Many collision repair shops find it increasingly difficult to run their businesses profitably. A logical inference is that the current financial climate is to blame for this dilemma. However, the Society of Collision Repair Specialists’ (SCRS) second-annual survey, conducted by CSi Complete, indicates that excessive insurer influence is still an overriding concern for a large number of collision repair shops.

Indeed, the representative sampling of DRP and non-DRP survey participants attributed profitability constraints largely to what they perceive as “insurers’ undue influence and interference.” The provider of customer satisfaction indexing reported that this year’s findings echoed concerns revealed in the inaugural survey, as respondents cited essentially the same issues. Some issues, such as “insurers dictating the repair, lack of insurance field staff training, and database abuse/manipulation,” were rated as being more pronounced during the current year than in 2007.

“The results are troubling, but they certainly aren’t surprising,” said SCRS Chairman Gary Wano, Jr. “They reinforce the reality that the collision repairer — once the embodiment of the independent businessperson — is exercising less control over his own business. There seems to be less incentive to run an effective operation, because something — or someone — is always getting in the way.”

The compiled survey results contain two main areas of emphasis. The first section provides feedback from participating repairers about the issues that are impacting their businesses the most, and to what degree. The second portion speaks to how participants view their relationships with major insurance companies.

Participants began the second part of the survey by characterizing their relationships with 13 different insurance carriers, including State Farm, Farmers, The Hartford, and others. They ranked nine primary issues: suppressed labor rates; lack of insurance field staff training; losing customers to steering; database abuse/manipulation; insurer dictating the repair; refusal to acknowledge p-pages; DRP requirements; third-party desk reviews; and fear of reprisal or threats from insurers.

Although there was marked improvement in some categories, especially “fear of reprisal or threats from insurer,” progress for the majority of issues moved in a downward direction. In regard to the symbiotic relationship between repair facilities and insurance company relationships, the firm concluded that perhaps a fitting sentiment would be “the more things change, the more they stay the same . . . except maybe they’re a little worse.”