Posts Tagged Insurance
It’s always an interesting exercise looking at automotive aftermarket retailers that excel in the industry they compete to understand reasons for their success. It doesn’t matter where in the world a company operates; be it in the United States, Canada, Brazil, the United Kingdom or elsewhere in the world. Those companies that do standout and outclass rivals, take on market leaders in the industry they compete and are recognized for the high levels of service they provide to customers, deserve our admiration, respect and emulation. One such company is based in the United Kingdom. Auto Windscreens is headquartered in Derbyshire, in a town named Chesterfield 150 miles north of London. Originally formed in 1971 Auto Windscreens has gone through a number of evolutions to get the company to where they are today. Auto Windscreens is the United Kingdom’s fastest growing and most dynamic provider of (auto) glass repair and replacement services (AGRR). Suffice it to say that the company has a lot of things going for it right now.
Auto Windscreens has won several prestigious awards over the past several years. Among them:
- At this year’s 2014 British Insurance Awards Winner Auto Windscreens won top honors for two award categories:
- Both in 2014 and 2013 they were recognized by The Sunday Times being selected as one of the “Best 100 Companies to Work For”.
- Auto Windscreens was ranked second in the United Kingdom and when the received recognition as a “Top 50 Call Centres for Customer Service” in 2011. At the same time they were also named the “Best Newcomer” and the “Best Service Provider”.
These are very impressive awards for any company. George Bernard Shaw said, “Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery – it’s the sincerest form of learning.” I think that there is a lot automotive retailers can learn from Auto Windscreens.
Chris Thornton is the Managing Director (the U.K.’s version of Chief Executive Officer) of Auto Windscreens and I thought hearing from him on a number of topics would be interesting to readers of this blog. Chris took over as Auto Windscreens’ Managing Director earlier this year.
DR: Thank you for taking the time to talk Chris.
CT: My pleasure David. I like nothing better than talking about Auto Windscreens
DR: Auto Windscreens has certainly seen some great successes of late. What do you believe are key the reasons for the company’s successes?
CT: It’s all about being the best at everything we do in delivering the finest service possible to our customers. And in order to do so every member of the team has to play their part. As we offer a Customer Satisfaction Survey to every customer, we can see exactly where and when we are delivering this outstanding service and where we may have some improvements to make
DR: What were some of the issues (positive and/or negatives) you and your management team faced in moving the company forward after you joined Auto Windscreens in 2013?
CT: The atmosphere and approach within Auto Windscreens is outstanding. Everyone knows what we are looking to achieve and how to get there. I am a firm believer in clear and regular communications within the business.
Our biggest challenge is maintaining this as we expand. Many of the UKs biggest insurers and fleets are in discussion with us at the moment as we are clearly THE automotive glass company to be dealing with.
That expansion impacts across our business and one critical area is recruiting and developing technicians to work at the same high standards as we do now. At the end of the day we are a people business.
DR: Of the issues you’ve mentioned which one do you feel made the biggest difference in getting everyone focused on providing customer excellence?
CT: Communication and training is essential.
From the moment we take the customer call, the focus is on finding the right appointment to fit the customer needs. Our automated system generates a selection of appointments for the customer to choose from and once selected the appointment is guaranteed. We spend a lot of time training our contact centre agents in both call handling and technical skills.
Auto Windscreens has the only accredited training centre in the UK. Our facility not only provides an excellent workshop environment for new starters but on-going training, development and advancement to higher qualification.
All our technicians are kept fully up to date with the latest information. All work is processed on Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) which have a detailed Technical and Training programme on them to support the technician. In addition our Training department supports the technicians with a team of field based trainers and a 24 hour support line.
DR: How have the partnerships Auto Windscreens has made with insurance and fleet customers improved your customer service?
CT: Both insurers and fleets have recognized the quality Auto Windscreens have brought to the industry. We demonstrate this through leading Management Information and more critically through Customer Satisfaction Surveys and Net Promoter Score.
Our surveys are both offered by Auto Windscreens and through an independent survey analyst which creates total transparency for our clients. In turn they have total confidence in Auto Windscreens in our service delivery.
DR: Can you provide an understanding how your value proposition is resonating with your customers? How does your relationship with your customers differ from what other competitors offer?
CT: In 2011 we noticed that customers were regularly getting in touch with us to thank us for the quality of the work they had received. This told us we were doing something right.
From this we created the Praise Log, an internal document sent to everyone in the business each month showing where customers had called to say “Thank You”. And our people love to see their names on there.
This has expanded as customers write about their experiences on review sites such as reviewcentre.com. This is totally independent and Auto Windscreens have a 96% recommendation rate. It is the consumer trust in our brand that is making the difference.
DR: Your company focuses a great deal on providing management information systems to customers to help them find ways to reduce costs and operate more efficiently; how do you feel that helping them understand their windscreen losses is a winning strategy for Auto Windscreens?
CT: Management Information is critical in every business and we support our clients by providing them with the information they need to enhance customer experience and in doing so boosting customer retention.
The information also helps reduce wastage and controls cost but our clients are now being driven by quality rather than cost alone.
DR: How does Auto Windscreens use social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, etc.) to interact with its customers? Do you feel it is time well spent for anyone operating in the retail automotive after-market?
CT: The world of communications has changed significantly in the last decade and like many businesses we have had to adapt. Our marketing department manages our social media accounts not only promoting our business but monitoring and responding to any questions.
It is very worthwhile as it brings us closer to our customers and helps identify trends before our competitors
DR: How many fitting centres, mobile service units and employees does the company currently have?
CT: We have over 40 branches covering the UK (it’s a lot smaller than the USA) more than 350 mobile service units and over 500 staff in total
DR: Do you see further growth for Auto Windscreens in the United Kingdom? With the success you’re enjoying, are there any thoughts of growth outside of the United Kingdom?
CT: Our focus in firmly on the UK for the foreseeable future. It offers great opportunities for us as we expand. We will not get distracted by expansion alone, the key is to continue delivering the best service in the industry.
DR: With the great success Auto Windscreens has found in recent years while facing a large competitor, can you offer some advice to those who also find themselves competing against companies bigger than they are in a market or country?
CT: I believe you need to set your stall out and get your team on board in delivering this. Our message has been Total Customer Satisfaction from our beginnings which meant everybody has to play their part.
DR: Do you use radio or television to reach customers?
CT: We have in the past but not currently.
DR: What is the most effect way to reach targeted customers?
CT: If you win the corporate accounts then the volume will come. If those clients will support you as the only option for replacement glass and repairs then the business is as good as guaranteed.
DR: Auto Windscreens was a winner in the 2006 Commercial Fleet World Honours – The Environment Award. I know that you and your company have a strong commitment to green initiatives by recycling 100% of the windscreens that you replace. When did this initiative begin and what has been the response from Auto Windscreens’ customers?
CT: 2006! That was a few years back but we are as proud of our environmental credentials now as we were then. We are in a world where recycling is promoted greatly and we have always led in our industry with green policies. Our customers have always been supportive of this approach which started more than 20 years ago. Our resources are finite so we must use them wisely
DR: I read on your web site that 40 replaced windscreens that you recycle fit on a skid, while the materials required for 40 repairs can fit in the palm of a hand. By your commitment to repairing windscreens Auto Windscreens is providing great value to its customers while also fulfilling your green initiative strategy to help reduce the effect replacements have to the environment. That is a strong endorsement for repairing over replacing. How do your customers view your commitment to repair? Can you give us a range of repair rates you see in the United Kingdom?
CT: The repair rates vary by customer type but can be up to 50% of our work. Our customer base encourages repair over replacement and so wherever we can safely make a repair we will.
DR: During my career I spent a fair amount of time in the United Kingdom and I greatly value all that I learned from those I worked with while in country. There is one service component that is offered by your company (and other windscreen companies in the United Kingdom) that hasn’t caught on in the North America and that is 24/7/365 service* with mobile units. Your web site touts that, “Our fitting centres are open from 8:30am till 5:30pm Monday to Friday and on Saturdays from 8:30am to 12:30pm. Outside these hours, work is carried out by our team of mobile technicians who are on call 24 hours a day every day of the year.” Can you provide the reason why this type of service is offered in the United Kingdom and what percentage of work is done outside of the normal fitting centre operating hours?
* Since 1981 windscreens in the U.K. have been laminated. Prior to that date tempered glass was used for some windscreens.
CT: It has been customer led and is for “emergency” work such as broken rear and side glass. We cannot allow customers to be left stranded in a vehicle that cannot be driven or is insecure. Such urgent requests may be low in volume but very high in importance.
DR: What do you feel are the strengths and weaknesses of Auto Windscreens and what are you doing to take advantage or fix them?
CT: Some of our IT infrastructure was getting old so we have created a data centre, 24 hour IT monitoring team and issued new PDAs to all technicians. This significant investment will cover our requirements for the next 10 years.
Our strengths are many. Our independence allows us to develop the business as we need without interference from head offices, shareholders or partners. Our clear leadership in high quality service provision is proving very difficult for our competitors to get close to and as we further develop this, the gap will increase.
And as technology becomes more prevalent in windscreens, companies who cannot demonstrate and prove that they have the proper training processes in place will fall away.
DR: I know that you focus a great deal of time and effort on training Technicians. You obviously feel that you’re reaping dividends on these initiatives. Can you give us a brief overview of your company’s approach to training?
CT: By having highly skilled technicians we have created a team that is prepared to go that extra mile and takes pride in its work. The training starts from the moment a technician, either skilled or a new recruit, joins the business and that training never ends.
It may take place at our Technical Training Centre or through field accompaniments. All technicians are assessed annually to ensure they continue to work to the standards expected of them whether a repair technician , replacement technician or a master technician.
DR: You have an amazing Net Promoter Score (NPS) that is off the charts in the mid 90’s. That is the highest number I’ve ever seen in our industry. As a company how have you been able to achieve that result?
CT: We are very proud of Net Promoter Score and Customer Satisfaction results. It has not been easy but by creating a customer centric culture as mentioned previously we have all staff aligned in delivering an outstanding service
DR: With that high level of NPS you’ve been earning a great deal of new business and contracts with fleets and insurers alike. How was Auto Windscreens able to garner this new business from the incumbents?
CT: That’s a question our customers would have to answer but I would say it’s down to the breadth of service we can offer at a rate which works for everyone. As a progressive business with a clear vision we will attract like minded businesses.
DR: I have been very impressed with what you and your team(s) have accomplished at Auto Windscreens. I firmly believe that that some of the strategies and tactics that Auto Windscreens has been employing can be exported to other countries and used by those who are interested in growing and/or making a difference with their company. I appreciate your taking the time to talk with me. I wish you and Auto Windscreens continued great success.
CT: It’s been a pleasure David.
Auto Windscreens is a great case study in how to turn a company around and make it into a world class service provider. It takes great leaderships and dedicated teams throughout the business, but I believe that Auto Windscreens has shown how to take on competition (big or small) and consistently win against them by focusing on the needs of each and every customer. I applaud Chris and all at Auto Windscreens for all they’ve accomplished.
GQA Qualifications Limited
GQA Level 2 NVQ Certificate in Windscreen Repair (QCF) (GQA Qualifications Limited)
GQA Level 2 NVQ Certificate in the Principle of Windscreen Repair (QCF) (GQA Qualifications Limited)
Two of the most respected people in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry are Dave Taylor and Cindy Rowe-Taylor who together built Cindy Rowe Auto Glass into the dominant AGRR company in much of Pennsylvania and Maryland. They retired to Florida a few years ago and spend much of their time cycling the world and enjoying their lives.
At Auto Glass Week™ 2013 that was held in Tampa, Florida last month Rich Campfield, president of the National Windshield Repair Association (NWRA), presented Dave Taylor with a new industry award named in his honor. As a founding member of the NWRA, Dave was a force in helping to mold the organization. Cindy was in the audience during the opening ceremony where Dave was presented with the inaugural award.
While at the Auto Glass Week™ Conference I had the chance to talk with both Dave and Cindy and they agreed to an interview.
DR First, thanks to you Cindy and Dave for taking the time to talk with me today. Special congratulations to you Dave for receiving the NWRA award that was named in your honor. I can’t think of anyone more deserving to be recognized for the work you have done to bring windshield repairs to consumers.
My first question is how do you both like retirement versus the daily challenge of being in the AGRR business?
DT Retirement is terrific. As many folks know, we are avid bicyclists and living in The Villages in Florida is a bicyclists dream come true. We would have retired sooner if we had known had much fun and satisfaction retirement life had to offer.
CR-T Retirement has been an easy transition and so enjoyable. It is not sitting on the couch eating bon-bons, but having a very busy schedule and having such fun being busy.
DR It sounds like you’re both making the most out of retirement. Cindy, what year was it and what was it that drew you to the AGRR industry that caused you to open the first Cindy Rowe Auto Glass store?
CR-T I was a registered nurse for 13 years and decided I wanted to be my own boss. That was when I became aware of the windshield repair (WSR) possibility in my area. In 1979 I started out with my repair kit in the trunk of my Vega, seeing dealers and fleets, where the volume was. No sales experience ever. I loved it from the start. I am the WSR pioneer in the Harrisburg, PA, and surrounding areas. Dave joined me in 1986, working mobile WSR for one year; it was after that year that we bought our first glass shop. We kept on both technicians and learned about replacement.
DR Dave, what was it that you found attractive (besides Cindy) to the industry?
DT Self employment is the short answer. After a 25 year career in department store retailing I wanted to be independent of the corporate world. Joining Cindy’s business was the logical next step. Being able to work together added icing to the cake.
DR What was it Dave that made you such an early and strong supporter of repairs versus replacements?
DT Cindy founded the business as a windshield repair-only business before we had even met. Eventually we expanded from repair to full service. Unfortunately for the consumer, and perhaps fortunately for us, 25 years ago most glass companies were focused on replacement. They probably felt it was best for their glass company. Solid business management practices made repair profitable for us and a well executed repair program gave us a significant and profitable competitive advantage. Providing customers with their best solution to an auto glass problem, be it repair or replacement, was our primary business strategy.
DR This question is for both of you. What can you tell the readers of this blog made the biggest difference in the growth and sustainability of Cindy Rowe Auto Glass over the years?
CR-T Staying ahead of the industry with their many changes, starting with the early 90’s and on. Customer service was not to be compromised and keeping valued employees. Early on, Dave and I decided that advertising heavily and educating the public would do well.
DT Consistently providing the best quality service to customers and aggressive brand building through media and public relations.
DR I know that in my own career finding the right mix of people made all the difference in my finding success that I’ve enjoyed. At Cindy Rowe how were you both able to always ensure that you surrounded yourself with the best people, that you got the best from them and what advice can you offer those in business today as to that importance?
DT Choose wisely, treat kindly.
CR-T Fairly early on, we decided to hire people “green” and train them, offer good benefits, keep them abreast of the industry and give some autonomy.
DR At Cindy Rowe you provided consumers in the Pennsylvania and Maryland markets you served with AGRR services, but you also offered paint-less dent repair. Would you suggest paint-less dent repair (PDR) as an additional product line that for those in business looking for additional revenue streams? And if not paint-less dent repair are there other products you think work well in today’s AGRR business?
DT PDR is a profitable but technically challenging service. While it worked for us, it has proved difficult for many AGR companies to integrate into their businesses. I like what I saw during Auto Glass Week’s joint event with the window film industry. We would have given window film a thorough evaluation.
DR Something that some may not have known about you Cindy is that you are a registered nurse and that you’ve donated your time and expertise to those in need while in business at Cindy Rowe Auto Glass and still to this day being retired in Florida. Were you a registered nurse when you first started Cindy Rowe Auto Glass?
CR-T Yes, for 13 years. In 2002 I took the “Refresher Course” for RN’s and have been volunteering since in an area where uninsured patients are treated. It is gratifying to be able to give back in some capacity.
DR What traits or experiences in your background Cindy gave you the ability to find such success in business?
CR-T I would guess perseverance, honesty, not afraid of working extra (lots of that for years), organization and time management skills.
DR Here is a question for you both. Using radio and/or television advertising was a way that you got your name out into the marketplace and helped establish and differentiate Cindy Rowe Auto Glass. It is expensive to advertise on radio and television. When you look back at the genesis of Cindy Rowe through the day you departed the business, what was it that caused you to make that decision to spend money on that form of advertising?
DT When we expanded from being a car dealer driven windshield repair only business to full service auto glass, we were the new kids on an already crowded block. Capturing the customer through the traditional referral routes would have taken a decade or more. So we went directly to the customer with Radio/TV and created an awareness and demand for our brand. When TPA’s began to capture significant market share, our brand building paid off handsomely. We were the only AGR company anyone in our markets had ever heard of and they asked for us. We never anticipated TPA’s when we began our brand building but brand building saved our skin when TPA’s took over most of the insurance business.
Radio/TV and now internet are the effective media tools to build your brand with the general public. To influence “choice” at TPAs we wanted to be top-of-the-mind before the customer calls the TPA. Branding is a prerequisite to being “chosen”. While media is expensive, aggressive purchasing strategies can help control the costs.
DR Here’s a non-industry question. You mentioned that you are avid cyclers. Can you tell me what countries you’ve cycled and as a follow-up what you’ve learned about yourselves in your cycling adventures?
CR-T Cycling helps keep one in good physical condition and it really is a focus issue while on the bike – lots of issues to watch out; cannot daydream.
DT United States, Canada, Bermuda, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Hungary, Lichtenstein, South Africa and Switzerland.
DR One thing I’ve noticed is that you both smile quite a bit. Can you say you’re both happier now that you’ve left the industry? What is it you miss being in business?
DT Happier? YES! What I miss about the business is the daily challenge to effectively manage the unending stream of issues. In retirement I can choose easier and less stressful challenges.
CR-T I look at it as another chapter in life. I have always loved my work, but times change and I am now thoroughly enjoying retirement with Dave. One of the things I missed when we first left was seeing the people in the office. My people spoiled me and it did not go unnoticed by me!
DR My thanks to you both for taking the time to answer my all of my questions.
For those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to meet Dave and Cindy I can tell you from personal experience with them that they are good people. Truly fine people; who have effected and changed the lives of those that have come into contact with them over the years. Whether that interaction was in the business they operated together, the AGRR industry they both left their mark on or in their active community service over the years, both Cindy and Dave have given their time to those who sought them out or they felt needed their help.
The industry has been made better by their being a part of it and I hope that they continue to be active in helping to improve it in the future.
As we near the end of the first three quarters of 2013, it appears that we may have some wind at our back. There has been some slight improvement in a couple of the key drivers of the automotive glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry. The key drivers of the AGRR industry are weather, the economy and miles driven.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac has been published since 1792 and is “North America’s most popular reference guide and oldest continuously published periodical”. Forecasting the weather is a specialty of the Almanac and the publication touts an 80% success rate at correctly forecasting winter weather. The Almanac recently published the weather maps for 2013 – 2014. The Almanac is forecasting the following weather for regions they report for this coming winter:
- The Northeast a winter milder in the North and colder in the South with slightly above average snow in the region;
- In the Atlantic Corridor a colder winter with snowfall above normal;
- The Appalachians will see a colder winter with snowfall near normal;
- The Southeastern United States will see colder weather and above normal snowfall;
- In the Lower Lakes temperatures will be slightly milder with below normal snowfall;
- In the Ohio Valley area winter will be colder, along with below normal snowfalls;
- The Upper Mid-West will be a mixed bag with a warmer winter in the eastern part and below normal in the western part of the area. Snowfall will be above normal;
- The Heartland will be colder than normal this winter and snowfall near normal;
- The rest of the country is expected to be colder than normal with average to above average snowfall;
All-in-all a mixed bag with the weather and I hope that wherever your business is located you’re benefited by a colder and snowier winter.
The economy is also a bit of a mixed bag. Positive news came from new car sales which can be an important factor in an improving AGRR industry. J.D. Powers detailed year-on-year improvement in new-vehicle sales in the United States by reporting in their August 2013: Monthly Automotive Sales Forecast that “August new-vehicle sales reached the highest level in seven years.” The report went on to state, “New-vehicle retail sales in August 2013 are projected to come in at 1,270,400 units, 12 percent increase from 2012”. That’s great news for the AGRR industry. J.D. Powers is predicting growing new-vehicle sales for the remainder of 2013 and well into 2014. Really great news for the AGRR industry!
CNNMoney reported this past week in an article titled, “Jobless claims fall to 7-year low, but…” the rate of unemployment showed signs of dropping which is great news, but is tempered with the suggestion that it’s a result of people continuing to drop out of the work force. There are “11.3 million Americans who remain unemployed” the article reported with “three unemployed people for every job opening”. As with the weather, unemployment figures vary by region so its how your local economy is doing is what could affect how good your business will be in the next year.
The price of oil and how oil prices effect gasoline prices is another key part of the equation for the AGRR industry. As reported by the United States Energy Information Administration in the “Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Update”, prices year-on-year through September 9, 2013 on regular gasoline show that prices are down $ 0.26. Lower gasoline prices are great for both the consumers we rely on for business and for all of those company vehicles providing mobile service. Hopefully the price of gasoline will stay low.
You can look at reports from the U.S. Department of Transportation – Federal Highway Administration (FHA) as positive or negative depending where you reside. The FHA showed in its June 2013 Travel Monitoring and Traffic Volume Report that year-on-year miles driven were relatively unchanged with a slight decline of 0.1% from June 2012. The news that miles driven is not showing growth wasn’t great news for the AGRR industry that thrives on vehicles out driving on roads, but staying level was better news than a drop.
So how are these three key drivers affecting your business and do you think the wind is at your back? Regardless of whether the wind is at your back or not, I think there is a fourth key driver to your business and it is the most important one for finding success in your business. That key driver is you. So how are you going to take advantage of the marketplace you compete? What is it you’re doing to make your business stand out among all those with whom you compete?
I’ve written in previous blogs “The Times They Are (Always) A-Changing” and “The Times They Are (Always) A-Changing – Part II” about the opportunities in the marketplace for AGRR companies. I strongly believe that there are opportunities for independents in our industry, but you’ve got to surround yourself with the best people and make sure that they are all committed to the goals and aspirations that you have for your business. If you haven’t got that you’re going to be struggling.
What else are you doing to separate yourself from your competitors? Look for ways to be successful and be relevant in your market so that you stand out. There is a recipe for success in your market and you’ve got to figure out what it’s going to take to make sure you find and keep being successful. It starts with you as you’re the key driver of your business.
If the three key drivers are beginning to turn to your favor and with the possibility of the wind at our backs, what is it you’re going to do in the next year to see that you not only survive, but thrive in the AGRR industry? It’s really up to you.