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How to Use Estimate Compliance Tools to Your AdvantagePosted 8/8/2007
By Rachael J. Mercer
"The definition of insanity is to continue doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." While some debate whether Benjamin Franklin or Mark Twain or even Albert Einstein made this comment, it does bear some truth. Whether in business or in personal endeavors, continuing to do everything the same way despite dissatisfying results can lead to insanity (or at least, great frustration).
Perhaps in your business, estimate compliance with your insurer is a sore spot. Maybe estimate writing is an area of frustration because of forgotten items that could bring in more money, or maybe estimates were written inconsistently. Your relationship with your insurance partner is an important one, and making it the best it can be certainly benefits your business and theirs. Additionally, maximizing profits is another important area of business operation and cannot be overlooked in the estimate writing process.
Estimate compliance tools, sometimes called "scrubbers," offered through various software companies, are one method of changing things so that your business can achieve different results-even better ones than you're currently achieving. Several companies offer estimate compliance tools, but this article will focus on estimate compliance tools offered by Audatex (formerly ADP Claims Services) and Mitchell International.
Audatex Estimate Check, the estimate compliance tool offered by Audatex, is designed to help shops better manage the direct repair program (DRP) relationship by ensuring that estimates are written right the first time while also ensuring that shops are paid for all of the work that is performed on each vehicle. According to Vandana Mehra, senior product marketing manager at Audatex, "Audatex Estimate Check is an audit tool that checks estimates for compliance with DRP rules and any individual shop rules prior to uploading to an insurance carrier or submitting an estimate to a customer."
Estimate Check allows a technician to begin writing an estimate on a computer inside the shop. The estimator uploads the estimate to be checked by the ADP host, and then the shop receives the estimate marked with any corrections that need to be made to the estimate. Lastly, the technician submits the revised estimate to the insurance carrier for approval. "One advantage of Audatex Estimate Check is that it saves an estimator time. No manual checks are required and the audit results are received back in as little as 30 seconds," said Mehra.
Another advantage of this tool is its ability to set appropriate shop rules that allow shop owners and technicians to identify commonly missed items from estimates. "These 'forgettables' such as a car wash can be costly losses when they occur over and over," said Mehra. "Estimate Check allows shop owners to develop individual rules sets for each insurance DRP and for their shop."
In addition to helping develop properly prepared estimates, these audit tools may help improve shop efficiency throughout the entire process on each vehicle repair. Estimate Check is compatible with Audatex, Mitchell International and CCC estimate systems and is fully integrated with Audatex's estimating systems. It also produces comprehensive reports that allow shops to track their DRP business and other features of their business.
Mitchell International has also developed an estimate compliance tool, called Estimate Review. Estimate Review works in conjunction with Mitchell International's estimate system, UltraMate Premier Suite. Estimate Review compares the estimate automatically with predetermined criteria that are established in the system. Unlike the Audatex product, Estimate Review compares the estimate prior to any upload.
According to Mitchell International, Estimate Review enables technicians and shop owners to create and manage profiles for various DRP partners, and also allows shops to customize their own profiles. The tool will alert the estimator when elements of an estimate don't fit a DRP agreement and also, when the elements don't fit the customized parameters that the shop has developed.
As Estimate Review completes each scan of the estimate, it produces a Confirmation Compliance Report that highlights when the estimate differs from the preset requirements. "Estimate Review has a comprehensive parts rules generator that ensures the optimal part is used for the given repair, while its extensive list of rules and guidelines covers most insurance company DRP expectations," said Hans Littooy, senior director of product management. "Estimate Review is different from other products because it reviews the estimate prior to upload versus sending it up to the host, waiting a period of time, and then receiving notification of errors. The on-the-spot scanning is one time-saving advantage that allows shops to minimize the time spent on each estimate while helping to ensure a correct, compliant, fully complete estimate every time." The next release of Estimate Review will be available later this year, and will be fully CCC and Audatex compatible.
The goal with these estimate compliance tools is to get the estimates right the first time. Of course, we all know that time and effort can be saved when things are done the right way the first time. Selecting an estimate compliance tool and learning to use it properly will work to your advantage by saving time and effort as well as seizing every opportunity to be paid for all the work done on a vehicle.
Michael Anderson, owner of Wagonwork Collision Centers, emphasized that "one of the benefits of using an estimate scrubber is that it checks for compliancy on charges that the insurance carriers may be monitoring." He stressed that for some shops, the DRP relationship is an important one and that the goal for each business should be 100 percent compliancy all the time. For shops that are not DRP-driven, a scrubber gives the inexperienced estimator the advantage of being reminded of all of the not-included operations that were possibly overlooked when writing the estimate. Anderson did caution though that many of the scrubbers available today do not scrub the estimates specifically according to the information providers' P-Pages. He said they evaluate the estimate in a more generic sense. Thus, many of the scrubbers do not have every not-included item. "There is really a variety of not-included items which may or may not be included on your scrubber," said Anderson. "It's important to research the scrubber you want or the one you have, to be sure you've got as many not-included items." Not-included items are the key to profitability in an industry that has seen shrinking times becoming the norm rather than the exception.
Anderson also mentioned "aliases" as one important way to check when determining which scrubber would work to your advantage. "Shops need a system that picks up on aliases," he said. "Sometimes I might call a bumper something different, like a fascia or a bumper cover. The system should pick up on terms that people might use that are different, so that the estimate remains compliant and maximizes profit as well."
Pete Petursson, CEO of HP2 Solutions and co-developer of the Rome Complete Scrubber, encourages both non-DRP shops and DRP shops to look closely at estimate compliance tools. "I believe there are critical uses for [estimate compliance tools] in both kinds of shops," he said.
"In a non-DRP environment, a scrubber maximized the estimate system to its fullest potential," said Petursson. "However, within a DRP agreement, when your shop is contractually obligated to charge certain things, the estimate must be 100 percent perfect, or it will be returned for noncompliance." Petursson said he believes that scrubbers could improve the profit on each estimate by as much as 15 to 20 percent as businesses capture the not-included operations that are regularly overlooked or underbilled.
How can you use a "scrubber" or a compliance tool to your advantage? Maximizing your profits by ensuring you include every performed operation on your estimate, or improving your DRP relationship by submitting timely, properly prepared estimates every time, are just two of the basic ways that using an estimate compliance tool can improve the way you and your employees do things. After all, who has ever gotten a different result by continuing to make the same mistakes over and over again? If you believe your business could do a better job on estimates, seize on a different result-a more positive outcome and greater profits-by taking advantage of the tools that are offered in the estimate compliance arena.
ASA Offers Two "Not-Included Operations" Charts
For all collision shop owners whose employees are involved in writing estimates, the Automotive Service Association offers two excellent tools designed to maximize profit and ensure complete estimates. These "Not-Included Operations" charts are intended to ensure collision repairers consider all of the possible operations when they write an estimate. Two titles are available, "Reference Chart of Not-Included Operations When Installing New Replacement Parts," and "Reference Chart of Not-Included Operations When Installing Recyclable Parts."
"These not-included charts may be one of the best member benefits ASA offers," said Michael Anderson, owner of WagonWork Collision Centers, Alexandria, Va. "These charts are a great resource that allow shop owners to manually review their estimates prior to submission, to ensure they're including every repair step that was performed on a vehicle as well as allowing the user to do a side-by-side comparison of the not-included items for each information provider's estimating system."
The publications are available to ASA member-shops individually or as a set, in both PDF or hard-copy formats. To order or obtain pricing information, members may access the ASA online store at www.ASAstore.com or call the membership department at (800) 272-7467, ext. 295. Nonmembers may request the documents by contacting ASA's membership department as well at the same number.
Rachael J. Mercer is a freelance writer based in Moultrie, Ga. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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