Menefee: Don't Shoot the Messenger

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I would love to hear from someone in collision repair who can say they have never gotten frustrated with an auto insurance adjuster. If so, you are a unicorn in our industry and I would love your contact information so I can learn from you.

The truth is, if you have been in this industry long enough, you have gotten into some type of disagreement with an adjuster over what they are not paying, not authorizing, and not doing. It’s just the nature of the beast. What I want to tell you is don’t shoot the messenger! The auto adjuster is in the trenches with you!

How We Don't Help

We all know the adjuster is just the mouthpiece for the insurance company and they bear the brunt of our frustrations most of the time. They get to tell us what the insurer is not going to pay for or authorize. They get to relay to us that the company isn't going to extend the rental days. They get to inform us that their company doesn’t pay for those OE procedures. They have the joy of relaying to us that their insurance company does not authorize all OEM parts. They are the messenger for their insurance companies and have to stand behind policies and procedures, and what do we do almost every single time?

We shoot the messenger!

We argue with the adjuster. telling them why they are wrong. We argue they are defrauding their customer. We argue that they are offering the customer an improper repair, not up to OE procedures. We argue that they are putting subpar parts on vehicles. We demand to speak to their supervisors. We threaten to file a complaint with the Department of Insurance. I could go on and on until I’m blue in the face, and just what is the adjuster thinking as we argue these points and make these demands? They're thinking, “I’m just here for the steady paycheck and benefits. I don’t make up these rules.” If we got the adjuster alone and off the record, most of them would agree with what we request, but, unfortunately, on the job their hands are tied.

So why do we keep shooting the messenger? 

It’s a question I ask shops all the time. The insurance adjuster can make our lives hell or they can clear the way for our shops to be paid more, with less frustration. Just like you and me, the adjuster doesn’t want to listen to complaints and threats day in, day out. They get held to metrics just like DRP shops and must answer for what they pay for, why they paid it, and why their claims payout ratio is so high compared to other adjusters. They are questioned about their cycle times and a multitude of other metrics insurance companies want to track. Just like how insurers like to hold a fire to our feet, they do the same to adjusters.

So again, I ask, why are we shooting the messenger?

How We Can Help

The adjuster may not be able to change company policy and they may not officially be able to pay out some of the items we request, but they can go a long way in helping us get to where we want to be. They may not be able to add that hour of repair time where we want it, but they know they can add it elsewhere on the claim without question. A good example is that they know they cannot pay for color sanding and buffing, but they can pay for de-nib and polishing. They know what they can get away with. So why do we keep ostracizing them?

Adjusters have long memories and remember the shops that make their lives hell, just like we remember customers who aren't the easiest with which to work. Let’s take a step back and see how we can get in the trenches with adjusters so they can start working for us, instead of against us. Let’s ask the question that we fail to ask: “How can we help them?”

Do they want documentation turned in a certain way? Do they like their pictures labeled as the part number? Do they like line notes that state “Request per OE procedure, please see Attachment 1”? Do they like a detailed supplement estimate or do they prefer an email with bullet points and documentation? Do we make notes of things we do but are not charging for? Do we let the adjuster know we understand where they are coming from? Do we say, “I understand you can’t give that price difference to me, or that additional repair time, but is there anywhere else on the estimate you could help me out?” Do we always take a hard stance with the adjuster, or do we let them know we will meet them in the middle?

I don’t know about you, but for me, I prefer to win auto adjusters over to my side with a little charisma, understanding, and statesmanship, instead of having to fight the same fight day in and day out. I may not win every battle, but I prefer to win the war. 

Tiffany Menefee is the owner of Pronto Body Shop in El Paso, Texas. She formerly worked in the insurance industry as a licensed insurance agent and adjuster and is a member of the FenderBender editorial board.   

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