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Marketing to Insurance Companies

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There are business owners who follow trends. There are others who simply react to change when it’s too late.

And then there are the owners who are ahead of the curve.

When owner Angela Chmura found out one of Goff’s Auto Body major insurance partners was on the lookout for test piloting a light repair “fast lane,” she wasted no time in getting her foot in the door.

“I actually approached them,” she says. “I heard they were looking to do this in other parts of the country, and I wanted to be the shop they chose to test pilot, so I basically marketed my shop to them.”

While most shops typically put a large emphasis on marketing to the customer, Chmura says marketing to insurance companies can be just as important in getting ahead of your competition. That’s why she didn’t just contact her insurance partner, but also put together a PowerPoint presentation that outlined how the fast lane could benefit the insurance company.

And, as you might’ve guessed, the Milwaukee shop—which employs 10 that cycles through 100 cars per month for an annual revenue of $2.6 million—was chosen for the test pilot program.

“The whole process of marketing to insurance is coming down the pipe,” Chmura says. “You want to be on the front end of it. It’s here. This is nothing new. Shops have been segmenting the bumper jobs into a fast lane for many years, and it’s actually pretty intriguing to insurance companies.”

Chmura and Steve Trapp, the accounts manager for Axalta Coating Systems, put the presentation together, and each discuss their strategies for effectively marketing to insurance companies.

Understand Their Needs

Referring to it as “relationship selling,” Trapp says learning to build a relationship with an insurance company is key for marketing opportunities, which means meeting regularly with your DRPs and keeping track of what data is motivating an insurance company at any given time.

“Every insurance company goes through ebbs and flows as far as what's important to them,” he says. “Sometimes the shop thinks it has it all figured out. And that's true for that month, that quarter, that year. But then a new regional manager comes into play, a new national program rolls out, and all of a sudden the shop has to adapt.

“That's rule number one: Listen to and understand what their needs are and don't assume you know them. Continue to ask every time you see them.”

Chmura says she constantly feels pressure over cycle time, making the idea of a “fast lane” all the more appealing for her presentation.

“We were answering to [the insurance company’s] pressures,” she says. “For our insurance partner, cycle time is probably most important. Insurance companies have to put this money into reserve whenever there’s a claim, and you want the claim closed out as quickly as possible.”

The new addition to Chmura’s shop would allow her insurance partner to test out whether fast lanes could indeed reduce cycle time.

“They can now present the benefits to the customer and say, 'Hey, we've got this program, and if you'd like to take advantage of it, here's how it works,’” Trapp says. “The insurance company has no idea if the process is going to work.”

If, unlike Chmura, you don’t have a relationship set up with an insurance company you’d like to partner with, Trapp suggests yourself up for the pitch first: When handling a claim for a non-DRP, take the opportunity to look at the documentation to see who writes it, who approves it—form a casual relationship with them and delve into what the company cares about.

“Those are the people you want to contact,” he says. “You can even talk about what happened with a client. ‘Hey we did really good, the customer is super happy, here's their customer comments.’ Whatever you need to do to break the ice.”

By identifying what was important to the insurance company, Chmura and Trapp were able to dedicate a slide in their presentation that outlined the benefits for both sides. Not only could a light repair lane improve cycle time, but it would also:

  • Improve CSI with zero-turn days on light repairs
  • Cut down on rental car costs
  • Quickly turn administrative paperwork
  • Increase volume at the shop

“Every insurance company is constantly scanning their metrics, and they're coming up with new programs,” Trapp says. “Are you listening to your customer?”

Profitably Meet Your Needs

Understanding what will sell the insurance company is one thing—proving you have the capacity and resources to pull it off is another entirely. And if you’re not able to prove your business can pull off the operation efficiently without going broke, you’re less likely to land the deal.

While planning, Trapp and Chmura realized the insurance company was asking for some unrealistic options for a fast lane when it came to drying paint more quickly. This meant creating a budget for how expansive the project would have to be, while still remaining cost-effective and influential to the insurance company.

The shop had to invest in different paint products that were more costly and made the process go faster. Setting up a dynamite fast lane also meant involving Chmura’s suppliers to make the new system efficient and restructuring the shop’s parts procurement process.

Chmura slightly altered her shop’s layout and added a split shift for body and paint (which made up most of the overall cost) to facilitate the fast lane.

After several weeks of testing and a financial review, Chmura and Trapp discovered the new paint-drying system would cost 25 percent more, but also get cars out in 50 seconds as opposed to 30 minutes. All in all, the new fast lane will cost around $10,000 once the UV lights are purchased.

On top of that, the duo determined through testing that the shop could increase sales volume and achieve a goal of zero-turn days on light repair jobs.

“Don't bend over backwards for these guys,” Trapp says. “You shouldn't be doing whatever they want. You've got an economic opportunity if you see that it's profitable and there's enough volume to justify the effort for the time.”

Show, Don’t Tell

When pitching to an insurance company, Trapp says you have to show them what makes you unique—what 100-percent-ready-to-go process are you bringing to the table that nobody else can?

“They could offer guaranteed delivery time, or they could offer on-site rental pick-up and delivery,” he says. “It could be lots of things. So those need to be highlighted.”

And, in this shop’s case, it was a fully functional fast lane.

A huge component of Chmura’s PowerPoint presentation was not only appealing to the insurance company’s needs and how the shop could pull the process off in a cost-effective manner, but also how the fast lane itself would work.

“That was the whole purpose of the presentation: We’ve got to get them to visualize what we’re going to do in a way that’s going to make it so they’re compelled to make a decision to try it.” —Steve Trapp, North American strategic accounts manager, Axalta Coating Systems

Chmura and Trapp dedicated seven of the presentation’s 16 slides to “The Process,” which detailed the intricate eight-step process that would lead to zero-turn days on light repairs.

“We showed them what piece of equipment we piloted and brought in to test; we showed them the lane we set up; and then we basically showed them the benefits to their company and their customer,” Trapp says. “We tried to characterize, if we do this, it'll help us increase sales volume and bring in this benefit for you and the customer. Then we ask for the sale.”

For each step, Chmura and Trapp included photos of the process itself, visually explaining how each step would carry out, including displaying the shop’s pick-up system, how the shop would immediately acquire parts, the Gas Catalytic dryer used in the disassembly process, forms filled out for parts procurement and estimates, and the shop’s new and improved paint-drying lamp system.

“That was the whole purpose of the presentation: We've got to get them to visualize what we're going to do, that's going to make it so they’re compelled to make a decision to try it,” Trapp says. “You can’t just say, ‘I think I can do that.’ Anybody can say that. But if you take the effort to really do the research and find and show you're really going to do something unique, they'll think, ‘Let's give you a shot to try that.’”

The Follow-Up

Just like with any marketing venture, you don’t just throw money at an idea and hope it works—proving the system you sold to the insurance company is key, which means taking post-implementation result measures to ensure success.

“It’s just like anything in business: The ability to keep track of the results and then proactively report them back to the customers,” Trapp says. “The key thing is not to wait for them to come to you and say if it did or didn’t work. You have to keep close records on the first 10 to 15 jobs you do after that, and then be proactive.”

Chmura and Trapp scheduled a routine call two weeks after the fast lane was underway, and then shared monthly follow-ups after that. During that time, they were evaluating Chmura’s return on her investment, the sales volume it’s bringing in, and how to make it live up to the promise sold to the insurance company—and then, on top of all that, reporting those results regularly to the insurance representative.

“Shops tend to wait for insurance companies to give them the scorecards,” Trapp says. “Well, then it could be too late. You’ve already potentially gotten a bad score, and you could have been maintaining it and trying to improve the system. As critical as selling it is making sure the first couple jobs go well and maintaining a proactive stance, otherwise the whole thing is a waste of time.”

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