Ask the Doctor
by Walt Gorman
Q. I am having problems with a glass network that is also in the glass business. When I ask the customer to call his insurer for a claim number and the network answers the call, the operator is able to convince the customer to use the network’s own glass company instead of me. As one customer told me, he dialed his insurer and assumed that it was the insurer with whom he was speaking and that it was its wish to have another company do the repair. In this particular case, luckily for me, he insisted that I do the job, because I had done work for him and his family previously.
When other, first-time customers, whom I have secured as a result of my advertising or referrals, have cancelled appointments with me to use the network’s own repair company, they have roughly the same story. Basically, he is told that I am not on the network’s “approved list.” This is made doubly strange by the fact that I am on the list and have performed many, many repairs that the company has processed in the same way. The logical conclusion from the customer’s point of view would be that my repairs are not good enough to qualify for this list.
Additionally, he is told that the network cannot guarantee neither the quality of my work, nor the fact that I will not charge more than he will be reimbursed. Then, the network offers to send out a company that is on its approved list, and, of course it is its own! Incidentally, this happens with only certain insurance carriers.
I am sure that mine is not an isolated case. What can we little guys do to protect ourselves?
A. First, let me assure you that you are not an isolated case. This happens everyday to repair technicians all over the country.
I have a couple of suggestions. First, tell the customer to wait until you arrive and that you will make the call together before doing the job. The third-party claims administrator will need to give (or get) some information from the technician. It requires the policyholder to call, so be right there to protect your interests.
Another way to protect yourself is to inform the customer in advance of what to expect. Inform him that he will be speaking with a glass company, not his insurance carrier, and that its operator may attempt to steer the job to its own company. Explain that he has the right to choose his own technician, and that you are a local, independent businessperson and are very experienced, do excellent work and can furnish local references. Assure him that you bill only as much as the insurer pays and that he will have no further charges.
When this happens, document it in writing and send the information to the vice president in charge of glass claims at the insurance company’s headquarters, preferably by registered or certified mail. He may be totally unaware of these occurrences and certainly would not want to be involved in the illegal practice of steering.
Some glass companies that do both repair and installation have what’s called a per-incident pricing agreement with a carrier, wherein the shop gets the same payment regardless of whether it is a replacement or a repair. Obviously, this would make a repair very profitable.
Taking other people’s work as their own presents a false ratio of repairs to replacements and actually costs the carriers more.
Carriers could assure themselves of the highest repair ratio by referring all possible repairs to repair-only companies. These shops can successfully do repairs that others would not even attempt and they cannot replace a windshield simply because it is more profitable. No policing would be needed—if the shop could not repair it, it would make no money; it’s simple economics.
Walt Gorman is the owner and founder of A-1 Windshield Doctor in Seekonk, Mass. He has 15 years experience in windshield repair and runs a training school for technicians. E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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