Developing a relationship with local insurance agents can be beneficial to your shop, your customers, and the insurance companies. What could be better than a scenario where everybody wins?
As a shop owner gets to know agents, adjusters, and insurance office assistants, this builds a certain level of trust. I’ve heard a phrase “relationships equal interactions over time” which simply means the more times you see or communicate with someone, the more likely it is for these interactions to turn into a professional relationship or even a friendship.
Getting to that point also increases the likelihood that an agent or adjuster will go to bat with the insurance carrier for you if they question a repair.
Not only that, but agents are far more likely to refer their friends, family, and clients to you after they get to know you, assuming you take good care of your customers of course.
Time for Treats
One body shop owner, Todd, told me his sister made these amazing homemade cookies. He’d call her up and tell her:
“I'm gonna make 12 calls today, and I need 12 dozen cookies.”
She'd wrap them up in cellophane with a ribbon on it, and they had some little stickers made with their logo.
He’d then take those into local agencies with a card, and said it was great for getting his foot in the door. He wouldn’t always get to speak with the actual agent, but he could usually chat with the claims people or to their assistants, which is really just as important.
Even if he didn't get to talk to anyone, they went into the break room and they saw these cookies with his logo. That was pre-COVID but Todd says it helped him to grow his business fast, and it’s incredible how many jobs and how many relationships those cookies bought them.
Have Something Prepared to Talk About
You work with a lot of insurance agents in your area, and developing a good relationship with them is important. Make a plan to take them donuts, bagels, coffee, or whatever you want occasionally. Once you’re there, introduce yourself if you’ve never met, take a few minutes and chat about changes in the industry, complain about other insurance companies, or whatever. The point is to make some friends. Get on a rotation where you pick an agency to pop into once a week and make their day a little better.
If you’re part of a carrier’s Direct Repair Program (DRP), it’s well worth your time to let agents and agencies know.
Each agency has anywhere from a few hundred to 1000 or more policyholders, and they may not even be aware that your shop is in their carrier’s DRP. As you’re dropping off cookies or donuts, you can say,”Hey, we’re a direct repair shop for you guys now!”
Todd said many agencies don't even know what that means for their business, and he would explain to more agents in his town how their direct repair program works than corporate did. Corporate claims people know how the DRP works, but the corporate sales people don't have a clue. They may know there are two shops in town that are preferred, but they don't know how the program really works.
Host a Continuing Education Event About Auto Body for Agents
If you want to get a bunch of agents together in one place and have them view you as the expert in your field, host a CE class for them. Agents are required to earn a certain amount of credits in their state, and these classes tend to be pretty boring, so if you can get them out of the office and provide them with an interesting topic, you both win.
I spoke to a local agent, Josh “Donut” Mahon, and he said:
“We are responsible for our continuing education and multiple shops in the area will provide a class at their facility and they will walk us through the repair process.
This helps us explain to our clients that may have been involved in a fender bender that there could be a bigger issue behind the body panels that an untrained eye wouldn’t catch and could lead to bigger problems down the road.
As agents we greatly appreciate these classes as it gets us out from behind our computers and provides as close to hands-on training that we can get.”
You can host a class either in a rented training facility or classroom, or in your own shop. You can hire a licensed facilitator that can speak on topics in the auto industry, from auto refinishing to ethics to ADAS systems, to hybrid vehicles and electric vehicles.
Even though you could act as the facilitator, for one or two classes a year it's probably not worth the investment you’d have to pay to get licensed. If you hire a good one, they’ll have a good sense of humor or at least some charisma, and they’ll make you out to be the expert. You can still speak throughout the class, but a good facilitator will do the bulk of it while building you up as the expert.
🚧 Related: Why Body Shop Owners Should Get to Know Tow Truck Drivers ➔
Dropping off treats, introducing yourself and chatting for a few minutes, or hosting events – these can all help to build some fantastic relationships. Now get out there and spread the word!
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