says if you decide to treat your adjusters like they are less than human, your shop and its clients will suffer, getting tangled in a morass of delays and outstanding payments. 

But taking the time to educate consumers and prove your methodology to insurance adjusters will streamline your shop’s repair processes while improving your customer satisfaction rate.

The fault lies neither with shops nor adjusters, but rather a lack of information for all involved, something Wilson says can be solved

“At the end of the day,” he reminds, “we are both trying our best.”


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