Preventing Steering

Dec. 1, 2011

An insurance company recently steered $17,000 worth of work out of my facility by telling customers they wouldn’t be able to guarantee the work. What can shop operators do to prevent that from happening?

Barrett Smith, president of Automotive Damage Experts Inc.:

This is becoming a common question. It’s a difficult issue for many good repairers, and is likely something that will remain a concern for some time.

There is no quick fix, but there are a few things you can do to begin protecting your company from such activities:

• Know your local and state laws governing the collision repair industry so you can properly educate customers on their rights as consumers. Educate customers on their legal rights regarding choosing where to have their vehicle repaired. Many consumers are unaware of their rights. Therefore, they don’t know how to protect their rights, and forfeit them by allowing the insurer to dictate the process.

• Inform customers about the importance of quality repairs and using quality replacement parts. Tell them how you refuse to employ less than quality parts and discounts that may affect the quality of workmanship. Explain how it may affect the customer’s personal safety and economic welfare.

• Let customers know why you don’t participate in the insurer’s preferred repair program. Explain the reasons why the insurer would prefer the customer to have their vehicle repaired at one of their preferred shops and not yours.

• Be proactive and do these things at every opportunity, including through local organizations and clubs. Develop a brand for your company in the community based upon a reputation of integrity, quality service and workmanship. Market those ideas, and let your community know you don’t just restore cars—you restore peace of mind. That will help earn your community’s trust. Consumers will become prepared for this issue, and not allow themselves to be steered away from your company.

Got a question? We’ll find an expert with an answer. Submit questions to [email protected]

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