Posts Tagged fraud
Posted by "Just Sayin'..." in aftermarket, AGRR, aumotive after-market, Auto Glass, Autoglass, Business, Call Centers, Collision Repair Industry, Disruption, Disruptive Innovation, distrigution, Economy, Fortune 500, General, Innovation, Insurance, Leadership, PGW, PPG Industries, Programs, recipe for success, Retail, Service, Software, Solera, supplier, Technology, Third Party Administrator - TPA, USP, Windscreens on October 19, 2014
For me, listening to keynote speaker Tony Aquila, CEO of Solera Holdings, Inc. at Auto Glass Week in Baltimore was most interesting. He led Solera’s purchase of LYNX Services, GTS and GLAXIS from owners Pittsburgh Glass Works LLC and PPG Industries, Inc. earlier this year. Tony’s accomplishments are considerable, especially considering that he grew up sweeping floors working in his uncle’s body shop and he has a 9th grade education. You have to be incredibly impressed by the guy.
The “Strategic Focus” web page for the company states, “Solera is the world’s leading provider of software and services to the automobile insurance claims processing industry.” (Link to corporate history) Solera will certainly be changing the world of auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) with innovative software solutions that will simplify the claims handling process surrounding glass repair and replacement. The organization has the potential to affect the way all consumers and influencers ultimately buy AGRR products and services dramatically. Depending upon the vision and direction Solera heads automotive aftermarket parts and service providers, including the auto glass repair and replacement industry (along with the collision repair industry and parts distribution industry) could be in for some big changes. It’s all about taking out market inefficiencies and reducing costs associated with those inefficiencies.
Just look at the AGRR industry. To ensure that service level expectations of the consumer is ultimately met, any software program would need to have access to the real-time inventory level of any supplier or distributor warehouses in the area, the inventory levels of any AGRR shop or technician in the vicinity vying for repairs or replacements, along with the schedules of all technicians available to properly repair or replace the part.
Imagine when an auto glass replacement is required, if it would be possible for the software program to instantly search for the part determining which supplier(s), distributor(s) or AGRR shop(s) has (have) the part in stock; perhaps ranked by cost for the part while finding the best auto glass replacement technician suited to properly install the part; when and where the consumer wants it installed. With that capability you then have to start asking some questions like:
Once the software program has all of the information required to start processing an auto glass replacement, who or what company is directly buying and paying for the part(s) required?
It could be:
- The AGRR shop or technician facilitating the replacement or
- Maybe the customer’s insurance company or
- If it’s a cash job the consumer could pay.
Which of the three above pays for any part required is important to determine the all-in price to be paid for replacement parts, along with the price paid for required installation supplies and labor.
So which organization determines the pricing level for the various scenarios outlined above?
Who is buying and paying for the part and installation supplies required?
Who is paying for the technician to install the part?
Answers to these and many other questions will give you an idea as to where the industry could be heading. There will be changes coming and margins are probably going to change in the AGRR industry in the near future. And probably not for the better.
What is it you’re doing to be prepared for the future?
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Recently I was forwarded a letter that Safelite Solutions (“Safelite” “SGC Network”) sent to an auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) company. The letter related to work that the company had done for a consumer that happened to be insured with a company for which Safelite manages glass losses. The AGRR company had done a replacement and was required to send the bill for the work that was done for the consumer through Safelite in order to receive payment. The letter that was received started out stating:
“The SGC Network is currently in the process of performing a random fast cure kit Audit.”
The letter went on to state:
“Please fax copies of the work orders/invoices that include the urethane lot stickers. Do not send proof of purchase or receipts. The only acceptable documentation is the urethane lot sticker attached to the invoice or work order. Please forward to ATTN: SGCNetwork at 614-210-9941 within the next three business days.”
Have you seen or received one of these letters? I hadn’t seen one before. What was requested certainly seemed reasonable to me and the company also thought the request was reasonable. The company had the information readily available since the information is required under various sections of the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard that is administered by the Auto Glass Safety Council™. What was interesting about the request was that Safelite was taking on the role as an independent 3rd party auditor in asking for the information. Who do you think performs that function when and if Safelite audits its own use of a “fast cure kit”?
Take a minute and look up the word “fairness” on dictionary.com and you’ll find the following:
“the state, condition, or quality of being fair, or free from bias or injustice;
“free from discrimination, dishonesty, etc; just; impartial”
“in a fair way; correctly: act fair, now!”
It’s also interesting to see the word fairness shown via TH!NIKMAP’s Visual Thesaurus®.
So does it smack of “fairness” that a retail auto glass company that competes for auto glass repairs and replacements in the United States is also given responsibility for performing audits of competing AGRR companies to determine if they are using a “fast cure kit”? It doesn’t seem that Safelite would be the appropriate entity to audit others if you applied the definitions of fairness:
“the state, condition, or quality of being fair, or free from bias or
“free from discrimination, dishonesty, etc; just; impartial”
“in a fair way; correctly: act fair, now!”
They certainly aren’t “free from bias” and it doesn’t seem as though they would have a strong desire to adhere to the idea of “evenhandedness”. I don’t see how they could be “impartial”. And it would seem impossible that the act of their being the auditor would be accomplished “in a fair way”.
To me it seems to defy logic when the corporate mission of any company must be to grow market share and produce increased value to its shareholders for it to be possible for them to be an independent auditor of others in the industry in which they compete.
Safelite’s company web site states:
“We must do what’s right, even when no one’s watching
This means living by our values and being accountable. It is about how we treat our staff, our customers and members of our local community. We reinforce this throughout our corporate structure with legal compliances and ethics training, an employee ethics hotline and numerous channels for feedback and concerns.”
Certainly words any company would be proud to adhere. It seem appropriate to ask “who’s watching” those that are watching us? Do you think that there’s a 3rd party auditor that’s auditing the auditor?
I think you can ask the same question relating to the “pre-inspections of auto glass claims” that was discussed in a glassBYTEs article titled “Safelite Solutions Accepts Recognition for Pre-Inspection of Auto Glass Claims” in May of last year. Does that practice seem to smack of “fairness” to you?
As most everyone on the planet knows, Super Bowl XLVIII is coming this Sunday, February 2, 2014 between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. The officiating crew this year is led by veteran referee Terry McAulay. What if for the game this year a crew of Denver Bronco fans is allowed to officiate the game instead of the impartial officials that have been selected by the NFL? If that was allowed to happen how many calls do you think would go Denver’s way? Even the most ardent Bronco fan hoping for a win for their team would see that as both blatantly “unfair” and “unjust” to the Seattle Seahawks team.
So as “A Matter of Fairness”, who thinks that how Safelite operates as an auditor and/or inspector is:
“the state, condition, or quality of being fair, or free from bias or
“free from discrimination, dishonesty, etc; just; impartial”
“in a fair way; correctly: act fair, now!”
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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:
- How many rings or seconds it takes a network to answer a telephone call from someone reporting an auto glass loss;
- How many seconds or minutes a policyholder is on hold while reporting the loss; and
- 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?
- 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:
- RELIABILITY – A company’s ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately;
- ASSURANCE – The knowledge, competence and courtesy of employees and their ability to convey trust and confidence;
- TANGIBLES – Physical facilities, equipment and appearances that impress the customer;
- EMPATHY – The level of caring, individualized attention, access, communication and understanding that the customer perceives;
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 the “Pittsburgh-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.
Today marks the 11th anniversary of 9/11.
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Just Sayin’ Blog – Auto Glass Repair & Replacement Industry Legislation in South Carolina ***UPDATED***
I have been following with great interest the legislative initiative that has been taking place over the last two years in South Carolina. HB 4042 is attempting to lay out the rules of engagement for all stakeholders (consumers, auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) companies, third-party administrators (TPA) and insurers) of the AGRR industry in the state. Since HB 4042 was first introduced on April 6, 2011 in the South Carolina House and in the South Carolina Senate on May 24, 2011 the bill has gone through several versions. Now that the bill was passed in its final form by the General Assembly on June 6, 2012, it awaits Governor Nikki Haley’s signature to become law. If the governor signs the bill it will take effect on January 1, 2013. ***UPDATE*** On June 20, 2012 Governor Nikki Haley signed the bill into law.
The bill as passed is meant to:
TO AMEND THE CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, BY ADDING SECTION 39-5-31 SO AS TO MAKE IT AN UNFAIR TRADE PRACTICE FOR A MOTOR VEHICLE GLASS REPAIR BUSINESS THAT ADMINISTERS INSURANCE CLAIMS FOR MOTOR VEHICLE GLASS REPAIRS TO HAVE AN INSURED’S GLASS REPAIR BUSINESS REFERRED TO ITSELF OR TO USE INFORMATION TO SOLICIT BUSINESS.
Legislation typically requires compromise to reach agreement for passage and to be signed into law. The final version of the bill that was passed by the House and Senate chambers of South Carolina last week does just that. When stakeholders attempt to “improve” and influence legislation to provide their constituents their desired goals that they hope the legislation will achieve, legislation is generally weakened from the original version that was presented. That too happened. Is this bill a win win for everyone?
When you read through the bill and try to determine the sum of the parts, it appears that everyone got a little something. If you were a consumer you probably didn’t take any notice of the fight over this bill, but consumers did receive rights and protections to choose the provider they want to use if they file an auto glass loss with their insurance company. When a loss occurs many insured’s are looking for a recommendation as to what AGRR company they should use when they need a glass repair or replacement. If you’re a consumer insured by a direct writer (an insurance company that solicits and services business directly with the public through its own employees rather than through local agents) and you have a glass loss you’re probably going to be directed to the AGRR company recommended by the TPA, even if it results in the TPA’s related AGRR company doing the work. Another positive section of HB 4042 is that when an insured makes a call to their insurance company claims department 1-800 number to report an auto glass loss; and the phone is answered by a TPA, the TPA that answers that call on behalf of the insurer must immediately tell the insured that the TPA is acting on behalf of the insurance company.
If you’re an AGRR company operating in South Carolina you certainly did receive some relief in the bill as there are restrictions on a TPA’s ability to attempt to steer your customer on a 3-way conference call. The bill does come with some reasonable restrictions as to the business practices that AGRR companies must follow when a consumer files a glass damage claim when insured in South Carolina. The bill has a number of important sections that restrict how an AGRR company markets to consumers who have insurance coverage for an AGRR loss. Some of the restrictions will place limits on the sales and marketing methods used by some AGRR companies who compete in South Carolina.
In the bill insurers received new mechanisms to protect its insured’s from those who attempt to improperly influence claims and the bill imposes penalties for those that are found using improper methods as defined by the bill. There is also language in the bill giving insurers the ability to pay only what is “fair and reasonable” for an AGRR claim and insurance companies may inform its insured that the insured could be responsible for paying any cost of an AGRR loss over what the insurer feels is a “fair and reasonable” price. There are additional provisions in the bill that would appear to benefit insurers regarding how auto glass losses are billed in South Carolina. I’ve detailed all of the provisions at the bottom of this blog post. Time will tell whether the insurers are happy with the final version of the bill.
TPA’s may refer an insured with a glass loss to any company that is a member of the TPA’s approved shops (including its own AGRR company) if the insured does not have a provider of choice at the time they file the claim. The TPA can require an inspection of damaged glass prior to replacement, but the inspector cannot refer or attempt to influence who the insured chooses to use for the repair or replacement during the inspection. If the insurer or TPA does not own a ten percent or greater ownership interest in an AGRR company the provisions of the bill do not apply. As with the insurers, TPA’s have a number of new rules that they must follow in the handling of auto glass claims for insured’s in South Carolina. Some TPA’s will have issues with this bill while others may not. A June 4, 2012 article in glassBYTE’s quotes a senior corporate counsel for Safelite as saying,
“We are very pleased with the compromise reached in the South Carolina Senate on HB 4042. We are hopeful that the House will concur and that it will be signed by Governor Haley,” says Brian DiMasi, senior corporate counsel for the company. “In the end, all parties came to the table and worked very hard to address their respective concerns. Safelite has always honored customer choice, and this compromise not only preserves that choice, but protects consumers by addressing the rampant fraud in the vehicle glass industry in South Carolina.”
While many may have an opposing view to Mr. DiMasi’s comment regarding Safelite having “always honored customer choice”, I was surprised by what he said at the end of his comment where he stated that the bill “protects consumers by addressing the rampant fraud in the vehicle glass industry in South Carolina.” Rampant? Really? The bill certainly offers fraud protection for South Carolinians, but when you look up rampant in the dictionary you’ll find definitions such as “profusely widespread”, an “absence of restraint” and “growing wildly: growing strongly and to a very large size, or spreading uncontrollably”.
Does fraud exist in the AGRR industry? Does fraud exist in South Carolina? Certainly instances of fraud are committed by some in the AGRR industry, but rampant? I think that Mr. DiMasi’s statement is a grossly unfair characterization of the vast majority of AGRR companies that attempt to fairly compete in South Carolina by providing consumers who need auto glass repairs or replacements with excellent AGRR services at “fair and reasonable” prices.
I’m sure that one or more stakeholders see something in South Carolina HB 4042 that turns the advantage their way. With the passing of this bill in South Carolina the battle lines are drawn and there is a panoply of those interested in what’s next. Next year could bring another attempt in South Carolina to gain further advantage for one or more of the stakeholders, but the success that some see with the passing of this bill will help embolden legislative efforts to curb the activities of one or another stakeholder in other states.
Depending upon which side of this debate you support, all should give thoughtful consideration what it is you want. As the saying goes, “Be careful what you ask for,..” as to be sure there are always winners and losers in legislation passed into law and it’s possible that “…you might just get it”, but then again you might not get the outcome you were looking for.
Additional information on HB 4042:
In its final version the legislation provides little wins for all stakeholders.
1. Consumers get in the bill (or law if and/or when its signed):
a. When filing an AGRR claim through their insurance policy the opportunity to choose who they want to do their AGRR claim and they can’t be required to use a particular provider. Both the insurance company and the TPA are covered under this provision.
d. If the insured’s provider of choice IS an approved vendor for the insurance company or TPA, the insurer or TPA must assign the claim and provide a claim number or reference number to the insured’s provider of choice.
e. If the insured’s provider of choice IS NOT an approved vendor for the insurance company or TPA, the insurer or TPA must confirm that the insured’s provider of choice will perform the required work at the insured’s rate of reimbursement for the work which is “fair and reasonable”. If the provider refuses the “fair and reasonable” reimbursement the insured may be told by the insurer or TPA that the insured is responsible for any amount over the reimbursement rate. The insured must be informed that they can use the provider of choice. The insured must not make statements about the warranty of provider of choice and refer any questions the insured may have regarding any warranty to the insured’s provider of choice.
2. AGRR companies get in the bill (or law if and/or when its signed):
The right to have an insured use them without interference if the customer chooses them as the provider of choice and they follow the rules laid out in the bill. The rules are:
a. The AGRR company or anyone remotely associated with them must not:
i. Threaten, coerce or intimidate the insured into filing a claim;
ii. Engage in unfair or deceptive practices;
iii. Induce an insured to file a claim if the damage is insufficient to warrant a repair or replacement;
iv. Perform a repair or replacement for an insured without the approval of the insurance company;
v. Suggest or represent that the windshield replacement could be free under the insured’s insurance policy or
c. The insurer or TPA can require an inspection of the loss if they want by the representative of the TPA the representative cannot offer to repair or make suggestions as to who could do repairs during the inspection.
e. “Notwithstanding the provisions of this chapter, the insurer has the right to inform the insured that the insurer will not guarantee the work performed by a provider that is not in the network of the insurer or third party administrator.”
3. Insurers and TPA’s get in the bill (or law if and/or when its signed):
a. “When an insured does not request to have covered glass repair work performed by a specific provider of choice, the insurer or third party administrator may refer the repair to a vehicle glass repairer who is a member of the insurer’s or third party administrator’s preferred network of providers.”
c. The insurer or TPA can require an inspection of the loss if they want by the representative of the TPA the representative cannot offer to repair or make suggestions as to who could do repairs during the inspection.
f. “Notwithstanding the provisions of this chapter, the insurer has the right to inform the insured that the insurer will not guarantee the work performed by a provider that is not in the network of the insurer or third party administrator.”
i. submit a claim to either an insurer or a TPA if the glass was not damaged prior to the claim being submitted;
ii. if the services were not provide;
iii. use a location to bill for the repair or replacement other than the one that the repair or replacement was actually performed in an attempt to charge a higher price,
iv. have authorization from the insured to do the repair or replacement;
v. show any date other than the actual date of the repair or replacement or
vi. make any material misrepresentations related to the repair or replacement.
j. An AGRR company cannot intentionally misrepresent the cost to the policyholder for a repair or replacement or tell the policyholder that the insurance company or TPA has authorized a repair or replacement.
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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.
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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The reality of many service industries, and it’s certainly true in the auto repair and replacement (AGRR) industry, is that you see companies of all different shapes and sizes offering Halloween “trick-or-treats” each and every day of the year. Can you think of some examples in the AGRR industry? Let’s try.
- One example could be when a third party administrator (TPA) pretends to be an insurance company claims department representative. You know the one. While answering the phone call from an insured, who is required to report the auto glass loss by calling the insurance companies “auto glass claims number”, the TPA (pretending to be the insurance company) might tell the insured that they may have to “pay the difference” if the auto glass company that the insured wants to use isn’t the right one. Of course, the TPA knows that the auto glass company probably would accept the price that the insurance company already has agreed to pay, but the notion that the insured may have to pay a higher cost raises doubts about who he should choose to replace his glass. And since the TPA may actually be an auto glass company that can certainly do the replacement for the agreed upon price why not use the company that the insurance company has already “approved”? Of course the auto glass shop that the insured wants to use is on the entire call listening to what’s being said by the insurance company claims representative (who remember is really an auto glass company employee) and the auto glass shop can do little to stop what’s being told to the insured. Trick-or-treat? What costume do you think the TPA is wearing for Halloween?
- Another version is when the insurance company requires an “inspector” to come out and “inspect” the repair or replacement prior to an insured having the company they’ve chosen actually fix their glass. Surprisingly the “unbiased” inspector sometimes completes the inspection and then does the repair or replacement for the convenience of the insured. Trick-or-treat? What costume do you think that the inspector is wearing for Halloween?
- Then there are consumers who have their windshields replaced by companies that don’t actually install them properly. The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) has in place regulations to ensure that replacements parts that are directly involved with passenger safety require that those parts are installed properly. The windshield is a safety device and is critical to the structural integrity of the vehicle as well as proper deployment of the passenger side airbag. Problems can start for consumers if the auto glass company and/or the installer doing the replacement don’t follow the AGRSS® (Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard). What kind of problems?
- If the installer doesn’t take the proper care while removing the windshield that can be the start of problems,
- If the installer uses a poor fitting replacement windshield that can also be a problem,
- If the installer doesn’t wear the proper gloves to keep from contaminating surfaces during the installation that can be yet another problem,
- If the installer doesn’t use the proper combination of primers or urethane while doing the installation then there’s another problem,
- Hopefully the installer used a urethane that provides a safe drive away time of 1 or 2 hours, but
- Regardless the installer should tell the consumer when their vehicle is safe to drive and not release the car until that time.
- If one or more of these things aren’t done then…… Trick-or-treat? Definitely a TRICK!
Without question the vast majority of companies and people in the AGRR industry believe in and actually do the right things that they should be doing to provide the services they offer to their our customers. There are certainly TPA’s that do a great job providing services to insurance companies they represent and glass companies or installers that do proper auto glass installations. All who do the right thing should be praised for providing great services to those who need auto glass repair and replacements.
That being said, we all certainly know examples of bad behavior that exists every day in the AGRR industry. Whether they may:
- dress up in a Halloween costume and pretend to be someone they’re not when answering the phone, then possibly attempt to influence the caller to take a job away from the company the insured initially called and wanted to use,
- dress up as an inspector to make sure that no fraud is being perpetrated on the insurance company and then go ahead and repair or replace the glass while there or
- not care about quality. If the windshield used isn’t truly O.E.M. quality and the installation isn’t done properly by following the requirements of the FMVSS using the AGRSS® standard and by providing a safe drive away time of 1 to 2 hours by using the best urethane available there could be problems.
So do you and your company use tricks or do you only offer treats for the service or services that you provide? I know it is Halloween, but you should be only offering the best in treats! There really is no reason for anyone having to use tricks is there?
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