Archive for category AGRSS

Just Sayin’ Blog – Hopes for the New Year

I’m hoping that 2012 turns out to be a great year for those in the automotive glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry or if great is too high a bar to set at the very least better than 2011. In my opinion there are few key things that need to happen (and perhaps more than a few) for 2012 to be a great year. I’ve listed some of my hopes for 2012. Perhaps some are on your list as well.

  1.  Our industry is affected by three key business drivers:  weather, the economy and miles driven. Sadly we have no control or influence over any of these so I’m hoping for some luck for 2012.

Weather – I’m hoping to see “good” weather this year. I think you know what the definition of “good” means. For the most part 2011 was a “good” weather year.

In many markets, the AGRR industry and all those affected by it rises or falls depending upon the severity of the winter season which means snow. A severe winter brings increased breakage while a mild winter has the opposite effect. Annual demand obviously can vary considerably based on those weather fluctuations. I have many friends that compete in the snow-belt and at this time of the year they are looking at weather reports day-in and day-out to see when and where that next big snow will be. That snow, of course, has to come in the right amount and at the right time of day for maximum effect and that would be during rush hour. It would be great to see snow come in every other week so that after that big snow there would be sunny weather that follows allowing all those new repairs and replacements to be completed.  If there is no snow, owners/managers are forced to make tough decisions they’d prefer not to make relating to cutting expenses, so please let it snow. Snow brings out plows and salt trucks. If the area you live in still uses gravel or coal or sand, even better. 

Then there is ice. Ice can be even better than snow for the AGRR industry. Then there are cold snaps that can cause star breaks to run out when drivers go out and clean frost off windshields on cold mornings with scrapers or   even better – hot water. And when drivers turn on the defrosters to get rid of frost and warm air hits cold windshields. 

Hail is nice too. Of course not too small that won’t break the glass, but not too big either.  Just the right size will do. Rain isn’t ever really that good for our industry, but if it does rain please let it rain at night.

The Economy – My hope for 2012 is that in the United States and everywhere else in the world the economy becomes robust.  Since 2007 -2008 the economy in the United States obviously has not been robust.  During economic downturns many who experience auto glass breakage – the “do nothings” – delay repairs and/or replacements.  Everyone in the industry hopes that as the economy improves those “do nothings” will replace that broken auto glass.

A fully-employed workforce in the United States would be great. My hope for a robust economy includes the wish that everyone has a great job and that its a great paying one. All those fully employed people should have a car too — actually several cars would be even better. It would be great if all those cars would be fully insured with a zero dollar comprehensive insurance deductible. And, since these are my hopes for 2012, I hope that all those cars are fully insured with an insurance company that doesn’t use Safelite® Solutions as its auto claims administrator (I’m guessing most of you’d agree with me on that one). I hope everyone is going on vacations this year and preferably driving to all the beautiful places there are to visit and see in our great country.

A bad economy requires those competing in the AGRR industry to take an introspective look at their businesses.  That introspective look should include “SWOT” – your strengths and weaknesses versus the opportunities and threats you face. How you deal with SWOT generally determines how successful you’ll be.

Miles Driven – Miles driven are key to auto glass breakage and my hope is that for 2012 gasoline prices remain “low” which will equate to more miles driven by putting more people in their cars and on the road providing more opportunities for drivers to break auto glass.

The total monthly vehicle miles driven have been growing since the federal government started tracking the data. In September 2011 the Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Commission released an in-depth Traffic Trend Report. If you follow this link to a graph on miles driven, after hitting a moving 12-month high of 3.039 billion, yes billion miles driven in the rolling 12-months ending in November 2007 the graph shows a down-tick in estimated vehicle miles driven that occurred in 2008 – 2009.  Thankfully the miles driven appear to have somewhat stabilized for now.

But the cost of gasoline is a major influencer relating to total miles driven. On December 18, 2011, a Chicago Sun Times (Chicago Sun Times article) article titled “At gas pump, 2011 was the year of the big squeeze” reported on the annual cost of gasoline for the average American family in 2011. The opening line of the article stated, “It’s been 30 years since gasoline took such a big bite out of the family budget.” The article goes on to report, “the typical American household will have spent $ 4,155 filling up this year, a record.  That is 8.4 percent of what the median family takes in, the highest share since 1981.”  This wasn’t good news for AGRR retailers in 2011. 

On January 6, 2012, a Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles Times article) article titled “Gasoline prices start the year at a high – and rising” reported on how gasoline prices are starting out this year. The article states, “but this also may be the year of the gas-pocalypse, analysts warn. That’s because gasoline prices are the highest ever for the start of the year, and they’re on the rise, supercharged by expensive oil and changes in refinery operations.” That’s certainly not good news for AGRR retailers looking for 2012 to be a better year than 2011.

The AGRR industry really needs to see lower gasoline prices that will cause a spike in miles driven for its business outlook to improve in 2012. Based on predictions made by Edward Morse, head of commodities research at Citigroup Global Markets, Inc., on December 22, 2011, on Bloomberg Television’s “Surveillance Midday” that doesn’t seem likely. If you follow this link Mr. Morse talks about factors affecting the crude oil market and the outlook for oil and gasoline prices. You’ll see that he holds out little hope for “low” gas prices in 2012.  Mr. Morse sees the floor for gasoline prices to be $ 4 by the end of May 2012. That’s certainly not good news for AGRR retailers in 2012.

My hope for 2012 is that gasoline prices are low and miles driven are high. Based on the realities of the marketplace and comments from experts you’d better cross your fingers and say a prayer for that one.

  1.  I’m hoping that in 2012 some entity – some organization or company in the AGRR industry steps up and becomes a leader for the industry. By the way, I’m certainly not suggesting that the “market leader” can assume that role.  I don’t think that’s possible. I am hoping that leadership is shown by someone who really cares about the AGRR industry and the issues that it faces, offering positive ideas for all to improve the valuable services that the industry provides to consumers.
  1. I hope to see fewer imports of auto glass manufactured overseas coming to the United States/North America and the imports that do come to our shores at least be from those companies that are major suppliers of Original Equipment Manufactured auto glass to car manufacturers and not those who primarily make after-market parts.
  1. I hope that every windshield that needs replacing in 2012 is replaced using the Auto Glass Safety Council’s auto glass replacement standard known as the AGRSS® Standard.  The standard is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards development organization.  The AGRSS® Standard (ANSI/AGRSS® 002-2002 Automotive Glass Replacement Standard) is North America’s only auto glass replacement standard and it addresses the proper procedures that must be used by auto glass technicians, along with other company employees who are also important to ensure the safe installation of auto glass.  No other company or organization maintains any standard remotely similar to AGRSS®.  I also hope that replacements are completed using a urethane that provides a 1 hour safe drive away time.  Your customers deserve nothing less.
  1. My final hope is that someone steps up and attempts to compete on a larger scale against the market leader. The industry really needs a strong competitor to Safelite®.  I really don’t care who that is, but come on already.  Somebody step up on the retail or third party administrator side and give them a go.

I hope everyone who competes in the AGRR industry the best of success and luck in 2012.

And finally I’m hoping for a great 2012 for myself.

Just sayin’……..

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2 Comments

Mike Paley – Retail auto glass entrepreneur

Mike Paley is someone I think you should get to know.  He experiences all of ups and downs of being an entrepreneur in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry.  Mike is the owner and president of Freedom Glass, an independent auto glass repair and replacement business providing auto glass repair and replacement services to customers in the greater Richmond, Virginia area markets.  He started his AGRR business in 2004 after working as Service Manager at a car dealership in the Midlothian, Virginia area.  Mike served as a Gunnery Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, where one of his assignments was the business of recruiting.  His patriotism remains steadfast, as is evident by his aptly named business, Freedom Glass and its red, white and blue colors.    

Last year at the 2010 Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard® Council (AGRSS®) Conference, held in Oakbrook Terrace (Chicago), Illinois, Mike was honored for having the first auto glass company to successfully complete the AGRSS® independent third party validation process with a 100% score on November 11, 2009.  I know that it takes a lot of work to make sure that your organization follows AGRSS® and being the first company to be validated and pass the validation with a score of 100% was an amazing feat.

Additionally, at the September board meeting of the AGRSS® Council Mike was elected to the Board of Directors of AGRSS®.

On a personal side, Mike is the proud father of three sons; Jason, Justin and Austin, all of whom reside in the Richmond area. 

First let me thank you for your military service Mike.  I’d then like to congratulate you for being the first AGRR company to be validated by the auto glass safety organization.  Sadly, that is one experience (or risk) that many in our industry are unwilling to allow their companies to have. 

With an estimated 45 – 50% of the auto glass that’s repaired or replaced in the United States being installed by independent single owner businesses, Freedom Glass is a great example of the vast number of auto glass repair and replacement companies in the AGRR industry today.  I think many in the industry would like to hear from someone such as you Mike, a strong competitor providing the highest level of quality workmanship to the customers in your marketplace.  What attracted you to the AGRR industry?


Mike Paley:  “Attracted” is an interesting term.  I think it was more fate than attraction!  While transitioning from my job as a Service Manager, a chip in my windshield spread into a crack that required replacement.  During the replacement process, the technician asked how long it had been chipped.  When I told him three years he asked why I never called to have it repaired.  I confessed that I had never heard of repairing a chip.  (As a dealership Service Manager, no one had ever approached me about repairing chipped windshields for our service clients bringing their vehicles in… hint to those in marketing).  So I began looking at every parked car’s windshield and was surprised to see how many were chipped.  From there I started researching the “repair” industry and I felt it was  a job I could perform without employees for the time being.  And I’ve always been confident  that I could “sell” anything that I believed in.  So Freedom Glass was created with only the repair industry in mind.   

In May of ’05 I started to contemplate adding replacements to our services.  But since I didn’t know anything about replacing auto glass I needed to research that, just as I had done earlier for repairs.  During my research, I learned just how critical windshields were to safety in the event of a crash or collision.  Shortcuts or errors could be catastrophic, so I wanted to make certain I was replacing windshields correctly.  I contacted a glass company in Jacksonville, Florida, and asked if I might come down to shadow a couple of their technicians for a week.  They graciously agreed, and in July I went down.  I learned a tremendous amount in a very short time from those two technicians.  In September I traveled to Charleston, South Carolina to attend the NGA’s Auto Glass Technical Institute (AGTI) course.  Exactly one year after opening our doors, we began doing replacements in addition to repairs. 

 

Without a background in the AGRR industry, what prompted you to want to enter this industry as a business owner rather than an employee?

Mike Paley:  Two words come to mind as for why I wanted to own rather than work for the business; leadership and responsibility.  The Marine Corps instilled in me leadership by example.  I have never asked, nor expected, an employee to do anything I would not be willing to do.  Case in point, I required of myself to get trained and certified before I ever brought on a technician.  That enabled me to learn what was expected and required to perform the job.  As the owner, I am responsible for the technicians and their ability when I place them in the field.  To this day, we have never installed a windshield whereas an NGA certified technician was not at that job.  Some owners may not deem that necessary, but it is for me!  Someone is trusting Freedom Glass with their most precious cargo, and I take that responsibility very seriously.  Another responsibility the owner has is the material his technicians have to work with.  I often say the greatest technician in the world can’t be great if his company’s owner refuses to provide him with the best material.  But likewise, if an owner provides the absolute best material available and the technician is untrained or doesn’t care, the installation can still be compromised.  It takes both.  

      

Independents have to stay competitive by finding ways to differentiate themselves from not only the larger companies they compete against in their local markets, but also other independents such as themselves.  What advice can you offer independents such as yourself to stay competitive against the larger chains?

Mike Paley:  There are several things that we emphasize.  We encourage our clients to call me if there is ever a question, concern or issue about a job after our technician has left.  Plus, I let people know that when you’re dealing with a company our size you’re no more than two phone calls away from talking with our President; try calling a “big” company to talk with their President.  I would strongly encourage smaller independent shops to focus on quality, not quantity.  I would rather have a technician do five jobs a day correctly, then eight incorrectly.  I also express to clients and contacts that because we don’t have a TPA feeding us business we must rely on referrals and word-of-mouth.  So we “ask for referrals”!  If you don’t ask, you probably won’t receive.    

 

By your being the first auto glass company to pass the AGRSS® independent third party validation, what advice do you offer those in the industry who are considering joining the association?  Why did you join and why should other AGRR companies join AGRSS®?

Mike Paley:  There are a multitude of associations and organizations that an AGRR company can join, and they all have their place.  But for me, our participation in AGRSS® is my priority because its focus is on the safe installation of windshields.  And without that, nothing else matters!  To me that is.  And so, if an auto glass company is genuinely concerned about the safety of its clients, they owe it to themselves, their staff and their clients to be a part of AGRSS®.

 

Why did we join AGRSS®? Let me first say that it took some time for us to join AGRSS® and the reason was purely fiscal.  I had read the Standard and recognized that we were following it, but for anyone to be able to simply write a check (and sign an affidavit) stating they were doing installations correctly without any way to substantiate it didn’t sit well with me.  Perhaps I was being too cynical, but I expressed this concern to someone at AGRSS®, and was advised that a validation process was in the works.  So I politely asked to be contacted once that validation came to fruition.  Several months later I was contacted and advised the validation process would be rolled out soon, so we jumped at the opportunity to demonstrate that we were indeed performing our replacements correctly and in accordance with the AGRSS® Standard.  Unfortunately, the roll out didn’t take place as soon as we had expected.  But ultimately validations did start and we are thrilled to have been the first auto glass company in the Nation to pass the third-party validation with 100% compliance.   

 

Why should other AGRR companies join AGRSS®?  David, I didn’t realize my “sometimes” lack of being politically correct would be tested this early!  While I do believe that every AGRR company “should” be registered with AGRSS®, I know that not all companies can be!  As someone who is still very close to the front line of windshield replacements, I will tell you that far more windshields are being replaced improperly than should be the case.  And I’m confident that our area is not the exception, but rather the rule.  So let me answer your question this way.  I feel as though any auto glass company that “claims” to be performing safe and proper windshield replacements should be, and should want to be, a registered company with AGRSS®!!!  I don’t know why those companies wouldn’t be excited about being registered with and connected to AGRSS®.  After all, AGRSS® is trying to educate and promote that there is a difference between a safe and an unsafe windshield replacement.  And they’re promoting those shops that care enough about wanting to keep their clients safe.  So I guess I’ll answer your question with a question.  Why would any auto glass company performing replacements properly and safely NOT want to be a part of AGRSS®?  Personally, I can’t think of one reason! 

  

What can you share about the experience of what it was like for you and your people to go through the AGRSS® validation process that other registered companies will be going through in the next few years?

Mike Paley:  When I learned of our scheduled validation, I did get nervous.  But my nervousness stemmed from the validation process being new and perhaps there being some bugs in the system that may not have been worked out yet.  I felt we had a lot riding on the results of our evaluation.  So our company went over the Standard again, worked with our adhesive manufacturer representative and prepared for what I feared would be an interrogation.  Turned out it was anything but an interrogation.  The validator, who is not a glass-industry person but rather statistician or assessor, went down a list of questions that everyone familiar with the Standard will already know, and merely asked questions.  The questions weren’t tricky or deceptive.  It was almost as if our validator were simply curious as to what we were doing and why.  I likened it to a curious client watching and questioning a technician during an installation.  The one piece of advice I would offer everyone, regardless of your company’s size, is to have a trainer, manager, or owner present during the actual validation for each technician.  We found this to be invaluable to clear up any misunderstandings about nomenclature, verbiage or procedures.         

 

Regardless of the size of your company, whether you’re the biggest or the smallest, why doesn’t (or shouldn’t) everyone who installs auto glass strongly embrace AGRSS®?

Mike Paley:  I think every auto glass company should embrace AGRSS®, and its intent!  A major part of my presentation when a potential client calls in for a quote is to educate them on windshield safety.  Yes, I want Freedom Glass to perform their replacement, but most important to me is that they know what to look for and ask about.  For those AGRSS® registered companies in my area, if you didn’t already know it (but I suspect you do), I am constantly promoting you.  While I’d love to install every windshield needed in my area, I recognize that we simply can’t do it; we’re just not large enough.  So if someone elects not to use Freedom Glass, I strongly encourage them to contact a competitor who is also registered with AGRSS®.  Some may question my reasoning for that, but I do not.  As I tell everyone that will listen, my family and friends will be safe with their windshield replacements because they will have us do the installation.  However, I can’t protect those I care about from someone else’s windshield coming out during an accident and striking them.  So I feel as though it behooves me to insure that everyone has a safe windshield installation.  And with that, I believe it is in every AGRR owner’s best interest to promote education, not lowest price.  I don’t ever want to read another story about a fatality resulting from a windshield failure.  As much as I hate to actually say this, I believe there are two types of auto glass companies out here today; those who genuinely care about safety and those who will do anything for the almighty dollar.  At Freedom Glass we have, and will continue to, turn down any job that will not result in a safe installation.  Making a living is important to us, but not at the expense of someone else not living!       

 

What do you see as key opportunities for you (and for others like you) in the AGRR industry and what do  you feel differentiates you in the marketplace.

Mike Paley:  David, I sincerely believe AGRSS® brings us the single greatest opportunity to demonstrate to the driving public that those of us registered with and adhering to the AGRSS® are indeed putting safety first.  As the saying goes, a lot of glass companies talk the talk, but only a few of us walk the walk.  And again, the way we try to differentiate ourselves from our competitors is by educating.  I do not want a client because I’m the cheapest out there.  I want that client because they care about those persons in their vehicle, and they’ll heed our warnings, i.e. Safe Drive-Away Time.  I feel if every AGRSS® registered shop would spend more time educating and less time concentrating on price, some of the 800-lbs gorilla’s business would come our way and some of the fly-by-night installers would either leave the industry or get trained and certified.          

 

From your prospective, what do you see that is right with the industry and what do you see is wrong with it?

Mike Paley:  There are several things that I see as right in our industry, and that gives me reason to hope more positive things are forthcoming.  I sincerely believe that the formation of AGRSS®, and its validation program, is the absolute best thing that could have occurred for our industry.  I also know from attending the conferences over the years and talking with other glass companies around the nation, there are others that truly care about consumer safety and place that in the highest regard.  And while independents, especially small independents, can’t compete head-to-head with that 800-lbs gorilla in our industry, if we can work together to educate and demonstrate our collective professionalism, I believe that we can gain some of that gorilla’s market share.

As for what I see wrong in our industry, there are several things there as well!  Of course the biggest is that gorilla.  Anytime a company can have an affiliation with the majority of the insurance companies out here; answering their glass claim calls, dispatching their own installers, using the glass they manufacture, and getting paid a Guaranteed Average Invoice (GAI) price; that’s about as “wrong” as it can get for the rest of us.  And there are several “wrongs” I feel are being self-inflicted by many in our industry, including some by independents.    Freedom Glass does not, has not and will not waive any portion of a client’s deductible.  If a client wants a zero deductible, I encourage them to talk with their agent.  After all, if anyone reading this does waive even a portion of that deductible and our industry’s compensation keeps getting smaller and smaller, I would implore you to write a letter to AGRR Magazine as to how you’re doing that and staying profitable.  But the truth is, I already know!  And my company will never do anything to compromise anyone’s safety.  The other issue I see are the numerous installers who, after working for someone else, have decided to open their own auto glass company.  The problem is that while they may have the best of intentions and may even be very good technicians, their inability to quote and market properly is driving the value of our industry into the ground.  Often times these “new” independents will survive for a month or two based on family, friends and connections, then they begin calling other glass companies to inquire about performing subcontracting work for them.  Then, within six months their company is no longer in business.  And finally, we have those companies in our industry, large and small, that do not see the value and importance of training and educating their personnel.  To me, that’s a frightening shame.          

 

What industry associations or organizations do you belong and why did you join them?

Mike Paley:  We have been members of the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard (AGRSS®); Independent Glass Association (IGA®); National Glass Association (NGA®); and, National Windshield Repair Association (NWRA®).  We currently belong to only AGRSS®.  The reason we joined each of these associations was to learn more about our industry as a whole, each association independently including its goals and objectives, and to become certified by each.  I don’t believe we can ever learn too much.     

 

You may be uncomfortable answering this question, but what advice can you offer others in the industry that you feel could possibly help them improve their businesses?  Can you pass along any ideas on how they can grow sales in their markets in the difficult environment that the industry is facing?

Mike Paley:  I believe I’ve already addressed a couple of ideas, but let me offer this.  In my humble opinion, I believe owning an auto glass company is a marathon, NOT A SPRINT!!!  Go to work each day with the goal of educating everyone and making at least one friend.  Share something about auto glass safety with everyone you come in contact with.  Do those things and the sales will take care of themselves.  People ultimately do business with people they like and trust.  Sure, the cheapest guy may get the job today, but he probably won’t be around tomorrow when that client needs their service again.  So stay true to yourself, your clients and your industry.  It may be tempting to lower your prices or your standards, but once you’ve compromised them, they’re gone!             

 

And finally, one thing I have to ask you about is how your Carolina shag dancing is coming along with the Richmond Shag Club and how do you rate your dancing prowess versus your skills in the auto glass repair and replacement industry?

Mike Paley:  Talk about being blind-sided, LOL!  Having never danced until I reached the half-century mark, and always thinking I had two left feet, I’ve grown very confident in my dancing.  Five years ago you couldn’t have dragged me onto an empty dance floor; today you can’t keep me off one.  My skills in the auto glass industry have also grown tremendously, and with that, so has my confidence.  Without that confidence I would never have even considered accepting the honor of being nominated, much less elected, to the Board of Directors for AGRSS®.  Ten years ago I wouldn’t have dreamt of owning an auto glass company, but today I’m proud of where we stand and the reputation we’re building daily.  And that’s my hope for the future of our industry as a whole, to grow in skills and knowledge, abilities and confidence.  Can we learn more?  Absolutely!  Can we get better?  Without question!  Are we passionate?  We better be; people’s lives depend on us!!!   

 

I want to thank you for taking the time to answer my questions Mike.  I very much appreciate your candor and willingness to share your views on the industry.  We both have a great desire to see everyone who runs and operates a glass company in the AGRR industry find ways to remain viable during the difficult competitive landscape that exists, especially today.  With all of the changes that have taken and are taking place in the industry you need to find ways to compete in the marketplace and not only maintain the customers you have, but grow your business by differentiating yourself in the marketplace.  I hope that many in the industry can see through your experiences and advice in opening Freedom Glass that there are ways to be successful in the industry, regardless of the size of your company.

Thanks again Mike and I wish you great luck in the prosperity and growth of Freedom Glass.  I’m glad I’m not currently competing against you in Richmond.

Just sayin’………….

 

p.s.  The Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard (AGRSS®) changes its name to the Auto Glass Safety Council® effective January 2012.

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10 Comments

ZIP Code based pricing

About a month ago on November 14, 2011, Nydia Han (link), a television news reporter for the local ABC Channel 6 Television affiliate WPVI in Philadelphia, reported on that station’s nightly news program about the auto glass replacement pricing by zip code strategy that, according to the station, Safelite® Auto Glass was utilizing in the local market.  It was certainly interesting and entertaining to watch the 4+ minute “Action News Investigation” segment that Ms. Han presented on the television stations ABC News Channel 6 “Special Report” (link).  During the segment she asked this question:

“Is it fair for a company to charge you more for its services based on where you live?” 

ABC Channel 6 visited a Safelite® store location in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, asking about replacing a windshield and reported that they were told – “So book it online” – by the store.  She did just that by getting on a computer and going to the Safelite® “Get a quote” web page. It was there that she found that she first had to put in a zip code as required by Safelite® in addition to other required fields detailing the make, model and year of the car; along with the piece of glass she wanted quoted.  Based on her report she then started to put in a number of different zip codes in the area serviced by Safelite®.  Ms. Han reported that what she found was that “for the SAME windshield replacement on the SAME car at the SAME Safelite® shop” she got a number of different prices, depending upon the zip code used for the quote.  She reported that the prices varied about $ 80 for the same windshield replacement on the same car and the question she asked was does that pricing strategy model seem fair to consumers?

Based on the television stations investigation and report, the director of Philadelphia’s Consumer Affairs Lance Haver believes that it is not.  As Mr. Haver said in the report:

“It’s just wrong.  There is no two ways about it.  This is just wrong.  It should be one price for everyone; it shouldn’t depend upon where you live and how much they can gouge out of you.”

So why did Safelite® use zip code pricing?  Their spokesperson Melina Metzger was quoted in a glassBYTEs® article¹ as offering the following in response to WPVI’s investigative report saying:

“Pricing strategies are confidential.  This is a case of an investigative journalist attempting to create scandal where there is none.

Like all businesses, Safelite uses a dynamic consumer pricing model that fluctuates based on many variables, such as what other competitors the customer might choose to repair or replace your vehicle glass, the availability of a technician in [an] area, and the availability of the right part in [an] area. At Safelite, we believe our consumer pricing model to be fair and offer value.”

Okay, Safelite® certainly has the right to use any pricing model it would like to achieve its goals as does any other company.  It is an interesting model when someone on one side of a street who has the same car as someone on the other side of the street can be charged different amounts for the same item quoted and installed by the same store.  But in Safelite’s® defense, doesn’t every company have the right to price its products and services anyway it wants?  Even if the same store location actually does the work and/or those two different people in two different zip codes who might live across the street are sent the same installer to do the work on the same year, make and model of car?

I looked at a number of other auto glass repair and replacement retailers operating in a variety of markets as Safelite® and each of the retailer web sites I visited asked for a variety of customer information along with details of the car and what glass was needed to be replaced.  The web sites I looked at asked for zip codes only to determine what store was closest to the customer.  None offered quotes online.  Each of those web sites also said that a customer service representative would be in touch via email or the telephone to follow up on the quote request from the customer.

Then I visited a number of other web based auto glass replacement quoting sites.  Each of the web sites I visited requested zip code information (In all fairness to them it appeared that none of the ones I looked at actually operated auto glass shops themselves and were aggregators selling customer replacement opportunities to others who would do the replacements).  Those sites require the zip code in order to know where the customer asking for a quote for auto glass replacement service is located. This is so that the web site can make contact with the appropriate retailer(s) who will actually be doing the work for their price quote.

I’m not sure what other businesses use zip codes in pricing models, but since I had some spare time I did a little unscientific survey of local Chicago area businesses where I live by walking around to a number of Walgreens Drug Store locations in different zip codes in the downtown Chicago area where I did a store-by-store price comparison on a variety of non auto glass products.  For my very unscientific survey I chose three different products

  1. a 7.8 ounce tube of Crest® Pro Health Fluoride Toothpaste Clean Mint ($ 4.99),
  2. a 6 ounce box of my personal favorite GOOD & PLENTY® Licorice Candy ($ 1.59),
  3. and a 100 count bottle of Genuine Bayer® Aspirin 325 mg Pain Reliever ($ 6.79).

Granted those retail items aren’t even remotely close to windshields, but I did say my survey was unscientific so I took some latitude.  Anyway, I found that with all of the Walgreen stores that I visited in my survey area, the prices were actually the same for each of the products surveyed.  I also checked their online web site where I found prices were the same. 

I then extended my survey to a few other online web sites.  I visited two very popular retail web sites called Amazon® and the iTunes® Store.  Neither asked for my zip code to determine pricing for the products I checked.

One last observation I made when visiting the Safelite® “Get a quote” web page.  I found it interesting and wondered why they asked the question:

“Are you thinking of filing an insurance claim?” 

If you respond – yes – you’re then asked to provide the name of your auto insurance company from a long alphabetized drop down listing.  Under that drop-down box there is a statement:

Asking your insurance provider about your policy coverage and deductible is not considered filing a claim in most cases. We can help you with information regarding your insurance coverage. (You can always change your mind before your appointment.)”.

It was easy getting a quote when I didn’t say that it was an insurance claim.  It wasn’t as easy when I answered that I was filing an insurance claim.  Do you think that the price would be the same if you said it was for insurance versus if it wasn’t for insurance?  I was just wondering and I’m…..

Just sayin’………

 

1  Articles reporting on Ms. Han’s ABC Television affiliate WPVI in Philadelphia’s report that appeared in glassBYTEs® Auto Glass and Insurance Industry News on November 15, 2011, and on November 16, 2011.

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Q & A with Lauren Fix – The Car Coach®

Lauren Fix is The Car Coach®   With her extensive and impressive background in the world of automotive safety, Lauren is seen and heard coast-to-coast on major TV shows, print, web and radio.  She is a winning professional race car driver and self-described alpha mom.  As an award winning “automotive and lifestyle expert” Lauren has an educational background in business, engineering and marketing; and is a renowned expert in the many aspects of the automotive industry.  I’m honored to have her answer some questions today.

Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions.  After listening to a talk you gave recently it was very apparent to all in attendance that you are very passionate about educating consumers to help make them become more aware of the importance of keeping their cars in good mechanical condition, as well as making sure they know the ins and outs of how to deal with the automotive service industry when they need their cars repaired.  You also are interested in helping those that want to provide the highest level of service to car owners understand the importance of having more knowledgeable customers.  It seems like you were born for mission.

How and why did you become The Car Coach®?

Lauren Fix:   I always loved cars and helped my father in the garage when I was just a kid.  By the age of 10 I was able to help him turn wrenches and get the tools he asked for.  I was a “tomboy” for sure.  When I graduated high school my goal was to be an actress, but after long conversations with my father, he convinced me to look elsewhere. I went to school for business, communications and engineering classes.  I started racing cars at the age of 16 and being on national TV has been just as much of an adrenaline rush.  After restoring cars, racing, designed brake systems and writing articles for years about cars, a friend approached me to be a guest on Motorweek, a PBS show.  After the show he suggested that I be a dealer trainer as the money was great.   I was working for my father’s brake rebuilding company and I had done everything from tearing down old brakes to designing the first drum-to-disc-brake conversion kit.  I did ad design, marketing and placement then became a National Sales Manager.  You name it and I did it.

This opportunity was great for me as I had been working in the aftermarket side and this opened doors to the manufacturing side of autos.  I started in the parking lot and chased cones; this was crazy I had all this experience and a college degree.  So I contacted the training company and explained my background, they gave me a chance with a marketing session and thought I was a perfect fit.  I worked hard and in a few months and I was asked to be a lead trainer and was lucky enough to get that slot.  I trained dealers and dealer principles for many years until 9/11 when we were near NYC and I knew it was time to end this chapter.

In the meantime, I started writing for magazines, websites, regional and national TV appearances educating and informing people about cars and the industry.  In January of 1996, there was a blizzard in Chicago and many people were stranded and didn’t know what to do.  That led to a phone call from Oprah.  Her staff asked me to be a guest on the show and help viewers see how they should be prepared.  That led to being a guest 6 times and many reruns.  That led to multiple national TV appearance on news and morning shows.  Then hosting a show on DIY for 4 years and now a regular segment on Time Warner Cable News.

I also had a performance driving school to top it all off, called Driving Ambitions; it was held exclusively at Watkins Glen International Raceway.  We taught 100’s of drivers three weekends a year from 1981 to 2001.  It was a great way to learn about people and their cars.

In addition, my husband Paul, and I started a company in 1989 called Classic Tube and we manufacture automotive and industrial tubing products in short runs.  I no longer have a desk there but I am still Vice President.  Paul also operates Fix Motorsports where we restore collector cars and vintage race cars.

I’m an ASE certified technician, although I only work on my cars and I’m also a long-standing member of SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers).  As the spokesperson for the Car Care Council I’ve been honored to help educate consumers for over 10 years and help drivers “Be Car Care Aware”.

You were recently a featured speaker at Auto Glass Week2011 that was held in Memphis.  What was the message you took away from your time there?
Lauren Fix:  Auto Glass Week was a great idea to merge multiple groups for a common cause, meet budget demands and allow your industry networking and educational opportunities.  I learned quite a bit about the industry and look forward to educating consumers on the importance of auto glass and how it integrates with safety.  AGRSS® is critical to consumer’s safety and drivers really need to be informed about an area that is never discussed in public.

Where do you see the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry going?  Do you see any problems that need to be fixed?

Lauren Fix:  I believe that the auto glass industry can learn from the successes in the automotive aftermarket with educating consumers to be smarter customers.  Very little is ever mentioned and insurance companies control the outcome, and as tightly as the drug companies control doctors.  This needs to change for all drivers’ safety and consumer’s pocket books.

What do you think about the importance of AGRSS®, the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard® Council’s mission relating to consumer safety?

Lauren Fix:  I think the mission makes sense and they are on the right track – getting more eyes to the website and a consumer education campaign will raise the awareness for all auto glass installers.  There are many ways to do this without spending millions on television commercial campaigns.

In your experience, what do drivers and consumers understand about auto glass?

Lauren Fix:  They never even think about it until there is a crack or chip.  Then it’s left in the hands of their insurance company and who they push them toward.  Consumers are not making the choices for themselves because they are sheltered from the fact and insurance companies are very aware of it so they handle it for them and control the industry for the most part.  Consumers need to make their own choices.

Do you think that drivers are aware that their windshield is an important safety device in their vehicle?
Lauren Fix:  I don’t think they have a clue.  They think seatbelts and airbags work together as a team, not realizing that the windshield is a critical component.

What is the most important safety tip that you personally wish that all drivers knew about?

Lauren Fix:  I wish that driver’s realized that they need to learn more than what is taught in driver’s education when they were 16.  Safety is more than driving skills and being aware, it’s about making their cars safer on the road for themselves, their families and other around them on the road.  Our culture of cars being just transportation is a fallacy because they are an integral part of our everyday lives.  Drivers should take the automobile and the industry more seriously; and with respect. If you look at how drivers in Europe see their vehicles and their training it could be a good starting point for the US and Canada to start including some of their programs here.

What does it mean to you to be selected by the Car Care Council Women’s Board (WB) and the Automotive Communication Council (ACC) 2011 winner of the Automotive Communication Award for “B to C Public Relations Efforts” and also the “B to C– TV Segment for the The Car Coach® Show”?

Lauren Fix:  This is a great honor, I take being The Car Coach® very seriously, but with some fun involved too.  To be recognized for my efforts just confirms the fact the we are doing all we can to help all drivers everywhere to be more informed, be safer on the road, maintain the value of their cars and learn to love them at the same time.

And finally, tell me about your mission and goals for the next year.

 Lauren Fix:  I just started working with The Weather Channel, and this will offer me the opportunity to reach more drivers.  This is all in my monthly newsletter, blog, twitter and RSS feeds.  My daughter, Shelby, and I are finishing my 4th book and her first; she is the Teen Car Coach™  helping teens and younger millennial drivers be informed as this generation looks at autos in such a different perspective.  My mission is constantly evolving as new opportunities arise from speaking to writing to television opportunities.  Also watch for me on QVC and Fox Business Channel. The Weather Channel has added automotive to their lifestyle programming.  I’m always listening and learning; so feel free to contact me at www.laurenfix.com.

Thank you again for taking the time to reach out to those of us in the AGRR industry with your message.  Those of us who are part of AGRSS® certainly appreciated your appearing at Auto Glass Week in Memphis last month. 

Lauren has a strong voice in the automotive industry customer service space.  Through her brand and her high visibility in the automotive industry, she can help bring needed attention to the importance of safe windshield installations to the driving public.  That’s what I believe.  What do you think?

Just sayin’……

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Blog to the Insurance Industry: What is it AGR retailers are entrusted to do?

If you’re an auto glass replacement (AGR) retailer, what is it you are entrusted to do when you replace a policyholder’s windshield?

I believe that any AGR retailer who replaces auto glass wants to do a good job, wants to do it right, wants to use the right urethane and primers.  But does every retailer do that always?

If you work at an insurance company or an insurance agency, how do you advise your clients about who they should choose to replace their auto glass? What are the questions that should go through your customer’s mind when making this decision?  What criteria could you suggest to help them make an informed choice?

  • Is your decision based solely on price?
  • If it is price, is that how you want your policyholders to make their decision when they’re buying their auto insurance?
  • Is it a decision that you are leaving up to the network administrator (TPA) who probably doesn’t know nor checked the expertise of the auto glass company that you’ve entrusted through them to replace your policyholder’s glass?
  • Does the TPA use the lowest priced company so that they can either “save” your insurance company money or make more money themselves?
  • Are you actually using those auto glass companies that you believe in or that you’d like to have replace auto glass for your policyholders providing them the safest installation available?
  • Are they following the AGRSS® standards?
  • Are they following your guidelines?

Just as all insurance companies are not the same, neither are all auto glass companies the same.  Normally every auto glass company has to follow pricing guidelines that insurance companies require the networks to follow.  Those guidelines can cause bad behavior on the part of the auto glass company by their choosing to cut corners.

It seems to me that those companies that provide customers a 1 to 4 Hour Safe Drive Away Time, those companies who follow the AGRSS® standard, those companies who register with AGRSS® and open their shops to a third-party outside validation to the AGRSS® Standard should be the companies insurers seek out to replace their policyholders auto glass needs, especially since the price being charged is the same……..

Just sayin’.

What do you think?

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Glass Is Life: Interview with Jon Fransway

Jon Fransway is an insurance agent who learned early on in his career that auto glass replacement meant filing a claim and arranging service in order to take care of his clients.  He enjoyed the usual vendor relationships and understood that good service and happy clients went hand in hand.  Auto glass replacement became a much more personal subject for Jon when in 1999 his sister Jeanne died due to an incorrectly installed windshield.  From that point forward, Jon devoted himself to spreading the word about a topic that most people never gave a second thought to – safe auto glass installation.  Jon joins us today to share his perspective.

Q&A with Jon Fransway:

You are an insurance agent, how long have you been doing that and how did you get started?

Jon:  I have been an agent for 25 years and was approached by a manager of the company I represent as a good candidate for what they were looking for in an agent.

As an agent how did you view the auto glass companies that called on you?

Jon:  In the beginning of my career it seemed more like a good ole boy network.  Glass companies would wine and dine as a way to get business. With no words of what they can do for my client as relates to safety.

How is it that you became an advocate for auto glass safety?

Jon:  I have always been concerned about safety over time by attending continuing education by classes put on by glass shops.  Since then I had become more and more interested based on what goes into a safe window installation in the aftermarket.  With the past events related to my sister’s case, it was obvious I had to continue to try and make a difference.

Explain what you have done to spread the message about want happened to your sister Jeanne?

Jon:  Since my sister’s death I felt compelled to tell the story as many times as I can, and companies started to listen and feed off that as a way to change the way they do business.  The story has stayed in the headlines and in the newscast throughout the country.  We’re starting to win!  Being an insurance agent that deals with windshield claims on a daily basis, I understand the importance of a good installation.  Again, holding her when she died knowing there was nothing I could do was unacceptable.  I had to give her life meaning and if meant to take the time to spread the word to others as a way of saving lives in my sisters name.  Also, since the stories about her that have been told on ABC’s 20/20, Eye on America as well as numerous other small market shows and training videos it is going to be with us to the end.

Some people would have taken an adversarial view of an industry that had caused the loss of a loved one, you didn’t, why?

Jon:  Taking some sort of legal action was not going to bring my sister back.  I felt making a difference through getting the word out on safe installations of auto glass meant more to others as it will protect them from this happening to their family.  This gives Jeanne’s life meaning.

You have been an avid supporter of AGRSS® and have appeared at their annual conferences and narrate a video explaining the Validation process. How did that come about?

Jon:  The industry needs help, hence AGRSS®.  Known as the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard, it has been established to manage procedures in auto glass replacement.  I have been happy to help them introduce the standard and the validation process through a video presentation.  Our goal is for AGRSS® to be adopted by all insurance carriers and glass shops around the nation.

You recently attended Auto Glass Week in Memphis, what did you take away from that conference?

Jon:  Auto Glass Week was an incredible experience and advancement in the future of Auto Glass.  I am always well received and welcomed by the industry as a whole. I am so glad that all for the organizations came together to educate themselves as a group.  Each company needs to understand the importance of auto glass replacement in the aftermarket, from whatever part they are.  Insurance companies, installers, glass shop owners and the products companies that supply the various tools and techniques to perform their jobs well.

What changes do you hope to see in the auto glass industry?

Jon:  I hope to see the groups together again at Auto Glass Week.  Competition is good, it forces us to keep in shape with our business.  The cars are changing and so are the products.  It is all meant to do a better job for the consumer and keep them safe since the glass is a structural component of the car in a crash.  The changes need to be more education and validation of the practices of the companies.  Also, changes to promote safety vs. price or what we can give away as incentives rather than doing the job right.

What advice do you have for glass shop owners and technicians?

Jon:  As previously stated, stay in shape in your business, not only on the bottom line but in safety.  It is the right thing to do.  Support the AGRSS® standard as a way of doing business.

What advice do you have for other insurance professionals and consumers who need auto glass replacement?

Jon:  Do research on the glass shops that you use, make sure you choose the glass shop that stresses safety and not just price or you may pay the ultimate price like my sister Jeanne.

To me “Glass is Life.”  Help me in my “Glass is Life” Campaign to promote the proper installation of auto glass in the aftermarket.

Thank you for sharing your story and passion Jon.

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Q & A with Deb Levy

I’m going to turn the blog over to Deb Levy today.  I asked her if she would mind answering a few questions that I think many of you would like to ask and she graciously agreed.  Deb wears countless hats in the glass industry she’s been a part of for the past 20+ years.  Since 1991 Deb has been the President and CEO of Key Communications, Inc. which publishes 8 industry related publications for the glass industry; she is the President of the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standards (AGRSS®) Council and sits on the board of the non-profit organization and a number of ANSI committees related to glass safety issues.

Thank you for agreeing to answer some questions in my blog Deb.  I know that you hold a special place in our industry and I think that there are many who are interested in you and your views on a number of topics.

If I asked you who you are both personally and professionally, how would your answer that?

Deb Levy:  They say you should go with your first thought and mine was an extremely busy, overweight, middle-aged woman… [laughs] but I don’t think that’s what you were looking for in an answer …

As a very successful and influential woman in an industry dominated by men, what do you see as opportunities today for women in the AGRR industry?

Deb Levy: The proverbial “glass ceiling” if you will, is beginning to break in the architectural glass industry and in the collision repair industry, I see pretty much the same opportunities for women as I see for men. One of the raps the auto glass industry has always gotten is that is can’t hang on to its talented people—they leave for other industries. And a lot of the talented people are women, so maybe they’ve moved on [another laugh]. I think I can recall all the women who have held top management positions at large auto glass companies in the past twenty years. One, sadly, is deceased, one has sold her business and the others have all moved on to other industries.

Do you think there are more opportunities for women in the industry today than when you first entered in 1981?

Deb Levy: Hard to say. When I first entered the industry, women had plenty of opportunity; what they didn’t have was visibility. Many of the best companies were actually run by women—husbands ran the installs, wives ran everything else. There are many successful companies that still use that model today. I believe there is a bit more opportunity for female technicians now, you see a few here and there while there were none in 1981, that’s a difference.

This is a hard question to answer I’m sure, but of all the things that you do in your professional life, what do you find most rewarding?

Deb Levy: Helping people for sure. If our company can help people get info to run their businesses better, or sell more products or increase the use of glass, that is extremely satisfying to me. Helping to make the industry safer also feels good. I’ve been involved with a number of glass safety issues over the years, including wired glass, glass furniture and safe auto glass issues, and knowing that improving glass safety can help save lives and avoid injury is very rewarding.

When you started glassBYTEs® did you anticipate it to be the main source of news in the glass industry so quickly?

Deb Levy: Honestly, no. We bought glassbytes.com® a number of years ago right as the Internet was exploding. Of all the industry segments we cover, the auto glass industry makes the most news and people really need a daily news vehicle to keep track of it all—and that’s what glassbytes® became—a daily electronic news service. We’ve worked hard to be the source of accurate, credible information whether through analysis in AGRR® magazine or daily on glassbytes©. People often tell me that glassbytes® is the most valuable business tool they have and that makes our staff feel great.

I have the honor of serving with you on the Board of AGRSS®.  We often hear comments from some in our industry that are wary of AGRSS® and there are others who seem to work to undermine AGRSS®.  Why do you think people are wary or try to undermine the goals of AGRSS®?

Deb Levy: Some of it is ignorance, in that they don’t really understand what AGRSS® is all about, that’s first. And some of it comes from the “bottom feeders”–those who work to undermine it and don’t have any intention of following a Standard or doing the job right. They are the equivalent of the school kid who is failing and wants everyone to fail with him. And some of it, frankly, is fear. Some companies fear what AGRSS® is and has become. They fear it may undermine their own business models. They are the equivalent of the school kid who tells you he’s a straight A student, but will never show you his own marks … and along comes this group of students who says “hey we are straight A students and we have independent verification of it.” How does the other school kid respond to them? He can’t so he tries to undermine them instead.

Is there anything that those who are supporters of AGRSS® can do to further the organization?

Deb Levy: Get involved. Ask questions. Participate. Contribute. Become a member. Come to Auto Glass Week in September to learn more about AGRSS and how to be part of it. There’s tons of things available for all levels of involvement.

What do you see as the biggest challenge for both flat and/or auto glass companies today?

Deb Levy: For both segments, the economy for sure is the major issue. Many companies in both segments continue to fight for survival. Eroding margins and loss of market share, especially in the auto glass arena, are very big challenges

Your publications are usually the ones asking the questions of the industries movers and shakers, how does it feel to be on the other side?

Deb Levy: It has given me a newfound appreciation for what they go through. I am looking forward to heading back to my side of the table.

Thank you very much for being willing and take the time to be the one answering the questions today.

Deb Levy:  Thanks David.

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I hope you enjoyed this blog.  I would appreciate any comments or thoughts you might like to share.  Until next time….

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