Three’s A Crowd: Experts Weigh In On TPAs

Does the following scenario sound familiar? A customer walks into your shop eager to get their windshield replaced, and you’re happy to help them. Their insurance should cover the work, but you need to check. So you and your potential customer call their insurance company and get its third-party administrator (TPA) at the other end of the line.

You know that this TPA is part of a company that also does auto glass work, so you are not surprised when they “educate” your potential customer on the reasons why they’ll want to go to one of their locations or use a shop on their “preferred” or “in-program” list. What happens next? Convincing the potential customer to keep their business with you is up to you.

One source, who prefers to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, offers unique insight into the three-person marriage of glass shop, customer and TPA, having worked at both a large company that owns and TPA and auto glass chain that did not.

He says that TPAs have the best luck convincing customers when they do not have a preference as to whom they use for their auto glass service. He’s found the key for his company is having an excellent sales team to set the customer’s preference beforehand, so that they want to give business to his company whether they’d get a warranty through an “in-program” company or not.

“If you do a nice job with your team, in your area, at selling, you can take market share away from [TPAs with national accounts],” the source says. “People don’t realize that.”

Addressing a scenario where a collision repair shop claimed they lost a customer because of a TPA, Kristen Felder of Collision Hub pointed out that the language that TPA used was technically within the bounds of the insurer’s policy.

“It’s not steering,” she says. “It’s an ‘accurate’ statement of their policies. They won’t ‘warranty’ non-network repairs. Losing this customer is not State Farm’s fault. The best handling is to tell the [the customer] that State Farm told him the truth, but it’s not an issue as you [offer your own] warranty on the repairs in your shop. [You could say] ‘Hey buddy, it’s your car and you have to do what you think is best for your family. I 100% support that. Just know my warranty is not a business practice, it’s a community and personal standard. I live where you life. You and your family are important to me. Let me know if I can help.'”

Another strategy to keeping the work is is educating customers about the issue. This is the method Patricia Smiley, president of Quackt Glass in North and South Carolina, recommends.

According to Smiley, Quackt Glass shops are “preferred” or “in-program” shops for many TPAs, but she’s still had TPAs recommend customers go elsewhere. Safelite Solutions is one of the most common TPAs, so she uses them as an example.

“Oftentimes their script will include, ‘Well, we’ve got a Safelite shop that’s near you that we can get you scheduled with,’ while we’re on the phone with the customer or with the customer physically in our presence,” Smiley says. “That’s when we’ll have to step in and very nicely state, ‘This policyholder already has a shop of choice.’”

Smiley says Quackt Glass informs customers that they aren’t required to choose a shop a TPA recommends for their insurance claim to be processed. This goes double for South Carolina, where legislation gives customers the right to choose.

Smiley says it’s also crucial for a customer to understand what a TPA is.

“I basically explain the way that it works,” she says. “So I’ll say, ‘They’re a glass company, and they’re also financially affiliated with USAA, Progressive, Geico, or others, but we call into them to get our claims processed, and we get paid through their network.’”

Smiley says that once customers understand that, they often end up wanting to support the smaller business.

“That gets customers engaged and ready to take on our fight and fight for small business America,” she says.

According to Smiley, using this method, the only customers she feels most at risk of losing are the ones that file a claim online or call the TPA before going to one of her shops, meaning she or her employees don’t get to interact with them.

This article is from glassBYTEs™, the free e-newsletter that covers the latest auto glass industry news. Click HERE to sign up—there is no charge. Interested in a deeper dive? Free subscriptions to Auto Glass Repair and Replacement (AGRR) magazine in print or digital format are available. Subscribe at no charge HERE.

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7 Responses to Three’s A Crowd: Experts Weigh In On TPAs

  1. Amazing information! Work directly with TPAs sometimes can be hard for small business.

  2. My shop is literally around the corner from my house (maybe a quarter mile away). My nextdoor neighbor needed his windshield replaced and he stopped by my shop. We helped him set up a glass claim online. The glass claims for his insurance are handled by safelite and we were not surprised when our shop didn’t come up on the 1st page of recommended shops. We were listed on the second page 12th overall. The first 11 spots were all safelite shops that are not even in our city but in adjacent cities. How is this not steering? Isn’t it supposed to be by zip code according to the customer’s location? if so, we should have come up first on the list. Instead they suggest their own shops which are 10 – 30 miles out?? How is this allowed?

  3. Ian says:

    Don’t forget about the inspections that pop up after the work has already been approved for safelite to complete and the customer chooses to use a non network shop instead to carry out the repairs.

  4. HTH says:

    You have to control the narrative, and 99.99999999999999999999999999999999 Of all shops are to lazy to do this, most likely a 1 line phone system. You are your own worst enemy.

  5. In a recent Podcast I was on with Gary Hart from the IGA we talked about how to control the narrative of calling a network…..

  6. Michelle Lewis says:

    I try to get an appointment scheduled before the call is made to start a claim. I advise the customer to let them know that they already have an appointment with a local shop and that they may try to get their shop to do the work. It helps that the “preferred” shop is an hour from us and those same shops do not have a good service record of showing up to do a mobile job. It is indeed a bumpy road with some of these jobs.

  7. Scott Harkey says:

    our 64-year-old glass shop in N.C. is not an affiliate of that TPA-competitor-bully. Educating your customers and three-way calling is mandatory. The only thing worse that a Ruthless TPA/Competitor/Bully is a Foreign-Owned Ruthless TPA/Competitor/Bully.
    Scott Harkey

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