Estimator is Defined As….Or Is It?

by Steve Krieps, WMABA President

Being an estimator in today’s shops has more and more become a blurry position.

With seemingly endless additions to the day-to-day operations, it has created major levels of burnout amongst those tasked with this role. It creates a position where one writes damage appraisals, researches OEM procedures, orders parts, updates customers, keeps insurers informed, handles supplement entry and submission and possibly even follows up on – the pain in everyone’s life currently – missing parts that have been previously ordered.

Is it possible for one person to do all these things efficiently? I don’t think so, not with any level of proficiency anyway. How are shops dealing with this struggle? What can be done? Smaller shops may not have the luxury of simply adding a role or staff member to assist them, like some larger facilities can opt to do.

With all the things a modern-day process requires, there has to be some help or backup. Some shops have chosen to use the Customer Service Rep (CSR) to aid in the process by having those in this position assume some prior estimator tasks, such as closing files, updating rentals and customers, along with invoice input and making a day-to-day parts update list for everyone to review. That also comes with its own set of challenges, but it can be a way to spread out the tasks and create some sense of balance.

Some shops have and utilize a front estimator and a back-end repair planner, along with the CSR. This can be even more efficient. The additional role of back-end repair planner puts a writer directly in the shop with the technicians as they conduct OEM research, fine-tune the estimate and finalize repair plans. Again, this further segments and distributes the growing administrative tasks that collision repair shops are burdened with, allowing them to load balance and enhance efficiency.

Many processes can be implemented, and to identify what works best for your shop, you must examine your setup to figure out what may work best and how you can utilize your personnel more efficiently to improve the process. With parts issues leading the way and overtaking bill payer and cash flow issues, we need solutions which include reimagining some of our shop’s roles and their duties.

Continuing to do things the old way will surely be a direct line to problems you may not expect – and definitely don’t need. We have enough to worry about; let’s not allow the good people we have to lose their drive and passion due to feeling stressed and helpless from overload!

Want more? Check out the February issue of Hammer & Dolly!