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ZAPIEN’S AUTO APPRAISAL 101
The title alludes to the fact that we as appraisers of Zapien’s or any other company for that matter, should have basic knowledge in performing the duties as an auto appraiser. It is amazing to me to see the amount of amateur practices that exist. My intention of writing this is to get all of us on the same page and to uniformly present a product that we all can be proud of.
First of all, I would like to give you an overview of what is expected from our clients. The insurance world is a multi-billion industry and sells financial security. In our sector, it is about someone’s second most expensive item that they will ever own (outside of a home), their automobile! In many cases, when an insured gets into an accident and a claim is reported, more often than not, we are the only one that they will ever see them throughout the entire claim. First impressions are everything. We are representing the claims department of any given client and our appearance, personality and work ethic is on display and is reflective of the confidence that the insured has with their insurance company.
In accomplishing our mission, we must always be pleasant, attentive and professional. This means from the start, we are being measured in all of the issues mentioned above. So let me show you how we at Zapien’s must approach our chosen profession so as to rise to the top amongst the amateurs.
The following are areas of concern and I will address them categorically.
1) Appearance; You should be groomed and dressed in such a way, that anybody’s grandmother would be secure in inviting you into her home (not that we go into anybody’s home).
2) Communication; Upon receiving your assignment, contact should be made with the vehicle owner. This allows you to introduce yourself and to get a feel for what you are getting involved in, i.e.: Is the vehicle driveable? Is this a total loss? Is it collecting storage? Are they in a rental car? What is the mood of the vehicle owner? You should tell them what you have been assigned to do, give them an expected time of arrival and then give them your contact information.
3) Inspection of Vehicle; Most of the assignments given out are set appointments, this is especially true for Southern California. The remainder of the state is so spread out that we allow the Central and Northern appraisers to set their own appointments. Contact should be made immediately and arrangements made to inspect that vehicle as soon as possible. (NOTE* Turn-around time is the biggest problem that haunts any claim and we are at the starting gate). This is the single most important issue that plague’s our side of the claim. It is also the kiss of death in why most accounts are lost!!!
4) Actual Inspection @ Residence; Upon arrival, don’t just go to the car and write your appraisal, go to the door and knock. In many cases, the vehicle owner has taken time off work and is waiting for you. This will also give you a chance to size up the personality of the insured or claimant, (believe it or not, this will have an impact on future problems that you may encounter in the future). Before leaving, always explain what you are doing and address that you are just the appraiser and any questions regarding liability and/or rental car should be directed to the inside adjuster. (NOTE*, remember, answer the questions before being asked), this is big in that you give a sense of relief and prevent unnecessary phone calls to the adjuster. Always ask if they have a shop preference and if they have an estimate. This may and will help you in writing and negotiating your estimate (shop may want to repair, rather than replace). If they are taking their car to a dealership, you will obviously be looking at the repairs, parts and labor rates differently than if it is going to “Jose’s Auto Body”. Then see if the vehicle owner may have any further questions and leave your business card.
5) Actual Inspection @ Repair Shop; Identify the correct vehicle and write your own estimate, (DO NOT LOOK AT THE SHOP’S ESTIMATE UNTIL YOU HAVE WRITTEN YOUR OWN). If you look at theirs first, it will influence your thinking and make you ineffective in our client’s need of hiring us in the first place. After you have written your template of repairs, then get the shop representative to go over your sheet to secure an agreed cost of repairs. (NOTE* The shop has had the time to thoroughly inspect the vehicle and may have seen more damage than you have. They will get adversarial if you don’t acknowledge the time and expertise they spent in rendering their opinion of what they feel is needed to bring the vehicle to a pre-loss condition and a warranty of the same, they may even be able to teach you a thing or two!). Always negotiate the presented labor rates, retrieve any tow bill and secure the Federal Tax I.D. number. Advise the shop, that you have a responsibility to find and utilize LKQ parts where available. Always leave a business card.
6) Actual Inspection @ Tow Yard; Present your business card and secure the advance charges (break down). The vehicle is more than likely a total loss and your ability to properly identify the actual condition of the vehicle is PARAMOUNT! You earn your money by this alone! Besides taking photos 4 corners and of the damages, open the hood (if possible) and get one of the engine compartment and also open the trunk and get one in there too. See if the spare tire, jack and tool kit, (if applicable) are there. If there is old damage present and if the vehicle is 4 years or newer, make sure that you render an “unrelated prior damage” estimate in your report. (NOTE* PLEASE refer to the “Autosource Total Loss Condition Book” to best rate the vehicle’s overall condition, if you haven’t taken the on-line course that Audatex offers, please do so
IMMEDIATELY!!!) Once your inspection is complete, call the vehicle owner and advise them that their vehicle is a possible total loss and that they should plan to get their personal belongings out of the car and have them release the vehicle to their insurance company. Then call the adjuster and advise them as to the status. If applicable, call “Copart” and arrange to have the vehicle picked up and secure the lot number.
Remember that the overall conditioning of the vehicle is our primary purpose when the vehicle is a total loss. (NOTE* If you think that the vehicle is possibly repairable, call Fred Zapien (562) 756-5311 IMMEDIATELY for further instructions, DO NOT make that call until you consult with me!!!).
The following are tips in being a successful appraiser with Zapien’s Appraisal.
1) Be organized, map out your day (don’t criss/cross your area), call and make sure the vehicle is going to be there when you arrive and verify the address.
2) Make sure that your equipment is functional. Are your batteries charged, business cards on hand (if you don’t have any, shame on you and call the office to get you stocked). Always have a disposable camera on hand and don’t lose your measuring device, (you might want to get another one to stick in your glove box, just in case).
3) Take as many photographs necessary to reveal the whole vehicle, this includes the interior. On total losses, take a photo of anything that represents value, one way or another, (aftermarket equipment, cracked dash, torn seat, old damage, etc.,). Don’t forget a photo of the mileage and if you cannot obtain it, you must indicate why not in your appraiser’s report.
4) When transferring your photographs into “Insureview”, take advantage of the tab that says “add a comment”. This is where you can indicate what the photograph represents, this is very much needed when you are trying to point out a crack or any other issue that has a kaleidoscope of equipment as a backdrop.
5) Get unlimited minutes on your cell phone (this is your phone is most important tool and your best friend).
6) Call the office after your inspection. This allows us to note the file and email a status to the company. You have no idea how important this is and is mandatory!!! This will also give you an opportunity to see if there are any new assignments in your present local.
7) Remember that the claim isn’t done until the paperwork is done. When writing your appraiser’s report, don’t abbreviate your thoughts. Indicate any paint transfer, direction of impact any thing that may help the adjuster. The more information you can supply the more efficient the adjuster becomes and they will love you for it. Be mindful that most adjusters can use anyone they want and they will use the appraiser that best serves them!!!
8) Don’t forget to utilize the magnetic arrows, to point out what photos can’t.
9) Also remember that “You are only as good as your last claim”.
10) Always call Fred Zapien (562) 756-5311, in any abnormal situation (ANY)! This is to cover your ass and the company as well. When in doubt, call me. I can’t over emphasize this point.
11) Anytime that you have touched the file in anyway, you must note your activity into “Insureview”, This is also MANDATORY!!!
To summarize, I have been in this industry since 1967 and bring to table a level of expertise that would be hard to equal. I don’t say this to be grandiose, just to let you know that I am always available to help anyone be the best that they can be. We are in a very competitive arena and the old saying that “The cream always rises to the top” is where I hope to take this company. But I will say again, we are only as good as our last claim. Help me help you!
Since I have been in this business, the fees that we charge and industry as a whole has remained the same. Insurance companies feel that the going rate is where it’s at and there is no reason to pay more. I would like to change that. If we can adhere to the protocol that I have laid out, it will have a dramatic influence on the management numbers. Give me ninety days of your best work and I promise everyone of you a raise (at least those who are complying!!!).
Should you have any questions or any suggestions, PLEASE do not hesitate to contact me.
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