Discussing Database Differences

January 12, 2004 by
Filed under: Uncategorized 

Isn?t it amazing that no matter what you write for an estimate the insurance appraiser can find a way to cut the price? You could write 6 hours for an 8 hour dent and the appraiser will write 5 hours and then tell you what a hero he is for ?giving? you the five hours. And it always seems their software comes up with fewer hours for the same operations. How can this happen? Are there body shops pressuring the database providers to lower the flat rate times because they feel guilty that they are actually squeezing out a profit? We can?t have that.

Sure, on a rare occasion the appraiser might actually over write you, but if this happens it?s because you missed something or the appraiser was doing more of a guestimate to save himself a trip to your shop for a supplement. (More than once I?ve had an appraiser call me while he was writing an estimate to tell me he had added some extra items. ?Don?t call me for a supplement.?) But we all know the odds of that happening are about the same as the Clintons making a truthful statement.

Up until a few years ago, if an appraiser told me the reason his estimate was lower than mine because of the different databases, I?d shrug and figure ?that?s life? and move on. After all, .1 here and .3 there didn?t seem too much of a big deal. Why should I nit pick over a few tenths? The appraisers never do.

Then one day something happened that changed my outlook on database differences. I had a wreck sitting in the lot, and there was a question of liability for the accident. As is common in this situation, both insurance companies came out to write an appraisal. I had already written one?it was pretty minor, with just a few parts needed?so both appraisers followed my estimate to the line. Both appraisers used ADP and I wrote mine with Pathways.

One would think that both insurance estimates would be identical. And they were. Line by line, both estimates listed the same items. However, there was a difference in the bottom line. Much of this difference was paint labor. The same part on each estimate had different paint times. I called ADP and asked their tech support department how this could happen and they told me that each insurance company had set up their software differently.

?How different can the settings be? We?re talking about changing a fender here.? I asked him. He let out a little chuckle and explained all the different options. Pathways has options too, but, in my opinion, they are more transparent.

We all know that each estimating system approaches the estimate writing process differently, but they (don?t ask me who ?they? is) say that if used properly, all three of the major estimating systems will come up with figures very similar for the same damage. Apparently no one is using the software properly. The discrepancies seem to get larger and larger. Anyway, from that point on I decided that I wasn?t going to let these little ?database differences? slide by anymore.

Accepting that few people really know how to use their estimating software properly, I decided that the fair thing to do from then on was to insist the insurance appraiser split the difference with me. If, after our estimates match in content, there is still a ?database difference? that hoses me out the precious few dollars so generously offered by said insurance appraiser, I add up the difference and divide it in half. The appraiser is then obligated (yeah, right) to make a concession for his half. Now, doesn?t that sound perfectly fair? It?s, like those people with no brain too often say, ?a no brainer.?

It sounds so easy, doesn?t it? So fair. Who could argue with this solution?

It amazes me how human beings can be conditioned to shut down their thought process. We go to school for 12 ? 24 years (depending on how long you want to put off having to get a job) to learn to think and solve problems, then we get a job and some of us regress to not being able to think and make a decision. ?I?ve got to ask my boss.? I can?t make that decision.? ?They (there?s that ?they? again) won?t let me do that.? Sound familiar?

I spend a lot of time comparing estimates trying to figure out just how the appraiser performed his magic trick and made so many dollars vanish into thin air. I also spend plenty of time trying to teach some appraisers what the words, ?negotiation? and ?compromise? mean. You gotta love public education! I hold my ground. Seldom do I get a refusal from an appraiser to split the difference of this mysterious lost time anymore. After all, I am being fair. A simple line item on their estimate, ?concession for database difference,? is all they have to do.

I honestly believe there is influence coming from somewhere to push flat rate labor times lower. We have all watched them creep south over the years. It would be very interesting to audit each of the big three estimating companies to determine how many copies of their software are owned by body shops, and how many are owned by insurance companies. It would be shocking to discover that insurance companies purchase more software then the collision repair industry. A B S O L U T E L Y SHOCKING!

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7 Comments on Discussing Database Differences

  1. Rick Little on Sat, 17th Jan 2004 8:30 am
  2. Great article John. I have seen these database differences too. I also use Pathways myself. This has been a topic of discussion at association meetings for the past few months. These are the conclusions we have come to: #1. The insurance companys are controling the systems producers the same as they are trying to control body shops. #2. Insurance companys recieve a different version of the database than regular subscribers do, allowing them to circumvent the system and insert their own labor times without a flag being thrown up. As you know, Pathways throws up a # sign or underlines the manual entry.
    I think your offer to split the difference is very generous. To our way of thinking, we subscribe to an expensive system, one that is used by most of the MAJOR insurance companys. Why would we accept any less than what this system provides?
    This subject is addressed in our pending state legislation and we are insisting that appraisers adjust off our estimate using the SAME software system that we use.

  3. RON POLLITT on Thu, 12th Feb 2004 1:31 pm
  4. I TRULY THINK THERE SHOULD BE A LAW THAT STATES "IF AN ESTIMATE IS WROTE WITH COMPUTER SOFTWARE BY A BODYSHOP THE INSURANCE COMPANY SHOULD HAVE TO ACCEPT IT WITH THE PROVISION THAT REPAIR TIMES ARE NEGOTICIBLE." I USE ADP AND I KNOW WHAT MY SOFTWARE PAYS FOR OR DOESN’T PAY FOR AND IF I’M NOT SURE I CAN CHECK PRETTY EASILY. WITH AN INSURANCE ESTIMATE I PRETTY MUCH HAVE TO TAKE THERE WORD FOR IT UNLESS I WANT TO BUY EVERY SYSTEM ON THE MARKET.

  5. PARTIAL REFIINISH TIME on Tue, 17th Feb 2004 3:57 pm
  6. how about the topic of partial refinish times. i am running into this phenomenon with more and more allstate appraisers who say "since you are only applying color to the tip of that fender you don’t need full refinish time". if you try to add a repair operation to a blend panel, the system will not allow it. so why is it that allstate is telling their appraisers to chop database times? i will not stand for it, i stood in the rain for 15 minutes arguing with an allstate appraiser last week until he conceeded and re-instated full refinish time. i should not have to do this, this is why i will not enter into a direct repair program with allstate.has anyone else run into this with other carriers?

  7. PARTIAL REFIINISH TIME on Tue, 17th Feb 2004 3:58 pm
  8. how about the topic of partial refinish times. i am running into this phenomenon with more and more allstate appraisers who say "since you are only applying color to the tip of that fender you don’t need full refinish time". if you try to add a repair operation to a blend panel, the system will not allow it. so why is it that allstate is telling their appraisers to chop database times? i will not stand for it, i stood in the rain for 15 minutes arguing with an allstate appraiser last week until he conceeded and re-instated full refinish time. i should not have to do this, this is why i will not enter into a direct repair program with allstate.has anyone else run into this with other carriers?

  9. John Shortell on Tue, 24th Feb 2004 6:13 pm
  10. Allstate tries this crap all across the country. The P-pages in ADP state very clearly that blending refers only to color matching and adjacent panel. Progressive tries this too. Print out the P-page item and keep copies on hand to give to the appraisers. You’ll only have to do it once per appraiser.

  11. Andy Foley on Thu, 25th Mar 2004 12:26 pm
  12. In regards to estimate systems I have noticed this difference for years. just recently we had two different ccc estimates from nationwide, we also use the same. small est. there estimate had overlap deductions where our’s did not. when I confronted the issue with ccc they denied that they write different programs for ins. co. the times are the same, but ccc said you could set your profile to what ever and this may make a difference. well to me thats is saying that the ins. co can change the pre-loaded profiles on times, and we can not. On the other estimate, we had a difference of two tenths on overlap, same system, same car, line for line, naturally in the favor of the ins. co. we need to put a stop to this before it’s to late.

  13. Johnny Crash on Wed, 31st Mar 2004 8:39 pm
  14. You are correct, get the facts on estimating systems and learn what the insurance companies do to modify the data you get paid from.
    Look at ADP, 2 different products for the same industry, or is it the same industry? You want to get paid a fair amount for a safe & honest repair. They want to save money. Is that the same industry? If you subscribe to ADP software in a body shop you get a product called ShopLink. If you subscribe to ADP software and you are an insurance company or an independent appraiser, you get a product called PenPro. Ever wonder why? That’s not the end of it either, if you really want to burn some brain cells take a look at CCC. There are 3, count them, 3 versions of Pathways. Think about this the next time you write them a check for $500 to $600 dollars a MONTH or more to them. A body shop gets one version, insurance companies another and independent appraisers yet another. If you really want to feel the pain, read an insurance estimate completely, all the way to the end. If they provide you with the last page read the last paragraph. It tells you the database date that the estimate was written with. So, if you are fixing cars in March, paying March prices for parts, shouldn’t you be getting paid March prices by the insurance company? Well, if you read the bottom you may be suprised. CCC Pathways version for insurance companies and ADP PenPro doesn’t time out like the body shop versions do. You will find database dates from 3 to 10 months old, every day. You think this is an accident? If you do, you deserve what you get, and what you get are OLD parts prices. The paint overlap difference Andy talks about is a switch in the software included in CCC Pathways that allows incorrect calculation of paint time. Read your P Pages, what is a Major Panel? A Bumper Cover… never. But with that switch thrown, the next panel gets .4 paint deduction. Guess what, that hits your paint material dollars too. Maybe you don’t mind dipping into your own pocket to support the wonderful companies that keep you scratching for a buck, fighting with your body shop neighbors and settleing for less then you’re worth. After all, they only record $30 or $40 Billion Dollars in profits a year, just about what you made last year, right? Bottom line is this, If you’re not part of the solution…You’re part of the Problem. Get real and get paid. How do you blend a damaged panel? A little base coat & some clear? That doesn’t fix anything but a color match. Blend times are NEW, UNDAMAGED PANELS. If you use any sandpaper, sealer, primer, plastic or tools other then a scuff pad and wipers with solvent to prep the panel, you just gave it ALL away. Didn’t mean to get on a rant here but think about it… what group do YOU fit into? Solution or Problem

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