by Chasidy Rae Sisk
Collision repair shops face many challenges every single day, and some of today’s biggest include the ongoing workforce shortage and the need to contend with insurance adjusters who repeatedly insist that they “don’t pay for that.” Ironically, those same companies that don’t approve shops’ repair plans because they dislike the way shops’ “estimates” are written have been attempting to steal repair planners from Texas shops!
Two shop owners have recently dealt with Progressive’s poaching attempts, and they want to make others aware of what’s happening.
ABAT President Burl Richards (Burl’s Collision; Henderson) first brought the matter to light. “Two years ago, we hired a guy with no collision experience, and we’ve invested our time and energy into training him and turning him into the sort of repair planner that any shop would be proud to employ. Just as we started to reap the benefits of his newfound experience and knowledge, I learned that he had received an offer from Progressive. Well, I gave him a substantial raise to keep him, and although he earned it and it was coming anyway, it’s insane to have my hand forced by a carrier that is trying to reap the benefits of our shop’s years of training.”
Increasing employee compensation is just one of the many factors contributing to rising costs for shops. “Our cost of doing business is accelerating more rapidly than ever before, and when a carrier creates this type of situation, that just exacerbates the problem,” Richards pointed out. “At the same time, these companies are rejecting procedures and under-indemnifying consumers because they want to minimize their bottom lines even as they force shops’ costs up through their poaching efforts.”
David Norris, general manager of Scott’s Collision Repair (Paris), recalled a similar situation that occurred in his shop last year. “An estimator-in-training came to me after eight months of training and basically demanded more money (even though he was still not skilled or proficient in his position yet) because of an alleged offer made by Progressive. Ultimately, he didn’t leave the shop, but there was definitely a Progressive birdy in his ear, and while I cannot say with 100 percent certainty that it took place on my premises and timeclock, it seems likely that those Pro-aggressive adjusters tried to poach my employee while reviewing cars in my shop with my employee. But really, this should come as no surprise to any of us.
“We are dealing with a company that admittedly denies not-included operations,” Norris continued. “For example, labor time for prime, feather and block in both Mitchell and CCC state that the time is based on judgment and should be discussed. It also states that it is a necessary procedure to bring a repaired panel from 150 grit to a refinish-able surface or substrate. Yet, this operation and the materials needed to perform it are denied 100 percent of the time at my shop. I am told that Progressive is aware that the very estimating system they use states otherwise, but it is a company decision to not pay for a needed operation. Local Progressive adjusters tell me, ‘I am not allowed to pay for those operations.’ The list of Delay, Deny, Defend tactics from Progressive go on and on. Meanwhile, [Progressive CEO] Trisha Griffith raises rates on policyholders so she can collect her $15 million annual salary and keep shareholders happy with tremendous returns at the expense of claim suppression and policyholder under-indemnification. What a racket!”
Upon discovering the poaching attempts taking place, Richards reached out to Progressive’s managers, demanding they cease and desist with the “tortious interference” to his business. Although Progressive had previously hired four of Richards’ prior employees, he did not take it personally until he learned of their attempts to recruit his current repair planners during their duties at Burl’s Collision.
“I have information that you have reached out to one of my repair planners, and once they rejected your offer, you have now reached out to yet another one of my employees,” Richards wrote in an email. “I find it concerning that your employees come to my facility to write estimates and supplements, and now your company offers job opportunities to them even while they are on my clock. I also find it interesting that you refuse to pay our posted rates and many processes and procedures that are necessary to make proper repairs, yet I am put in the position to give my employees raises to keep them from joining your team, or I am faced with the expense of replacing and training new hires.
“You are contributing to my cost of doing business and are part of the reason I must continue to increase rates and other factors that affect my profitability. You would think a company the size of Progressive could find and train their own estimators. I appreciate the fact that you find my employees valuable as they possess industry and OEM certifications and are trained to write proper repair plans based upon the manufacturer’s recommended processes and procedures. It’s a shame that the same company that under-indemnifies consumers and cuts our estimates/repair plans also wants to hire the same people that wrote them.”
The adjusters who attempted to poach Richards’ employees have been banned from his repair facilities, though he sarcastically offered a position to any Progressive adjuster interested in working for his shops: “Based on the industry knowledge and ability of your estimators to write OEM-recommended repair plans (excluding some of my previously trained employees), I would like to offer each of you a salary of $15,000 per year. Even monkeys are trained to do phenomenal feats, and I believe in time we could even train you to write proper repair estimates and repair plans that will restore vehicles to their pre-accident condition. Keep in mind that your salary could triple or quadruple in a short time if you can process proper estimating.”
Richards also confirmed that Progressive pays a bonus to any adjuster who is able to recruit a new employee. “One of your employees mentioned that they have referred other body shop employees to Progressive, but never from Burl’s,” he acknowledged in his email to the carrier. “I want to believe them, but I am very skeptical based upon what I am hearing from other shops that are now starting to wake up to the realization that Progressive is actively seeking to recruit qualified talent from our facilities.”
In response to Richards’ accusations, Progressive Claims Manager Doyle McCarty denied that the company has attempted to poach any employees from Burl’s Collision. “Your email alleges, among other things, that we have ‘poached’ or are ‘poaching’ your employees to join our company. Additionally, you’ve demanded a cease and desist of the alleged activity. Although we respectfully deny any allegations that our employees engage in poaching, we will share your concerns with our staff interacting with you or your shop as part of the claims handling process.”
Richards insists on categorizing Progressive’s recruiting techniques “as poaching because it’s not being done off site from my business, and it is being done on my time as I am paying my employees. I consider this tortious interference to my business as Progressive is enriching themselves off my payroll and resources, and we’ve told their adjusters to come, write the estimate and then get out. There’s no reason to engage in small talk with my employees. Do your job and go.”
He also expressed the desire to “make other shops aware of these egregious business practices. Our industry has been dealing with a shortage of qualified talent for entirely too long, and when we have insurance companies coming on OUR property and trying to poach from our teams, that’s taking it to a whole new level. We want other shop owners to be aware so they can keep their eyes open and pay attention to those whispered conversations – are they talking about the repair, or are they making an offer to one of your valuable employees? We can’t afford to lose the well-trained help that we’ve spent years developing, and I doubt any of you can either.”
If your shop’s employees have been poached by Progressive or any other insurance carrier, Texas Automotive wants to hear about it! Let us know by emailing email@example.com.
Want more? Check out the May 2023 issue of Texas Automotive!