Who's Your Customer?
By DON ARCHER
"We're going to need you two times at the intersection of Ninth and Main," the police dispatcher said as she hurried to get off the phone.
It was a busy day. I sent my only free driver that way and rerouted another to help. The accident netted two vehicles to the shed, a Taurus and an Expedition.
As soon as the Taurus hit the floor, another call came in, but this time it was the insurance company. They had the owner on a three-way conference call looking to get the (obviously totaled) vehicle released.
I asked the owner if he had a chance to retrieve his belongings. "Did you get your plates?" I asked.
I knew the answer was no ... since the car had only arrived 15 minutes earlier.
The insurance company was doing what insurance companies do, attempting to mitigate their loss, but I'd gone down this road before. I'd mistakenly allowed an insurance company to remove a wrecked vehicle without the owner's OK. It wasn't one of my finest moments. Their car had been swept up and taken to auction, some 100 miles away. They came in the day after, with boxes in hand, standing in front of me not knowing what to do. I felt horrible as I scrambled to find out where their car went.
From then on I've remained vigilant in helping vehicle owners, my customers, to understand what releasing their car to the insurance company really means.
I explained to the Taurus' owner that it was in his best interest to collect his belongings before he released his wrecked car to the insurance company.
"They'll snatch it up and take it away," I said.
Of course I had an interest in an extended stay. The longer it stayed in my shed, the more storage I could collect—but that wasn't my motivation. No I wanted to avoid the angry phone call I might receive should a vehicle owner leave his house keys in the cup holder, or a forgotten prescription in the glove box. I didn't want to look another customer in the eye and tell them, "Sorry, I didn't grab your garage door opener," or, "I thought you knew they were coming to get it."
The auto insurance industry estimates that, on average, drivers will file an accident claim once every 17.9 years. That means they don't have much knowledge when it comes to the steps to take after a crash. It's our responsibility to walk them through the process.
The smoother we can make the journey, the more likely they'll see us as professionals and not just someone to avoid.
Don Archer lives and works in Jefferson City, Mo., where he and his wife, Brenda, own and operate Broadway Wrecker, a 12-truck operation that's been in business since the 1950s. Email him at email@example.com.