Why Auto Appraisers Should Not Fear Virtual Estimating

One of the greatest fears for auto damage appraisers is a growing loss of relevance, or loss of value in the auto claim supply chain.  Especially in the last 5-7 years, up and coming company’s like Snapsheet, WeGoLook, Onsource and the plethora of Insurtech start-ups with millions in funding, no wonder there is such uncertainty and concern among auto damage appraisers.

As far as technology has come, it really isn’t replacing the auto damage appraiser or the process of writing a quality estimate, at least not anytime soon.  But rather it is replacing and improving certain functions in the appraisal process that help drive more efficiency and value.   As an auto damage appraiser, you are being paid for your expertise, your knowledge, and the unique ability to be human.

Technology replacing the appraiser is not a short term or intermediate threat we face, but technology is changing the roles, tasks, volume, and type of claims that auto damage appraisers are handling.   So where does it leave companies like mine, SCA? How does SCA, as strong incumbent provider to the auto claims industry respond wisely to entrant start-ups that have successfully brought mobile photo/video technology and on demand services into play?

The answer is found in first acknowledging that virtual estimating practices are not only widely accepted by insurers, but are a required part of most all insurer’s appraisal strategies.  As well, when virtual claim handing is leveraged properly it brings dramatic value improvements to the auto claim life cycle and policy holders.   Also it is critical to acknowledge that virtual technologies do not replace your core service of auto damage estimating and repair management.   Rather, it is a process improvement for insurers to remove unnecessary costs and cycle time from the process.   This distinction between ‘core service’ and ‘process improvement’ is a critical point to understand.

To illustrate this point, a classic macro level example is the shift in recent years to on-demand media and movie content.  Famously, Netflix founder Reed Hastings approached Blockbuster in 2000 and offered to sell them their on-demand technologies for $50 million dollars.  Blockbuster CEO John Antioco, dismissed Netflix ‘as a very small niche business,’ and we all know how that decision played out.

The parallel the auto appraisal industry has to the rise of Netflix and streaming video is that the core product never changed; the delivery system did.   Meaning, the revolution of Netflix was not about improving or replacing movies, much like Snapsheet is not improving or replacing estimate writing.   What did change in both these examples was the move from physical movies (or inspections) to a digital delivery model.  Blockbuster would still be delivering movies into our homes today had they acknowledged the shift and incorporated digital delivery methods into their model.

Companies like SCA needs to do exactly what Blockbuster should have done, which is incorporate and bundle these new technologies in our service and provide more complete solutions to our existing customers and clients.

How can independent appraisers find success and opportunity with virtual estimating?

Many field appraisers are feeling the impact of photo based estimating taking deeper root in our industry – less available field assignments.  If you feel this impact, consider the following questions:

Can your firm write low exposure estimates within 2-3 hours of receiving a virtual assignment request?  Are your appraiser’s mobile offices equipped to complete virtual assignments?  If not, you need to rethink your business model and methods.

No one is better to write a virtual estimate than you in your respective markets, because when problems and supplements arise, that repair facility is in your area for you to physically go to the shop.  There is tremendous value in being able to provide a hybrid service that blends virtual and onsite estimating.

Lean in and build these cross functionalities into your appraisal firm.  No one is better to write a virtual estimate than you!

In closing, know that SCA’s core function is to facilitate the connectivity, technology and processes between the insurance carrier’s claims, and the professional appraisers who need to handle them.  We will continue to fight hard to keep you, the best appraisal network in the world busy with the best opportunities for professional claims work.

Thank you for what you do for SCA and the industry.

 

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