Archive for category Fleets

Hobson’s Choice (a Free Choice or No Choice at All?)

I recently read the argument that attorneys for Safelite Group Inc. (Safelite) made relating to Connecticut’s Public Act-13-67(c) (2) in a glassBYTEs.com article. They argued that,

“it puts appellants Safelite Group Inc. and Safelite Solutions to a Hobson’s choice….”

Hobson’s choice[1] refers to a businessman by the name of Thomas Hobson who ran a livery in Cambridge, England in the 1600’s. Hobson required that every rider asking to hire one of his horses to always take the horse nearest the door. If a patron didn’t want to use that particular horse no other horse could be used. A “take it or leave it” choice. As another source on the origins of the phrase states[2], “A Hobson’s choice is a free choice in which only one option is offered.” I thought using “Hobson’s choice” in this particular instance an interesting one considering the origins of the term. More on that later.

This link to the summary of the act that was first introduced in the Insurance and Real Estate Committee of the Connecticut House and ultimately signed by the Governor of the State of Connecticut required that in the handling of any insurance auto glass claim in the State of Connecticut that:

“The act requires that a glass claims representative for an insurance company or its third-party claims administrator, in the initial contact with an insured about automotive glass repair services or glass products, tell the insured something substantially similar to: “You have the right to choose a licensed glass shop where the damage to your motor vehicle will be repaired. If you have a preference, please let us know. ” By law, appraisals and estimates for physical damage claims written on behalf of insurers must have a written notice telling the insured that he or she has the right to choose the shop where the damage will be repaired (CGS § 38a-354).”

Fairly straightforward.

A public radio program called “A Way with Words” talked about Hobson’s choice on one of the program segments. One of the hosts of the radio program, Martha Barnette tells us:

“The phrase Hobson’s choice goes all the way back to 17th-century England. For 50 years, Thomas Hobson ran a stable near Cambridge University. There he rented horses to students. Old Man Hobson was extremely protective of those animals. He rented them out according to a strict rotating system. The most recently ridden horses he kept at the rear of the stable. The more rested ones he kept up front. That meant that when students came to get a horse, Hobson gave them the first one in line—that is, the most rested. He’d let them rent that horse, or none at all.”

Perhaps you see where I was thinking that Hobson’s choice was an interesting phrase for the attorneys to use in their argument. First, Public Act-13-67(c) (2) is a duly enacted Connecticut law so their client really doesn’t get a choice in deciding whether they wish to follow it or not. As is their right, they can dispute the law which is obviously why the company is filing the appeals to the act which provides Connecticut consumers a choice in what company repairs or replaces their damaged auto glass. It’s just that at his stable Hobson didn’t want the same horse(s) being used each time by his patrons. Hobson wanted his patrons to use only the horse(s) that he wanted them to use. You can understand why Hobson wanted to rotate his horses so that each got equal use. Safelite wants Connecticut consumers to only use the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) company that Safelite wants them to use. In this case it would appear that Safelite is Hobson.

By enacting Public Act-13-67(c) (2), the State of Connecticut took steps it deemed appropriate to protect consumer choice for residents of the state. There are any number of AGRR companies operating in the State of Connecticut for consumers to use when they sustain auto glass damage. So is it “A Matter of Self-Interest or Consumer Choice”? Isn’t it Safelite that is attempting to provide Connecticut consumers with a Hobson’s choice?

Just sayin’.

Take it or leave it

Another example of a Hobson’s choice would be from Henry Ford’s book titled My Life and Work and written in 1922 referencing options available for the Model T Ford.

Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.”

 

[1] Merriam-Webster.com meaning of Hobson’s choice

[2] Wikipedia.org description of Hobson’s choice

Other sources:

http://www.glassbytes.com/documents/07302014SafeliteLettertoCourt

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hobson’s_choice

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hobson’s%20choice

 

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5 Comments

Interview with Chris Thornton, Managing Director – Auto Windscreens, United Kingdom

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.

AW_logo with strapline

Auto Windscreens has won several prestigious awards over the past several years. Among them:

  1. At this year’s 2014 British Insurance Awards Winner Auto Windscreens won top honors for two award categories:
    1. Customer Care Award
    2. Service Supplier of the Year
  2. Both in 2014 and 2013 they were recognized by The Sunday Times being selected as one of the “Best 100 Companies to Work For”.
  3. 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.

Chris Thornton

 

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.   

AW technician 1

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.

Just sayin’.

 

 

Auto Windscreen Training

GQA Qualifications Limited

(Auto Windscreens only offers GQA qualifications to their employees)

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)

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Disruption Innovation in Business

 

Clayton Christensen developed his disruption innovation theory studying the computer industry. Disruption in virtually any industry will determine winners and losers in business. If you visit the Christensen Institute web site you’ll read that:

“The theory explains the phenomenon by which an innovation transforms an existing market or sector by introducing simplicity, convenience, accessibility, and affordability where complication and high cost are the status quo. Initially, a disruptive innovation is formed in a niche market that may appear unattractive or inconsequential to industry incumbents, but eventually the new product or idea completely redefines the industry.”[1]

Image

Courtesy of TomFishburne.com

At the annual Code Conference held at the Terranea Resort, located in Rancho Palos Verdes, California that brings together some of the world’s geekiest folks; Google’s Sergey Brin debuted Google’s driver-less car (link). These cars were designed without a dashboard, steering wheel or a brake pedal. Why? A driverless car doesn’t need any of those accessories in the cars of the future as seen by the visionaries at Google. Could this be an example of “disruptive innovation” that could affect multiple industries?

This Google designed driver-less vehicle is very different from the self-driving vehicles that Google equipped with the driver-less technology installed on the Toyota or Lexus models that Google first began using. The initial self-driving cars Google used were off –the-lot models made by original equipment manufacturers so each came equipped with a dashboard with all of the typical accessories you’d expect to find both on and under the dash. But this new Google car comes without many of the accessories deemed required, up until now, and Google added a few other things that you will find disruptive long-term. It evidently is equipped with a flexible plastic windshield.

The car can only top out at 25 miles per hour and you’re not going to be seeing it on the highways anytime soon, but nonetheless with Google behind it one can only assume that the company’s long-term goal is to dramatically change driving habits. Will this technology be successful in disrupting the car industry? It would take time and a lot of treasure, both human and monetary. Google certainly has the wherewithal to attract the best and brightest to make this project a reality and money isn’t an issue.

Experts believe a self-driving car will make driving safer. Imagine that you can text or talk on your phone to your heart’s content as you won’t need to be concerned about distractions. Human driving errors should be greatly reduced if all the other cars around you are interconnected resulting in greater safety. Older drivers would have more freedom which would be good for them and great for everyone else concerned about grandma and granddad getting behind the wheel. Disabled drivers would also gain new freedom to rely on themselves versus others. An EY Automotive study says that autos with Autonomous Vehicle Technology will surge from 4% in 2025 to 75% by 2035.

There are going to be winners and losers as self-driving cars gain traction in the coming years. What will greater safety and independence for everyone mean to the insurance industry and all of those in claims departments today if the number of accidents drops? To the collision and automotive parts repair industry? To the rental car industry? To the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry? To the trucking industry? Countless industries will be affected. There’s going to be a lot of businesses that will rise and fall with this disruptive innovation and a lot of people at risk of losing their current job in an industry affected by the self-driving car.

There will probably be a day when those who want to drive their own cars could be viewed similarly as today’s drunk driver or someone that is texting as they are putting self-driving car riders at risk.

What will the likely outcome be if Google’s self-driving cars become a “disruptive innovation” and disrupt car manufacturers, the transportation industry as a whole and change the habits of the driving public in the years to come? We’ll have to wait to see.

So is there something a company or companies are doing today (or will be doing) in the AGRR industry that is (or will) disrupt the way things operate? Are there innovations that will “completely redefine(s) the AGRR industry”? I think the answer is yes to both questions. There are plenty attempting to disrupt what it is you are doing today and I know that there are those trying to disrupt the future of the industry with new innovations.

Here is another definition of disruption innovation:

“A disruptive innovation[2] is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology. The term is used in business and technology literature to describe innovations that improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, typically first by designing for a different set of consumers in a new market and later by lowering prices in the existing market.”

You probably think we already have enough disrupters in the AGRR industry, but what is your plan going to be if you’re not one of the one’s who has designed or is designing a “disruption innovation” in the industry? Something is certainly coming.

Just sayin’.

 

 

 

[1] http://www.christenseninstitute.org/key-concepts/disruptive-innovation-2/

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disruptive_innovation

 

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Becoming Somewhat Extraneous

Let’s face it, the National Auto Glass Specifications (NAGS) List Price™ used in the auto glass replacement (AGR) industry for decades that has a pricing (and parts numbering) mechanism seems to have become extraneous.

Glasslinks.com has information that was detailed on a NAGS™ web site from 1998 that provides the following historical information on the company:

From N.A.G.S. Website of 1998:

National Auto Glass Specifications was founded in 1927 by Madison Tracey who made patterns to cut flat glass for automobiles. He assigned part numbers for these patterns to ‘catalog’ them for his inventory purposes. NAGS Part Numbers were soon adopted as the industry standard to identify glass.

  • The first NAGS glass pattern (#1) was for a 1926 Model K, Series 5, Touring and Roadster Chevrolet.
  • The oldest car for which NAGS has a pattern is a 1915 Touring and Roadster Ford; Pattern #49 is a 2-part (upper and lower) windshield pattern.
  • NAGS first “bent” glass Part Number was #XXX1 for the back glass on a 1940 Lincoln Zephyr
  • The first curved windshield for which there is a NAGS Part Number is #XX22, for a 1941-42 Chrysler.

In the 1940s, curved glass appeared and the pattern business declined. NAGS continued to assign Part Numbers to catalog curved and flat glass and published the ‘NAGS Catalog.’ NAGS also published a chart to ‘calculate’ the price of flat glass.

In the 1950s, manufacturers were in conflict over their published list prices. As a neutral party, NAGS was asked to assign list prices to NAGS part numbers, establishing the NAGS List Price. These list prices reflected the industry practice of discounting and were based on manufacturers’ truckload prices. NAGS started publishing the part numbers with prices, establishing the ‘NAGS Calculator’.

Through the 1980s, NAGS information was available exclusively in print form. There was little change in the industry business practices. In the late 1980s, change started happening quickly as advances in technology produced more curved, tinted and coated parts. Networks began operations and electronic commerce was introduced to the industry.

In 1991, NAGS joined the global information marketplace through its acquisition by Thomson International, a world-wide publishing and information services company, and began development of the GlassMate® Database. Today, this database is used in many ways in support of the Auto Replacement Glass industry; e.g., part identification, inventory management, purchasing, invoicing/billing, EDI, auditing, etc. The vehicle configurations in the database have been adopted as Code Source #474 by the X12 Accredited Standards Committee of the American National Standards Institute.

 

* In 1991 NAGS™ was sold to Mitchell International and Mitchell International was acquired in 2013 by KKR and Co. L.P., a large global private equity investment firm.

When I first entered the AGR industry in the 1970’s the NAGS™ list price was factored by the auto glass truckload discount listing produced by the then leading industry auto glass original equipment and replacement manufacturer. The NAGS™ formula for computing the suggested NAGS™ list price was easily understood by everyone in the industry. As a retailer you could calculate a new NAGS™ list price by using the truckload pricing list that manufacturers provided to retail customers. There was always a lag period between the time the manufacturer provided its current truckload price list and when NAGS™ then published a updated list price schedule making it available to the AGR industry. Life was certainly much simpler then.

With the rise of the “global economy” over the past several decades, the subsequent improvement in quality (certainly debatable) of auto glass manufactured from countries with lower cost from around the world, along with cost cutting achieved by domestic manufacturers; many auto glass parts have become a commodity at the wholesale level. With the mix of manufacturers the long-used NAGS™ formula to determine the list price of NAGS™ parts may have become somewhat outdated. The vaunted formula for determining the NAGS™ list must have greatly changed over the years. It was once a very open and transparent pricing mechanism.

I found an article on glasslinks.com from December 1998 titled “NAGS™ Announces Benchmark Pricing for 1999”. It’s a great article that in detail describes the “Benchmark Pricing” model NAGS™ used when the company reevaluated the list price for auto glass parts (and at the same time made changes to NAGS™ labor hours). According to the article, the revaluation that NAGS™ made reduced the list price for windshields by 68% and tempered by 53%, with NAGS™ labor hours reduced by 20%. The reduction in NAGS™ list price was intended to eliminate the large discounts that retailers were offering to insurance, commercial and cash customers off previous NAGS™ list price schedules. Discounts at the time ran as high as 65+% off the NAGS™ list price schedule with the thought that the revaluation and new re-engineered NAGS™ list price schedule would become the actual price charged by retailers to the retail customer base. That was the idea anyway…. We all know how well that worked out for retailers.

When NAGS™ was sold in 1991 to Mitchell International there was a concern raised by many retailers at the time that the treasured independence of NAGS™ pricing, that was sought out by manufacturers’ in the 1950’s, would be at risk. A major customer of Mitchell International was the insurance industry.

It’s difficult enough to fully understand pricing offered from AGR manufacturers and suppliers to retailers. Pricing is rather fluid, meaning that you receive whatever pricing you can negotiate with manufacturers and/or suppliers and there is no consistency upon what pricing is being offered to retailers. So how does or can NAGS™ have a formula today to determine suggested NAGS™ list price for auto glass parts which can be consistently used across the industry?

In an “open letter” dated May 5, 2014 written to Mitchell International/NAGS and signed by Independent Glass Association President Matt Bailey, the company was asked,

“What are the specific sources that you have collected data from since independent glass retailers and the referenced suppliers have all confirmed wholesale price increases?”

I haven’t heard if Matt received a reply to his question.

The question was a reasonable one and was related to an industry wide 5% +/- price increase put in place by a number of AGR manufacturers/suppliers to retail customers instituted on April 1, 2014. It is difficult to understand how a 5% +/- price increase from AGR manufacturers/suppliers could result in a reported .7% increase in the NAGS™ list price for the top 100 NAGS™ parts as detailed in a glassBYTEs.com™ article titled “NAGS Spring Calculator Released, Average Price Increase of Top 100 is 0.7 Percent” written by Jenna Reed. The article stated,

“The Spring 2014 National Auto Glass Specifications (NAGS) International Benchmark Calculator has been released and shows the average price change of top 100 most popular parts was a 0.7 percent increase since the last catalog. The total average price change of top 10 parts was an increase of 0.4 percent.

To view the top 100 parts, click here.

In a comparison from the Winter NAGS Calculator 2014 to the Spring NAGS Calculator 2014, the largest price increase by percentage was on the 2005 Honda Civic windshield (FW02184GGYN), which increased 4.5 percent. To view this analysis of largest price increases by parts among the top 100, click here.

In the same comparison from Winter to Spring, the largest price reduction was on 2012 Ford Escape windshield (DW01684GTYN), which is down 3.07 percent. To view an analysis of the biggest price reduction among the top 100 parts, click here.”

It seems odd doesn’t it that prices from suppliers would go up 5%+/- and the top parts would rise less than 1%.

There are countless retailers that use either a cost plus, flat or tiered pricing models to consumer and commercial/fleet customers adding a “mark-up” to their actual cost of the glass being replaced. Often those prices include both the labor and kit charge required to complete the installation. This provides those that use these models comfort that they have a consistent profit margin to operate under. Networks and TPA’s still use a discount to NAGS™ pricing model to most of their clients.

A group of industry leaders formed The Chicago Auto Glass Group over 10 years ago to address industry pricing. The group worked hard at developing a “white paper” on benchmark pricing and suggested that the AGR industry move to a pricing model they detailed as follows,

“This Guide is intended to serve solely as a recommendation for establishing benchmarks and is in no manner intended to set or determine actual prices for auto glass replacement or to reduce open competition in the local, regional, or national market place.”

You can click on this glassBYTEs.com link to read the entire Chicago Auto Glass Group proposal. The Chicago Auto Glass Group wasn’t successful in pushing the benchmark pricing proposal, but many in the industry viewed the proposal as a positive step in making industry pricing fair to all stakeholders.

AGR industry stakeholders should, on occasion, evaluate the pricing model(s) that they use, discard old or outdated ones and replace them with ones that are relevant. What do you think?

Just Sayin’.

 

 

Reference materials:

   http://www.glasslinks.com/newsinfo/nagsbnch.htm

   http://www.usglassmag.com/AGRR/Backissues/2003/0305/future.htm

   http://www.glassbytes.com/newsNAGSWinter20130114.htm

   http://www.glassbytes.com/2014/05/nags-spring-calculator-released-average-price-increase-of-top-100-is-0-7-percent/

   http://www.glassbytes.com/2013/09/mitchell-international-owner-of-nags-purchased-by-kkr/

   http://www.glasslinks.com/newsinfo/nags_history.htm

   http://www.usglassmag.com/AGRR/Backissues/supplement/NAGSNOTES.htm

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Just Sayin’ Blog – A Matter of Self-Interest or Consumer Choice

Dominos

 

Last June 3, 2013 Dannel Malloy, Governor of the State of Connecticut signed a bill that was passed by Connecticut’s House and Senate the previous month into law. This link to the summary of the act that was first introduced in the Insurance and Real Estate Committee of the Connecticut House states,

“The act requires that a glass claims representative for an insurance company or its third-party claims administrator, in the initial contact with an insured about automotive glass repair services or glass products, tell the insured something substantially similar to: “You have the right to choose a licensed glass shop where the damage to your motor vehicle will be repaired. If you have a preference, please let us know. ” By law, appraisals and estimates for physical damage claims written on behalf of insurers must have a written notice telling the insured that he or she has the right to choose the shop where the damage will be repaired (CGS § 38a-354).”

This law seems to be a reasonable approach to provide and ensure consumer choice to the residents of Connecticut.

As it appears on the State of Connecticut’s General Assembly bill tracking web site the law – Public Act Number 13-67 – states,

 “AN ACT CONCERNING AUTOMOTIVE GLASS WORK.

To require an insurance company doing business in this state, or agent, adjuster or third-party claims administrator for such company to provide additional disclosures to an insured regarding such insured’s right to choose a licensed repair shop or glass shop where such insured’s motor vehicle physical damage or automotive glass work will be performed.”

Again, this language also seems to be a reasonable expectation for residents of the state. Everyone believes that consumer choice is a good thing right?

The signing of the law was reported by number of industry publications (glassBYTEs.com, Autobody News, Automotive Fleet) due to the dramatic effect that it would have when fully enforced on insurance companies claims management programs, as well as automotive glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry players (Harmon Solutions Group, NCS/Netcost Claim Services, TeleGlass/Strategic Claims Services, Gerber National Glass Services, PGW Lynx Services, Safelite Solutions)  that provide network and/or Third Party Administrator (TPA) services to the insurance industry. AGRR networks and/or TPA’s tend to steer business to either company owned stores and/or to affiliated network repair or glass shops that conform to the pricing or service requirements of the network and/or TPA. That has been a long standing business practice of networks and TPA’s and it’s not hard to understand the financial benefit to these companies to continue doing so. The passing and subsequent enforcement of this law requires a pivot away from the long-standing AGRR industry practice of placing the decision of which company provides the repair or replacement into the hands of the consumer needing service and out of the hands of a network and/or TPA that has always been heavily involved in the decision. This also seems to be a positive for consumer choice. Again, everyone believes that consumer choice is a good thing right?

In order to protect its network and TPA business Safelite Group, Inc. and Safelite Solutions LLC (the Plaintiffs-Appellants) have gone to court against GEORGE JEPSEN, in his official capacity as Attorney General for the State of Connecticut and THOMAS LEONARDI, in his official capacity as the Commissioner of the Connecticut Insurance Department (the Defendants-Apelles) in hopes of overturning the law. The law clearly prohibits the steering of Connecticut consumers to specific repair shops by TPA’s and/or auto damage appraisers so one can understand the self-interest involved. Connecticut’s “Department of Consumer Protection” web page states that:

“Ensuring a Fair Marketplace and Safe Products and Services for Consumers”

The purpose of this government department is pretty obvious by its title. Public Act Number 13-67 protects the interests of consumers in the state and their “right to choose”; and the State of Connecticut unquestionably is within its rights to enact such a law, right?

If the State of Connecticut prevails in its defense of the constitutionality of Public Act Number 13-67 through the appeal process, as Safelite continues to fight to overturn the law, the future landscape of networks and/or TPA’s that provide AGRR services to consumers in the state will forever be changed. And if this law stands it will have an effect on the landscape of the AGRR industry in the entire United States. You can be sure that similar consumer protection bills will be introduced in state assembly’s’ across the country. Is that why Safelite is so strongly fighting this law duly enacted by the State of Connecticut?

If you visit the Safelite web site you will find that the company describes Safelite Solutions LLC as providing:

“….complete claims management solutions for the nation’s leading fleet and insurance companies.

The company currently serves as a third-party administrator of auto glass claims for more than 175 insurance and fleet companies, including 19 of the top 30 property and casualty insurance companies. Safelite® Solutions manages a network of approximately 9,000 affiliate providers and operates two national contact centers in Columbus, Ohio and one in Chandler, Arizona.”

The Connecticut law could serve to undermine a business practice that has existed in the AGRR industry since the late 1970’s. The genesis of call centers (a.k.a. a network or TPA) was when Joe Kellman, former owner of Globe Glass & Mirror, visited an auto glass call center facility in Bedford, England operated by Belron’s Autoglass and brought the idea back to the United States starting the U.S. Auto Glass Network. Since then, the impact, influence and control of consumer auto glass losses by networks and/or TPA’s operating in the AGRR industry has continued to grow each and every day. The networks and/or TPA’s obviously work hard to control and steer auto glass repairs and replacements to either company owned stores or to glass companies that agree to join and follow pricing arrangements that benefit the goals of the network and/or TPA. A business practice worth fighting for right?

The State of Connecticut is interested in protecting consumers in the state, who are in need of auto glass repairs or replacements, from being steered by a network and/or TPA. This law seems like a reasonable next step action in a state where those that are engaged in the AGRR industry are required to be licensed by the state (in my last blog I wrote about “Is it Time for Licensing?” in the AGRR industry). The Department of Consumer Protection oversees the licensing flat glass and automotive glass work.

We will have to wait for the appeal process to work its way through the courts to find out if this law stands, is amended or falls. But whether you believe that the law is a positive development for Connecticut consumers or you believe that the law violates free speech in commerce, the fight will continue as the stakes are too high. If the law passes through the appeal process and stands, it could be the tipping of the first domino and could be the beginning of big changes for the AGRR industry.

So where do you stand on Public Act Number 13-67? Are you on the side of consumer choice or on the side of the networks and/or TPA’s? Perhaps it depends on your own self interest.

Just sayin’.

 

Dominos

 

 

Associated Articles and Reference Material:

Zauderer’s Scope (page 589) https://www.law.upenn.edu/live/files/1566-keighley15upajconstl5392012pdf

http://www.autobodynews.com/news/regional-news/northeastern-news/item/7277-connecticut-governor-signs-anti-steering-bill-into-law.html

http://www.nldhlaw.com/content/uploads/2013/07/UpToSpeed_July2013A.pdf

http://www.glassbytes.com/2014/04/connecticut-officials-file-brief-in-support-of-anti-steering-law-in-appellate-court/

http://www.glassbytes.com/newsConnAutoGlassBillGoestoGov20130523

http://www.glassbytes.com/newsConnecticutSteeringPasses20130606

http://www.glassbytes.com/documents/03192014SafeliteSecondCircuitBrief.pdf

http://www.glassbytes.com/documents/04232014SupplementalIndex.pdf

http://www.glassbytes.com/documents/04232014JepsenBrief.pdf

http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/cgabillstatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&bill_num=5072&which_year=2013

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Inconvenient Truth(s)

An inconvenient truth is a truth that no one likes to admit, but it is the truth nonetheless. A number of these inconvenient truths exist in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry and everyone in the industry deals with them every day.

 

 

Over the years it has become more and more difficult to find success in the AGRR industry. Once upon a time, anyone could own a retail auto glass company and survive, but I think that has changed. One inconvenient truth is that some in our industry aren’t going to survive. As an owner you’ve got to master many new tasks that didn’t even exist 10+ years ago and some owners just aren’t capable of doing so. As a business owner you’ve got to figure out how to attract customers, especially in a time when the weather, the economy and miles driven are working against your business.

As we entered the new millennium, who in our industry really would have seen the need to understand the concept of search engine optimization (SEO) for a “website”? Who would see social media sites such as Facebook™, Twitter™, Craigslist, etc. becoming such an important way to market and communicate with customers; or that the Yellow Page Book™ that we once relied on would become a relic of the past?

Who, other than Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple®, would have thought that you could ask someone called Siri, the lady that lives inside my iPhone to list the “closest auto glass shops” near where I live in Chicago. Siri told me “Careful with the broken glass, David,” and then she gave me a listing of fifteen AGRR shops with two names (Safelite® Auto Glass and Gerber Collision & Glass) you’d easily recognize in the market because both are big advertisers in the local media. I also told Siri I was looking for “auto glass in Chicago” and she told me “I found fifteen glass repair shops in Chicago:” followed by a slightly different list of companies, but including the same two names aforementioned. Somebody is paying attention to their internet strategy aren’t they? Are you?

How convenient you make it for your customers to interact with you online will contribute to your future success. If you’re not willing to embrace innovative ways to grow your business in the ever changing marketplace you compete, you will not attract the customers willing to pay you the best price for the products and services that you provide. The truth is that if you’re going to survive and thrive as an AGRR retailer or as a network, you have to know that no one is going to turn the clock back to make it easier for you to be successful in your business. You have to compete in the marketplace with the hand that is dealt to you each day and if for some reason the way business is done changes tomorrow, you’ve got to figure out how to deal with it.

 

Another inconvenient truth is that AGRR networks provide great value to the clients that utilize the various services offered. As much as those who don’t participate in networks complain about the existence of them; clients vote with their feet and they obviously perceive value in the bundled services that networks provide. Can, or will, that change? Certainly it can change, but in the absence of a client deciding to take back direct responsibility for managing its AGRR losses (or a new platform that could take the place of the current networks that operate in the AGRR industry) it’s unlikely. We could certainly see movement of clients from one network to another network in the coming year(s) of course; and depending upon the relationship that your company has with the network that “wins” a new client you can hope that more profitable jobs come your way. But if that hope is what you need to make your business successful you might look for another source of jobs that you have more control over.

 

And staying on the topic of networks; I don’t think that a network that utilizes a “buy/sell” or “spread” (when the network “buys” the glass repair or replacement from an AGRR retailer providing the repair or replacement and then “sells” the repair or replacement to its client at a higher price) pricing model for its clients can continue to exist long-term in the marketplace. Relying on the AGRR retailers who actually do the repairs and replacements to accept lower and lower prices, while continuing to provide high quality repairs and replacements has to someday hit a wall. At some point AGRR retailers will push back and the networker that only makes profit on the “spread”  is going to have difficulty providing its clients with the same levels of service other competitors can provide in the marketplace. Those networkers must know this.

 

You can’t really find the greatest success in your business without surrounding yourself with the best people you can find. Basketball legend John Wooden was quoted as saying,

Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you.” 

Sound advice from a true winner.

If you’ve been in the AGRR industry for a while you’ll remember one of the true gentlemen that help build it –Larry Anderson, President of Harmon Auto Glass back when it was a part of Apogee Enterprises, Inc. On his office desk in Minneapolis there was a small sign that read “Delegate Authority. Ruthlessly.” Larry surrounded himself with many of the best in the industry. There are some owners in the AGRR industry who don’t value the people that work for them. You can’t be successful if you don’t take care of those who work for you and let them have a voice.

 

Yet another inconvenient truth is that just because you have money, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to find success in the AGRR industry. History has proven that businesses owned and managed by those who have direct experience in the industry find the greatest success. Sadly, those that don’t have the experience, regardless of the size of their checkbooks, historically have tended to not be successful.

 

In writing my blog posts over the past year I’ve tried to raise issues about which I think those in the AGRR industry (or are associated with it) should give thought. I know that there are more inconvenient truths regarding the industry that no one likes to admit that I’ve not touched on, so please let me know what yours are.

Just sayin’……

 

  

 

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Auto Glass Networks – Part 2

Cartoon courtesy of TomFishburne.com

In a recent blog post titled “Auto Glass Networks – Part 1” I wrote about difficulties that auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) networks or TPAs face in managing auto glass losses for clients. In order to survive, networks and TPAs must manage a never-ending “effort to create some semblance of uniformity amongst a very large, broad and diverse set of participants” that actually do the auto glass repairs and replacements across the country.

In this blog I’m focusing on how networks attempt to demonstrate better performance for its clients versus what those same clients could achieve by directly managing auto glass losses.

The network does this by reporting on its operational “metrics”. Investopedia defines “metrics” as:

“Parameters or measures of quantitative assessment used for measurement, comparison or to track performance or production. Analysts use metrics to compare the performance of different companies, despite the many variations between firms.”

The reporting of metrics to clients begins with a network measuring:

  1. How many rings or seconds it takes a network to answer a telephone call from someone reporting an auto glass loss;
  2. How many seconds or minutes a policyholder is on hold while reporting the loss; and
  3. How many total minutes a policyholder has to spend on the telephone reporting their claim.

Why are these three metrics important to a network? Most policyholders believe that they are talking directly to their insurance company when they call a network that manages auto glass loss for insurers; generally that’s not the case. Since the network customer service representative (CSR) is acting on behalf of an insurer while talking with a policyholder, the insurer expects that a network is providing the same level of customer service to its policyholders that the insurer would provide. These three metrics are ones that the network has complete control over and are important metrics to measure how responsive it is to the insurance company’s policyholder.

But networks aren’t only tracking the performance metrics of areas under its direct control while handling auto glass losses; each also provides metrics on the performance of the AGRR retailers that actually perform the auto glass repairs or replacements. Why track that performance? It depends of course upon the network, but keeping track of the level of service that the AGRR retailer provides can determine how much work the AGRR retailer may get in the future.

What are some of the metrics on which AGRR retailers are measured or should be measured?

  1. The AGRR retailer that provides repairs or replacements is graded by its own individual customer service index (CSI). In determining CSI there are a number of key components and you’d like to think that a CSI score is the most critical metric that an AGRR retailer has in determining its value to a network. The basics of CSI is clearly spelled out via the RATER Model by tracking these five elements:
    1. RELIABILITY – A company’s ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately;
    2. ASSURANCE – The knowledge, competence and courtesy of employees and their ability to convey trust and confidence;
    3. TANGIBLES – Physical facilities, equipment and appearances that impress the customer;
    4. EMPATHY – The level of caring, individualized attention, access, communication and understanding that the customer perceives;
    5. RESPONSIVENESS – The willingness displayed to help clients and provide prompt service.

Each network uses either its own questions or metrics for determining CSI or it may use CSI metrics that the client prefers used for its policyholders.  Ultimately these CSI metrics show which AGRR retailers are providing great service and those that aren’t based on what’s being measured. Do you know what your company’s CSI is for each network? If not you should ask.

  1. What is the windshield repair percentage performed by an AGRR retailer? If the network believes that a policyholders broken windshield is repairable, does the AGRR retailer repair it or replace it?

Repair over replacement can obviously save big money and if you’re an AGRR retailer that ends up replacing a windshield that the network feels should have been repaired you’re making them look bad in the eyes of the client as it drives up the average cost of the claim.

If the network has a GAI (guaranteed average invoice) agreement with a customer when an AGRR retailer replaces instead of repairing a windshield, you’re costing the network money so you can anticipate fewer calls for your service or greater oversight of glass losses you must bill through the network. So your repair percentage is a critical metric.

  1. How many warranty claims (problems of any kind while handling a glass loss such as customer call backs for leaks or air noises, scratched glass, improperly installed moldings, any damage done to a vehicle during the repair or replacement, etc.) does an AGRR retailer have on work performed for the policyholder?

Obviously the more warranty claims you have the higher the likelihood a network will not be looking for your company to handle glass losses on its behalf.

  1. Customer service cycle time is also important. How long does it take for the policyholder to have a glass loss repaired or replaced from the first call reporting the loss to the time it takes to be completed and billed by the AGRR retailer?

That’s a pretty straightforward metric relating to service levels and customer care.

  1. What is the percentage of dealer or original equipment manufactured parts (OEM) used in a replacement versus non-OEM parts priced via NAGS® (National Auto Glass Specifications®)? Why is this important?

If an AGRR retailer has a higher percentage of OEM glass versus non-OEM it is costing the network and/or the client a whole lot more money.

Now back to TPAs versus networks. There are certainly other important metrics that networks track and report to current clients and tout to potential clients that use other networks and TPAs. Every network presumably wants its clients customers serviced by the best AGRR retailers that provide the highest level of customer service, but let’s face it, price versus service unquestionably creeps into the decision-making process of what AGRR retailer is referred a glass loss or not by a network.

That can be especially true if the network is using a “buy/sell” or “spread” pricing model for its clients. The network “buys” the glass repair or replacement from an AGRR retailer and then “sells” the repair or replacement to its customer at a higher price or “spread” that covers the networks cost to operate plus its profit. Do you ever get those calls from a network asking, “If you just give me another point or two on the NAGS discount I can keep sending you jobs” with the implied message if you don’t……? Probably you have.

In my last blog titled “Network Participation Agreement – Special Update” I wrote:

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.

 How much transparency is there in how networks or TPAs report metrics? Well, last Friday glassBYTEs™ reported in a press release titled Lynx Services Amends Contract Services Agreement” that thePittsburgh-based Lynx Services will amend its contract services agreement effective September 12. The most notable addition to the agreement is the availability of online scorecard access for shops. These scorecards will provide auto glass shops with performance records based on a variety of factors called Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).” This is definitely a big step in the right direction that allows AGRR retailers to see metrics (KPI’s) showing their performance. Perhaps other networks and TPAs will follow in a similar fashion? That should certainly be a welcomed change.

As I also suggested in my last blog, as an AGRR retailer you might want, “continue to focus on the customer and provide exceptional value with outstanding transparency.In the long run exception value and outstanding transparency will pay off.

Just sayin’.

 

 Today marks the 11th anniversary of 9/11.

Never forget.

 

 

 

 

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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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