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July/August  2004

Repair Talk
    thoughts from the shop

Taming the Savage Beast
by David A. Casey

As the owner of a windshield repair-only company, I preferred the 1980s for marketing to the insurance companies. Back then it was a matter of showing local insurance agents the quality of your repair, the timeliness and dependability of your service and the value that windshield repair offered. When packaged with a uniform image and professional literature, most of them could also see the value and safety for their policyholder and would recommend us as one of the possible solutions to their glass problem.

Power Struggle
The introduction of the networks ended those marketing efforts the networks began processing the glass claims from the initial report to closing the claim file. It has become a very efficient system for the insurance companies and policyholders. It didn’t end our insurance business; it just changed the way we approached that market. 
Once the agents became powerless to recommend any vendor to their policyholders, our marketing efforts shifted to the policyholders themselves. Then we had to learn how and why the networks operated the way they do. When I finally figured it out it made it more possible to work together and even benefit from the relationship.

Understanding the Opposition
Understanding the networks is the first step to positioning your company to generate volume in this part of the insurance business, one of the first things to know is that insurance companies enjoy their relationships with the networks and appreciate the efficiency of the claims process. The major networks handle approximately 20,000 claims a day—confirming coverage, locating a vendor, scheduling the job, paying the vendor, getting paid by the customer and following up to ensure customer satisfaction. It’s a monumental task and one that not many entities could duplicate.

Don’t get me wrong, if I had designed the glass industry windshield repair would be at the top and marketing directly to the insurance agents would be commonly accepted. But, as long as the networks are here and thriving and the glass business is the way it is, understanding the networks and looking at their position objectively is a step toward generating more market share in this part of the repair business.

Playing the Game
First, if you market to the policyholder directly and they call you directly, then the networks are a non factor. Knowing the policyholder’s right of choice will help you ensure a quick authorization from the networks and EDI software enables fast payment with plenty of accountability. 

Secondly, the networks can be a great source of volume business that is virtually free if you can position your business to fit the network criteria. Regularly contacting your network vendors’ representatives and confirming your status, service radius and paperwork compliance, can increase your calls from them. Servicing State Farm and Allstate through Lynx requires three agreements, not two. Double checking your liability insurance compliance and ensuring that they have the correct telephone and fax numbers can sometimes show why you’re not getting more calls. The networks usually have agreements with multiple insurance customers. If you are not signed up with all the insurance company customers of the network, you won’t reach their maximum potential.
Also, there may be areas of your reachable market that are not being currently serviced for the networks. Find out where they are, create a legitimate presence there and you could uncover a treasure of unexpected insurance calls due to the lack of competition.

Learn what you can about the networks from the networks. Put yourself in their position to see how you would handle their issues and look at it from the insurance company point of view to know best how to position your company in the insurance-network flow of business. More than 40,000 claims a day are going to someone out there and there’s probably a way to increase your share of those jobs by taking a new look at the cycle and where you want to fit in.


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