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Good and bad news for auto body shops in new insurance study

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Business Practices | Insurance
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A study from the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America released Tuesday has some good news and bad news for auto body shops.

First the good news: A lot of customers are using the auto insurance claims process, and they’re happy with it.

More than 72 percent of respondents to the survey, conducted by GS Strategy Group on the association’s behalf, had filed an insurance claim. That means the odds are good someone will show up at your shop needing your help.

About 55.8 percent of those reported being either “extremely” or “very” content with the claim handling, with 33.4 percent “somewhat” and 8.9 percent “not at all satisfied.” Now while you could argue that the claim handling happiness refers more to the insurers, we doubt they’d be so satisfied if they had a bad experience with the body shop.

As indicated here, the totals didn’t add up to 100 percent in the data provided by the association along with the news release. We would guess that the remainder answered a version of “don’t know.”

The survey talked to 1,000 likely voters and has a 3.1 percent margin of error.

“Following an accident, consumers, repairers and insurers have the same goals; a quality repair, a swift return of the vehicle to the road, an easy and hassle-free experience and based on this survey consumers are very satisfied with the insurance claims process,” association personal lines senior director Bob Passmore said in a statement. “Insurers want their policyholders to be satisfied with the repair process and place a lot of emphasis on creating a customer-centric process that results in a high quality repair and customer choice regarding where the repair is made.”

Now the bad news — the survey found that 77.5 of insurers thought insurers should recommend body shops. About 20.2 said they shouldn’t.

Granted, this is a controversial issue in the industry, which means this is good news for shops happy with their DRP or insurers’ treatment. But it’s bad if insurers are “steering” potential customers away from you and to shops that keep insurer costs low through less-than-ideal practices. That’s what’s alleged in the amended complaint filed this week by Florida auto body shops.

Asked about their insurer’s selection of recommendations, 69 percent of policyholders thought they received the right amount, while 13.6 percent thought there were too few. (That might be a ray of hope for shops who aren’t in a DRP.) About 1.8 percent thought they received too many recommendations.

The most disheartening — or wonderful, depending on your shop’s stance — result came when insurers explained both a) they had a direct repair network and b) a policyholder had the right to choose any shop in a question, closing by asking if the respondent favored or opposed the insurer recommending a DRP shop. About 78.3 percent were in approval; 18 percent weren’t.

“Consumers often have limited information about their repair options after an accident.” said Passmore. “To get information you can turn to a trusted neighbor or friend or you can consult your insurance agent or company. Insurers work with the auto body repair process every day and can offer choices for consumers. We believe consumers should have the ability to make an informed decision when selecting their auto repair facility and consumers benefit from more, rather than less, information.”

(Funny that the only possibilities offered are a “trusted neighbor or friend” or “insurance agent,” and not shops, third-party review sites, or what’s left of the Yellow Pages these days.)

So if you’re not in a DRP or think you’d get less than favorable recommendations from an insurer, what can you do?

Hard-core customer service and retention tactics are an added expense, but they can pay off. Some ideas are offered in an excellent 2013 FenderBender profile of Dave Rush of D&M Auto Body, who worked to save his business after cutting ties with Carstar and losing some DRPs.

Heavy advertising can also work. Rush did this as well — even going negative against the insurers. (They’re allegedly going negative against you, so turnabout would be fair.)

Featured image: Illustration of an insurance claims adjuster examining a vehicle. (monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Thinkstock)

More information:

“New study finds high levels of satisfaction with auto insurance claims process”

Property Casualty Insurance Association of America, Feb. 10, 2015

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