Build Stronger Relationships with DRPs
Wayne Griffin knows a thing or two about DRP programs.
Or, you could say, he knows a lot, considering he spent over 25 years on the insurance side of the industry, working for both Safeco and GEICO.
Now as the director of operations at Walker’s Collision Repair, a two-location, $10 million operation in Tennessee, he uses his insurer past to his advantage. Handling eight separate DRP accounts, Griffin knows how to build a good working relationship with insurers—but most importantly, he knows how to maintain that relationship.
While Griffin learned his methods by immersing himself in the insurance industry, Ralph Barron obtained his knowledge the old-fashioned way—by simply participating in the programs since he took over his family’s shop, Ace Body Shop in El Paso, Texas, in 1989.
For both Barron (who participates in three programs) and Griffin, over 70 percent of their shops’ business comes from DRP relationships. If there is one thing they both see as absolutely crucial for any good working relationship, it’s building trust.
Each of them offer tips on how to build and maintain stellar, long-lasting DRP relationships.
1. Don’t Fall Victim to Small Mistakes.
Griffin says that most insurance companies ask for three reasonable requirements: photos, documentation of damage and documentation of the repair process.
Why are these reasonable? Because what they’re asking for should be done regardless if an insurance company is involved or not.
Griffin says that you need to effectively perform these steps for the customer, because what you’re documenting goes into his or her file. This ensures that you keep your customer in the loop and that you record the entire repair process.
Not effectively doing this is a common mistake, Griffin says. For Barron, documentation comes in the form of taking good photos and providing written descriptions on each of the photos taken.
The process also relies heavily on accurate teardowns to ensure all repairs are caught on the front end of the vehicle’s time in the shop. Even though one of his major DRPs, State Farm, doesn’t pay for scanning, Barron says he still scans every vehicle for liability and efficiency reasons.
2. Check Your Attitude.
It’s not just a lack of documentation or process that is the problem with insurer relationships, Griffin says. It also comes down to attitude.
He says a frequent problem shop owners run into is when they try to make demands of insurers and insist that they will always do what’s in the best interest of their business. Keeping a good attitude about the back and forth makes for a smooth process.
If an insurance carrier comes in and shows resistance, you can easily present what they need, whether it’s photos or the documentation of the repair process.
3. Gain Their Trust.
There are a lot of factors that play into trust, according to Griffin, including taking care of the customer and repairing the car correctly the first time.
Barron says that his trust with insurers comes from his shop’s reputation for quality. Participating in DRPs dating since the mid ‘70s, Barron’s shop takes pride in building a reputation based on trustworthiness. He did that via thorough teardowns and writing estimates correctly the first time, so that if an insurer came back to review the estimate, it was easy to prove that everything was repaired accordingly. And his sales proved it: The 6,500-square-foot shop produced anywhere from $150,000–$200,000 per month, making it the No. 1 shop in the area.
“You have a little more credibility because you are doing good work,” Barron says.
But it isn’t just about doing the standard job right, Barron says. It’s really about meeting and exceeding their expectations.
Each program and each adjuster is different, Griffin says. Learn how that company or person operates and what their expectations are.
4. Effectively Handle Negotiations.
When it comes to negotiating, Barron’s method is to provide as much information as possible to the insurer. That way, they can see where his shop is coming from.
He also says that as long as you remain educated with all the latest repair procedures and such, you can use that to your advantage when it comes to credibility.
The same goes with exceeding expectations. If you consistently exceed expectations, you can use that to negotiate the things that you are not getting, he says.
Griffin agrees that you need to educate yourself before you educate insurance companies. Print ALLDATA, I-CAR and CCC ONCE reports and provide the necessary information, so that when an insurer does ask questions, you are prepared.
Barron will print out thorough OEM procedures through ALLDATA and I-CAR if there is ever a dispute with a partner.
5. Don’t Assume You’re Always Right.
Griffin says that the toughest part of negotiations is listening to the other party. If you have the ability to listen to what the other party is saying and understand it, you will instantly be a better negotiator.
“Negotiation is a give and take. That’s what it means,” Griffin says.
He recalls a negotiation he had with a shop owner when he was working in the insurance industry. The car in question had a hydroformed frame that could not be heated. The owner said he had repaired frames for 30 years and knew that it could, but Griffin responded that just because you have been doing something for a long time, does not mean you were doing it right.
Basically, just make sure you know right from wrong, Griffin says.
6. Calmly Handle Uncomfortable Situations.
If you explain to the insurance company what you’re doing to repair the car and why you’re doing it, 99 percent of the time, the insurer will agree with the shop or reach an agreement, Griffin says. However, there is that 1 percent of cases.
If, for any reason, you and your insurer are deadlocked in negotiations, you have to make a decision. Griffin says that the absolute first thing to consider is the customer in the situation—both who the customer is and the correct way to repair the vehicle.
Griffin says that the shop has a responsibility to safely and effectively repair the car. And if an insurance company fights that responsibility, the shop is on the line and there are a lot of repercussions.
When making a decision, ask yourself the following:
- Can I put my name on this car?
- Can I warranty this job?
In an uncomfortable situation, just make sure to reiterate to the insurance adjuster that your employees have completed significant training requirements. Use tools like I-CAR and ALLDATA to backup your repair procedures.
The one thing you should steer away from doing is involving the customer in your negotiations with their insurer, Griffin says.
Rarely, if ever, will Griffin explain to a customer that an insurer will not pay for their repair. Your customer doesn’t have the knowledge to deal with that type of situation so they should never be the middleman.