A Canadian collision repair trade group said it has had successful conversations with government-affiliated insurer SGI on issues shops might also be encountering here in the U.S.
The progress between the Saskatchewan Association of Automotive Repairers and Saskatchewan Government Insurance might carry lessons for body shops and insurers in both countries who’re butting heads on photo estimating and repair-versus-replace decisions.
SGI in a Sept. 23, 2019, bulletin reported plans to improve its desk review system following meetings with SAAR.
“At the SAAR meeting, we also talked about some changes we are making with regards to the image desk,” SGI wrote in Bulletin No. 72. “We are reviewing image desk practices and procedures, and we have already implemented some changes, with the goal of improving efficiency and reducing repair cycle-time.”
SAAR President Tom Bissonnette (Parr Auto Body) said the group had helped SGI understand holes in the image desk’s practices and staffing.
“One of the key things from my perspective is that based on feedback from the Town Hall meetings the upper management of SGI realizes that their own Image Desk is a major reason that we have so many repair delays,” Bissonnette wrote in a Nov. 2 email. “The Image Desk is the first contact our shops have with SGI after a shop has completed a customer appraisal. Most of the people on the Image Desk are not collision repair technicians and they use a strict set of guidelines to determine if an estimate can move forward. Because of their lack of hands on experience many of these delays are due to not understanding why they should pay a shop repair times that exceed the time a technician might take to repair a part or panel.
“For example, if a shop cannot get paid decent time to do a repair they simply ask for a new part and usually get it. We had one shop repair a $650 headlamp with broken tabs using a nitrogen welder and asked for 1.5 hours to repair the lamp, the Image Desk came back with .5 hours thinking that the shop simply glued the tabs back on. After discussing this situation with upper SGI management and posing the question ‘Would you rather buy a $650 lamp, wait 2 days to get it or pay a shop $150 to repair it and have the vehicle on the road today?’ it was obvious that repair vs replace is much cheaper and faster.”
Bissonnette said the conversations have helped lead to a shift in the carrier’s thinking.
“We have been in discussions with SGI and have got them understanding that they need to stop being the ‘police’ … and start being the ‘coach of claims,’” Bissonnette wrote in an email Nov. 2. “We are looking at working with SGI, our local Tech Schools and Accountable Estimating to develop collision appraisal training that helps both the shops and SGI understand how to provide reasons for the repair decisions the shop makes and then provide photo documentation that the work was done.”
SGI in its bulletin also described offering training to shops.
“SGI has committed to providing both repair partners and staff access to additional training opportunities focused around image review and estimating best-practices,” SGI wrote. “SGI is planning on providing shops access to SGI estimating training in spring/summer 2020; we’ll provide more information early next year.”
SGI also said it hired two new shop relations representatives.
Getting everyone on the same page with documentation appears to be key. Bissonnette said SGI is amenable to paying for OEM repair procedures. If a shop documents the work, “they’re not gonna fight it,” he said in an interview Nov. 1
“Bottom line, if there is an OEM repair procedure that the shop provides and proves that they did the repair according to the OEM procedure SGI will pay it,” he wrote in an email. “Exceptions would include things like aftermarket parts, wheel repairs and accepted industry procedures that do not affect safety and quality (like) blending clear coat on certain panels.”
The insurer demands shops follow OEM repair procedures today and has committed to subsidizing shops $170 CAD a month ($128.44 USD) through the end of 2020 to subscribe to those instructions.
“Effective immediately, all collision repair partners are required to access OEM repair procedures as part of the repair planning process,” SGI wrote. “Shops are also being asked to ensure that they document all repairs requiring panel or structural component replacement or sectioning. Please include photos of undressed welds and any sleeves/backing used to reinforce sectioned panels/structure (upload into Mitchell as part of the claim).”
SGI said it would pursue a photo desk review strategy offering greater clarity and autonomy.
“In early July 2019, SGI implemented a new annotation process for improved oversight of the image desk, to provide more clarity around requests, for both staff and repair partners,” SGI wrote. “The new annotation process also creates reporting that supports future key-performance indicators. This will allow high-performing shops more autonomy and higher auto-accept levels.”
The insurer also said it will hire three new image appraisers, “which should help reduce image review wait times, especially during peak seasons.”
“SGI and the SAAR are working together to streamline the appraisal process, reduce cycle time, do more repair and less replace which in turn creates higher customer satisfaction,” Bissonnette wrote.
He also recalled nine SGI officials attending an SAAR event featuring Roger Cada of U.S.-based Accountable Estimating, and “they were blown away.”
SGI, Sept. 23, 2019
Saskatchewan Government Insurance plans to improve its image desk. (Jane_Kelly, ONYXprj/iStock)
The Society of Collision Repair Specialists announced Thursday that the Saskatchewan Association of Automotive Repairers had signed on as the U.S. trade group’s third Canadian affiliate. (Provided by SAAR)