Archive for August, 2012

Just Sayin’ Blog – Network Participation Agreement – “Special Update”

  Cartoon courtesy of TomFishburne.com

 

“Can’t tell the players without a scorecard”… an old school expression but those words seem particularly relevant today, as one looks at recent events surrounding the subject of auto glass networks.

In my recent blog titled “Network Participation Agreement” from August 6, 2012, I discussed the ADDENDUM announced by Safelite® on July 20, 2012 regarding its www.SGCNetwork.com Network Participation Agreement.  It stated in the last sentence of Section 1.10 of the ADDENDUM, “Further, Participant shall not offer, directly or indirectly, to any insurance agent or its personnel anything of value in consideration for the referral of work paid for from the proceeds of an automobile insurance policy.” 

In that post, I also asked “do you think that Safelite® is also a participant, having signed the Network Participation Agreement and having to follow all of the sections of the agreement? If yes, then Safelite® has to follow the same rules as everyone else. That seems fair right?”

I guess that question entered the spotlight sooner than I could have imagined with the publication of the glassBYTEs.com™ article from August 23, 2012 titled “Safelite Funds Allstate Windshield Repair Marketing Material” written by Casey Neeley.

In that story, an Allstate consultant is quoted as saying, “Safelite approached us about creating marketing material for our agents to distribute and the first run of such materials was funded entirely by Safelite and provided to our agents”.

Now we get to the scorecard part because I have to wonder “which” Safelite it is that is funding promotional materials. Would that be Safelite® Solutions LLC, the self-proclaimed “third party administrator” of glass claims, or Safelite Auto Glass®, the self-proclaimed “largest vehicle glass repair and replacement organization in the U.S.” After all, both those entities are involved – but as noted in the prior blog, it is just not very clear about the role that Safelite® Auto Glass plays in the equation, either with the insurance carrier or its agents. If you follow the link at the end of this sentence, Safelite® refers to all of its organizations as “A Family of Companies” (*referenced from http://scheduling.safelite.com/companies.jsp).  

While this distinction, or lack thereof, is not at all apparent from any public information I find on this subject, one thing becomes crystal clear – the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry could certainly use a whole lot more transparency. In fact, one could make the case that much of the recent legislation efforts have been focused on creating such transparency in auto glass claims transactions, with particular attention, rightly or not, on Safelite® and its “Family of Companies”.

From the view of this blog, transparency only serves to benefit consumers in making informed claim decisions, making their policy dollars work to their fullest, and identifying safe auto glass replacement services.

I guess I have to rephrase my original blog question to now ask, “Do you think that Safelite® [Auto Glass] is also a participant, having signed the Network Participation Agreement and having to follow all of the sections of the agreement?”

One can only hope that in the interest of transparency and consumer informedness, the players involved make it quite clear about the roles and participation as pertain to Safelite® Auto Glass, an entity portrayed as separate and distinct from Safelite® Solutions LLC. And there is one organization that could answer that question today.

For the rest of us, the best course of action might be to continue to focus on the customer and provide exceptional value with outstanding transparency.

In the meantime, not a bad idea to keep the scorecard close by to recognize the players on the other team, and act accordingly.

Just sayin’……

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Auto Glass Networks – Part 1

 

In my last blog I wrote about Safelite® Auto Glass and its SGC Network, which is one of the networks (or third party administrator -TPA) that operates in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry in the United States. Safelite® released a new addendum to its Network Participation Agreement that outlines new guidelines or requirements  on AGRR companies that either participate in the SGC Network as sub-contractor’s that Safelite® uses to do repairs and replacements for Safelite® or those AGRR companies that are forced to invoice work they do for certain customers through the Safelite® SGC Network. A reader of that blog suggested that I write about networks in general, so here goes.

While Safelite® is the largest AGRR network it is by no means the only one. All AGRR networks share some similarities, but each is unique in how it operates. Since there is no single AGRR company that covers every square mile of the United States providing services solely through its own AGRR technicians to consumers, every network must attempt to aggregate the services of thousands of disparate AGRR service providers into a single “quasi-retail” service entity. Each of the networks attempt to replicate a full service AGRR company that looks like it is capable of servicing each and every consumer with a single price and service offering that suits the needs of every insurance or fleet company customer it has in its network. That’s where the problems begin.

The first problem a network has to manage is the reality that each of the AGRR companies that participate in its network are not under its control, so a network has to deal with inconsistency of service levels to its customers. That is an issue; a really BIG issue. Currently, a network attempts to counter inconsistencies by stipulating increasingly detailed and specific guidelines in its effort to create some semblance of uniformity amongst a very large, broad and diverse set of participants. How do the networks accomplish that? It takes a great deal of work to try to herd all those cats.  Some do it poorly while some are more accomplished at the task.

It’s quite the challenge though, and perhaps never so clearly indicated as by Safelite®’s recent addendum whereby it now seeks to go beyond standards of repair and replacement practices to actually regulate the business conduct of its participants. By venturing into this area it may seem as a case in point that the network may be leaning into “too big to fail” territory, as it tries to corral a wide range of participants into a single product offering. It is likely to be very difficult, if not impossible for a large network to monitor and enforce all of the stipulations on which it seeks agreement from its numerous participants.

It makes me wonder if the newest Safelite® addendum might actually be showing off some of the real challenges that at least one of the largest network entities is experiencing in trying to solve a problem and meet its entire customer needs.

As I mentioned, every AGRR network must attempt to cobble together its own group of AGRR service providers (participant) attempting to provide a service model that it hopes attracts its targeted customer(s).

That’s the networks strategy. Now how about your decisions as an independent AGRR retailer?  It’s probably best to make your own assessment of how network participation fits into your overall marketing and sales strategy. You may not be able to avoid networks altogether, as most insurance companies require that billing for the service provided be processed through a network. But remember, in all cases, it is the choice of every AGRR company to decide whether it will or won’t participate in the opportunity to receive repairs or replacements from every AGRR network. As an AGRR retailer, you may prefer to do work for one or more of the networks because the network provides value to you in exchange for the value you provide. Some AGRR retailers choose not to agree to the pricing or service requirements that a network has on participating. That again is the choice of the AGRR retailer. It’s probably not a good strategy if you’re relying on a network for your repairs and replacements, but if you do you should be consistently working on lowering your costs as you can be assured that the network will be looking for you to lower the value you receive for repairs or replacements.

Networks are an established part of the AGRR industry and they aren’t going to go away. Legislative initiatives may be attempted state by state to help regulate or moderate how networks operate, but networks do provide value to the customers that use them. Whether or not the networks that operate today will be in business five years from now will be determined by the value, service and quality that it provides to its customers. Only the strong will survive. More on how networks operate in a future blog posting.

Perhaps the best advice for today’s AGRR retailer is simpler than we all have been thinking: “focus intently on the customer, listen to what they need, and set about to do the right thing.” A very simple and straightforward concept.

Sam Walton is quoted as saying,.

 

“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

Stay focused on your customer and provide value to them and you should do okay.

Just Sayin’….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Network Participation Agreement

On July 20, 2012 Safelite® announced through its www.SGCNetwork.com an ADDENDUM to its Safelite Network Participation Agreement/Safelite® Solutions Network Participation Agreement which effectively lays out the rules between Safelite Solutions LLC (Safelite®) and what they call the “notified party” or “participant” (participant). A participant refers to auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) companies that repair or replace damaged or broken auto glass for insurance policyholders whose insurance companies or fleet companies use Safelite® to administer auto glass losses. The addendum is fairly straightforward and if you are a “participant” it is binding upon you unless you notify Safelite® within 10 days that you object to the changes in the new addendum. Of course, if you object to the addendum you effectively terminate your participation in the Safelite® network.

As reported in glassBYTEs on July 31, 2012 in an article titled “Safelite Releases Addendum to Network Participation Agreement”, Section 1.10 of the ADDENDUM states:

“1.10 Participant shall comply with each applicable insurance and/or fleet company’s program requirements or marketing guidelines, whether communicated by the company or by Safelite Solutions orally or in writing. Notwithstanding, Participant agrees and acknowledges that unauthorized use of insurance or fleet company trademarks, logos, or other intellectual property is prohibited. Further, Participant shall not offer, directly or indirectly, to any insurance agent or its personnel anything of value in consideration for the referral of work paid for from the proceeds of an automobile insurance policy.” 

The section seems reasonable. If a participant wants to do work for either insurance or fleet companies that utilize Safelite® for handling glass losses, the participant shall comply with the “requirements or marketing guidelines, whether communicated by the company or by Safelite Solutions orally or in writing” for those companies that Safelite® provides administrative control over glass losses. How would Safelite® ever prove “requirements or marketing guidelines” that were communicated “orally” to a participant? It’s the last sentence in the addendum that I’m writing about today. 

I find it interesting that the last sentence of Section 1.10 appears limited only to “any insurance agent or its personnel” by stating:

“Further, Participant shall not offer, directly or indirectly, to any insurance agent or its personnel anything of value in consideration for the referral of work paid for from the proceeds of an automobile insurance policy.”

My first question is do you think that Safelite® is also a participant, having signed the Network Participation Agreement and having to follow all of the sections of the agreement? If yes, then Safelite® has to follow the same rules as everyone else. That seems fair right?

I was also just wondering why the language of Section 1.10 refers only to “any insurance agent or its personnel”. Does the last sentence mean that you can provide something of value to an employee of a fleet company? Perhaps I’m missing something.

What I don’t understand is why Section 1.10 is limited only to insurance agent(s) and those who work for an insurance agent if what the section is attempting to do is to stop influencing auto glass repairs and replacements for insurance companies. Does Safelite® operate under the same rules that are laid out in Section 1.10?

Section 1.10 of the new addendum just doesn’t seem all that clear. Or maybe it is.

Just sayin’……

 

 

 

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