Monday, 04 June 2007 16:17

Our concierge service

Written by Lee Amaradio, Jr.
    I recently went on a cruise with my wife and we stayed on the concierge deck. We were treated to better service because we paid more for this. The special treatment was well worth the cost. It made me think of the new program offered by a certain insurer that is considered their concierge program. I wondered what they were doing that I was not. I saw their ads and discovered that there was nothing they offered that I did not already offer. They were just smart enough to market this service in the first place.

    We wear so many hats these days that I’m not sure which business we are in. With all the effort my office staff puts into collecting money, we work as hard as a small finance company. We spend so much time processing claims that you could say we run a small claims office. I know that we operate a “Collision Concierge Service” because we handle everything for the customer, except we take it one step further and handle everything for the insurance company as well.
    The concierge service in the auto collision industry is as old as the DRP networks themselves. We handle everything from drop-off to delivery, including making car rental arrangements. Although we haven’t figured out how to install the infant seat in the rental car without waking the baby, we do everything they offer and more.
    We earned a license to repair the vehicles we bring into our facility. We have allowed them to take the credit for something that we have been doing for years. They have moved themselves ahead of us by marketing something as if they are the only ones to offer it.
    We could all learn a lesson in marketing from this. What about the lifetime guarantee? Shouldn’t we be advertising that? We are the ones that ultimately guarantee the repairs. We should learn from this and start advertising what we really do. Why should we do all of the work and let someone else take the credit. Once again, my hat goes off to the insurance companies. They have succeeded in outsmarting us again.
    We should advertise the fact that we have a repair license and they do not. We should speak up so the unsuspecting consumer realizes they are better off staying involved in the repair process. This is our right. We can market our businesses much in the same way they market theirs.
    As I have said before, we need to mimic the insurance companies and learn from them. We should advertise our “Concierge Service” along with our BAR license and our lifetime warranties. We need to take our customers back and it will take a strong marketing campaign to do so.

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    We should help the consumer understand that if they use this insurance company’s concierge program, then the guarantee is only as good as the facility they used. This could translate to a guarantee for more substandard work. Explain to them why it is important that they stay involved. Let them know the dangers involved if their vehicle is improperly repaired. They have marketed something that we already do, and now they are able to take the credit for the repair without sharing in the liability.
    I am starting to advertise my own concierge service to let my customers know that we offer the very same service but we are certified and licensed to do so. I’m letting my customers know that they are better off with my guarantee because it’s a better guarantee than what the insurance company offers. This is because my reputation is on the line, not to mention my BAR license.
    I will let them know that it’s prudent to be involved in the repair process. I will tell them that trusting the fox to guard the henhouse is unwise. There is a reason that the law grants the right of choice to the consumer and not the insurance company. I will work hard to educate the consumer and protect my customers.
    I wonder when the ethics of some of these programs will be challenged. I have a sign in my office that lists the companies we refuse to work for. We will continue to recommend insurance companies that will serve our customers needs best and will try to “steer” them away from those companies that don’t. I strongly suggest you do the same.
    The collision industry has made major mistakes in the past and if we continue to make the same mistakes in the future we will all become bidders on some insurance company’s concierge program. This is how everything has always started in the past. We all sit and watch it happen because it hasn’t directly affected us, but we all become indirectly involved in something we never imagined could happen.
    I never imagined that at all times we would carry an excess of $150,000 in accounts receivables. I never imagined we would employ 14 people to staff our office to process claims for the insurance company. I never imagined that insurance-owned collision repair shops would be permitted. I never imagined that the insurance companies would be able to push us out of the loop and take our hard-earned customers away from us. But they have!
    We have all watched as our industry has been molded into something we never imagined possible. And we will all sit and watch as this continues to evolve until it directly affects us and then we will try to change things. But, by then, I’m afraid it may be too late. If we continue to operate out of fear we will continue to be controlled by those we fear.
    In business for 26 years, Lee Amaradio, Jr. is the president and owner of “Faith” Quality Auto Body Inc. in Murrieta, California. With 65 employees, he attributes his success to surrounding himself with good help, claiming to have some of the best office staff and techs in our industry.  Amaradio has been in this industry long enough to see the handwriting on the wall. He feels that now is the time for us to unite as an industry before it’s too late. He can be reached by email at lee@faithqualityautobody.com.

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