With Partners Like These Who Needs a Colonoscopy?

April 17, 2007 by
Filed under: Collision Repair Industry 

Am I the only software developer who makes software for body shops? Yesterday’s mail brought to my attention just how bad things are getting for body shops wanting software that benefits them and not the insurance companies. Yesterday’s mail also highlighted how deeply the myth of “insurance partners” has been entrenched into our industry.

I received a multi-page letter from Alldata trying to sell me their CollisionConnect software. In the sales pitch was the following: “Strengthen Relationships with your Insurance Partner” I also received my monthly Pathways update. In it contained an advertisement for their Estimatic Report Service. Their sales pitch was “Get the same data insurers traditionally use. Make your next meeting with your insurance partner more productive and take action to improve your operation.” Yeah, that just what I need, an “insurance partner.”

“Insurance partner” is an oxymoron, a myth, a hoax, an outright lie. Any body shop owner who thinks he has a partnership with an insurance company is wishful thinking. If you think the DRP relationship you have with an insurer is a partnership, you have your head up your backside. A partner is someone who shares in a common interest, someone or some entity that shares the good and the bad, the profits and the losses.

What does an insurer share with you? How does an insurer put you on an equal footing? Doesn’t every DRP contract specify that you will hold harmless the insurer against every and all liabilities? How is that sharing in the profits and losses of your partnership? A partnership treats partners equal. I’ve yet to read a DRP contract that offers anything to the body shop. Those contracts are full of nothing but demands, caveats, warnings, consequences and denial of responsibility from the insurer.

Imagine a business partnership where one partner gets a check every week for a guaranteed amount and the other partner gets a check only if business was good. What kind of partnership would that be? You’d have to be a moron to enter into that kind of agreement. Imagine a marriage where, by agreement, one spouse does all the work and makes all the sacrifices while the other spouse has no job, does nothing around the house and runs around cheating on the other spouse. What self respecting person would agree to something like that. Imagine a homosexual couple, and one has hemorrhoids and is unable to…on second thought, try not to imagine that.

It’s an unarguable fact. There is no such thing as a body shop having an insurance partner. So why is everyone in our industry using this dishonest phrase? They think we are stupid. It sounds better. It sounds fair. It’s enticing to the regular joe. And just why do you suppose insurers choose not to accurately describe their DRP relationship with you? Think about the terms they’d have to use if they wanted to describe this relationship honestly. Master/slave; Boss/employee; Parent/child; Bully/wimp; Robber/victim. Who would sign a Master/slave agreement with an insurer? Thousands of you have. It was just repackaged and sold as something more pleasant.

It’s bad enough when an insurer uses dishonest language to get the advantage over a collision repair shop, but now we have everyone related to the industry echoing this crap like some deranged parrot. Alldata wants you to enhance your partnership with insurers. CCC wants to help you adhere to your insurance partner’s guidelines. NACE enables you to mingle with your insurance partners, and even better, attend seminars on how to run your business–seminars presented by your insurance partners. Your industry’s national associations include your insurance partners in their boards and protect them from damaging survey results. The heads of CARSTAR want you to continue to cooperate with with your insurance partners but use “responsible pressure” to help dig CARSTAR out of their deepening hole. And one of your industry’s major trade publications continues to reflect a harmonic, Utopian society of cooperation between you and your insurance partners. All is well. All is peachy.

The mindset of our industry has been transformed (deformed is more accurate) to the point where we regularly consider insurance companies our partners, helping us repair vehicles and making our customers happy. I doubt there are more than a handful of us who could imagine a collision repair industry independent of insurance companies. Not non-existent, but non influential, non essential. That’s a shame, because all it would take is a collective backbone to remove insurer influence from our lives. Everyone’s afraid though. We’re all afraid of the consequences. We’re all brainwashed into thinking that without insurers there would be no collision repair industry. The American spirit is fading.

Anyway, back to the software. I’ve been hounding CCC for years to get rid of that stupid prompt that pops up when you replace a bumper cover. It asks if you are going to paint the bumper off the vehicle or use flex additive. Well, duh! If you’re not going to paint the bumper off the car you’re a hacker. To make things worse, this prompt is set up so that just hitting the enter key gives you the “no” answer. Clicking on “no” screws you out of paint hours and materials because Pathways deducts for overlap. Insurance companies love this prompt. In fact, I’ve had appraisers tell me they were forbidden to click the “yes” button unless it was on a supplement. Because no respectable painter would attempt to paint a bumper cover on the vehicle, and most paint systems require flex additive for proper adhesion to plastic parts, this prompt has no business being in the software. But it remains, and starting this month it gets repackaged to make it more confusing and more open to interpretation. Now the prompt says, “Is this bumper to be refinished in a separate procedure than the other panels?” Instead of getting rid of a way for insurers to manipulate paint times, CCC has just enhanced it by changing the question to one that is not so black and white. What is a separate procedure? What does that mean? Painting the bumper in the paint booth by itself? Painting it off the vehicle? Painting it on a different day? Using flex additive? You can bet the insurers will come up with their own interpretation, and it probably won’t be the same as yours. Thanks a lot CCC for making such great strides in improving Pathways.

But Geico got CCC to make special changes to Pathways. The other day I was writing an estimate and I entered the insurance company name in the adminstrative page, something I seldom do. Later, when I tried to lock the estimate, I got a message telling me I had mandatory fields that needed to be filled out before I could lock the estimate. What the F…! You can’t lock an estimate if Geico is listed as the insurer unless you fill out everything Geico wants filled out. And I am not even a Geico whore either! I have no contract with them. But CCC bent over for Geico and made special changes to the software, changes that affect me when I’m not even a Geico DRP shop. Yet they completely ignore our requests! If you doesn’t piss you off, you better check your pulse.

As I said earlier, I’m one of the few software developers writing software specifically to benefit collision repairers. There is nothing I sell that insurers would find useful. On the contrary, much of my software costs them money when used properly by body shops.

BodyShop Office, my latest release is in its final beta stage. In other words, it’s safe to download and try. It includes what I call my C.I.A. Technology. C.I.A. stands for Counter Insurer Abuse. I’ve completely redone my website also. Most of you just come to this page, so you probably haven’t seen the changes. Pay a visit to www.bodyshopsolutions.com and check out the new site and new software. As always, you can download my software and use it free before you decide to buy. If you have any problems or suggestions, don’t be shy. Give me your feedback. I’ll use it to make my software better, and a more effective weapon in your battle for survival.

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Comments

12 Comments on With Partners Like These Who Needs a Colonoscopy?

  1. D.J. Craven on Tue, 17th Apr 2007 1:58 pm
  2. Good points!!! Keep spreading the word!

  3. JB3 on Tue, 17th Apr 2007 2:20 pm
  4. Got my last edition of ABRN last week, and noticed on the lower left of page 14 an advertisement for APU Solutions “Real Steel, Real Time”. Best I can tell this advertisement is directed to the insurance industry, and has no place in a publication directed to the collision repair industry. I emailed mwillins@advanstar.com about this (I haven’t received a reply at this time). I also kinda ranted about all the inserts, useless drivel glued to a page I really wanted to read, etc. I told him the first thing I do when getting a magazine, is pull out all the inserts and put them directly in the trash. Thanks John for being a voice for the Independent Collision Repair businesses.

  5. Mike on Tue, 17th Apr 2007 3:40 pm
  6. I recently attended a meeting the Database Enhancement Gateway (DEG) held at the tradeshow in Sufferin. I guess you would call it an informational meeting as the 2 gentlemen that ran the show didn’t seem interested in hearing anything that wasn’t in line with their thoughts.

    Anyway, at the meeting they boasted that the first victory of the DEG was that pathways was going to eliminate the prompt when you replace or repair a bumper cover. That’s right, eliminate the prompt altogether. They went on to explain, that as you said, only hackers paint the covers on the car. So the prompt wasn’t necessary.

    Boy was I surprised when I read the little bulletin in the March update of Pathways. It appears that there has been a double cross of some sort. Perhaps when we get the May issue of Pathways it will include a little bulletin explaining that the prompt will be discontinued in the June update. If that happens I will apologize for thinking that they are wasting their effort and possibly putting the entire industry in a quandary.

    Reason and diplomacy, yea that’ll work.

  7. Jim Herman on Tue, 17th Apr 2007 3:56 pm
  8. Well John,

    I think you are one of very, very few, that develope software for bodyshops.

    In fact, I think you may have tapped into a huge “growth” market, for many are about to become “independant”, and not necessarily by choice.

    Keep up the great work, I’m a very big fan.

    Jim

  9. veh on Wed, 18th Apr 2007 5:09 am
  10. I find your commentary to be generally thoughtful and spot-on, but why do you feel obliged to insult gays so frequently? What did they ever do to you?

  11. John Shortell on Wed, 18th Apr 2007 5:57 am
  12. Veh, I must have missed the part where I insulted gays. Just because I mentioned them in jest does not mean it’s an insult, unless of course you are one of those hypersensitive queer folk who spend their every waking minute looking for something someone said or wrote that you can pounce on. But judging by your restrained comment I would say that is not the case. I also mentioned a dysfunctional business arrangement and a dysfunctional marriage. Nothing I said about the two homosexual partners could be construed as dysfunctional. It was simply an example of disproportionate give and take so-to-speak, that helped to illustrate my point about the inequity of certain relationships. I could have used a heterosexual couple where the male suffered from premature ejaculation, thereby depriving his wife of her share of the pleasure normally derived from the experienced. If only one of the homosexual partners is able to play the woman’s role, wouldn’t that be an inequitable distribution of partner benefits?

    My apologies to those who found the graphic nature of this response offensive, but it’s important that I don’t offend any one particular group of self-perceived victims without explaining why. I guess it would have been easier just to say “Bite me.”

  13. Vama Emfinger on Wed, 18th Apr 2007 6:17 pm
  14. As for the issue in Pathways w/ “painting on or off the vehicle”, if the ins co writes to R&I the cover to refinish and then they say it’s painted “on the car”, that’s fraud. Or at least that’s what I told our DOI and they agreed and now that one ins co says, “we can pay it if you ask for it?”

  15. joh digilio on Thu, 19th Apr 2007 10:08 am
  16. as always great article. who ever reads this please go to the ABRN news paper and look at march issue 2007 on page 34 . another example of desperate people.

  17. Jeff Pfau on Fri, 27th Apr 2007 10:00 am
  18. I see now that Mitchell International lists us a partners of the insurance industry also. San Diego Union-Trib article, 4-27-07

  19. Peter Sardi on Mon, 28th May 2007 1:19 pm
  20. Back in the late 80s when computerized estimating was in its infancy I noted that the best way to describe our Industry’s enthusiasm for these programs is to compare it to something that V.I. Lenin said at the time he was the head of the Russian Communist Party. In reference to the ideological conflict with the West, Lenin, referring to the Capitalist World’s preoccupation with profits and materialistic things made a prediction that the West will sell to the Communists the rope with which the Reds will eventually hang the Capitalists. Did not quite turn out that way in the Geopolitical arena. However, what I had predicted at the time was the our industry is in somewhat similar situation as the West except the we seem to be willing to pay for the rope that will be eventually used to hang us. I think the eventually is here now and in my opinion has been for a while.

    I am not sure who pays more for databese use, us the repair industry or them the Insurance Industry. We are certainly more fragmented and therefore do not have the potential influence Insurance Companies can have. I am sure some carriers abuse that influence others do not, but we must find a way to level the palying field. It will not work through industry boards (I cannot get my phone calls or e-mails responded to when I contact my database provider) but may perhaps work through purse strings.

    I am not sure about the legality of such, but perhaps we could pay for our databse use through our in dustry associations, not only can we expect some volume discounts but perhaps the large dollar amount collected in that manner will open the database provider’s eyes as to who their customers are. All of a sudden a lot more attention will be paid when we complain about a missed operation or ask for an explanation as to how they came up with others.

    This will serve us as well as the carriers by opening up these problems for discussion. I am at the opinion that each time the database gets cut back in one place our Industry finds another to shift the cost to. If it were not so we would have been out of business a long time ago. The Insurance carriers all tell us not to cost shift, which I appreciate because that is the vehicle for the least scrupulous shops to commit fraud. Opening up databesa issues to constructive debate will create a standard by which we can all abide and help weed out those who give our industry a bad name. Fraud is much easier to commit when standards are ambigious and right now we have no standards at all. To the best of my knowledge there are none or very few actual time studies in the construction of the databases. The classifications of body, frame and machanical are either combined in one operation usually at the lowest rate or not observed by the carriers. Some database providers ar more guilty of this than others but they all do it. The sooner we open this up for a healthy debate the sooner we wii cure our Industrie’s ailments.

    I blame both our Industry and the Insurance carriers for the mess we are in. We got to this point by trying to narrowly act in our interest and the same goes for the carriers. However, I feel that this will not be solved by confrontation only by cooperation and fairness. Unfortumately due to human nature such cooperation does not happen without the two sides having equal strenght and resources. I am not sure how that problem can be solved in light of the make up of the two Industries. Maybe somebody has some ideas????

  21. TINNITIS on Tue, 14th Apr 2009 4:14 am
  22. Nicely put I agree for the most part.

  23. Danielle medical on Thu, 10th Nov 2011 6:16 pm
  24. Nice post I’ve bookmarked http://www.bodyshopsolutions.com/WordPress/?p=93 on Digg.com so i can get a few people to drop in as well. Anyway i like the post “With Partners Like These Who Needs a Colonoscopy? |” So i went ahead and used it as the entry title in my Digg.com bookmark, Cheers!.

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