September/October 2000

Special Report    

Glass Shops Make the Next Move
with Customized Offer Option

by Debra Levy

On first meeting, Chris Umble might remind you of a venerated chessmaster: relatively quiet and thoughtful in demeanor, all the while planning the next great move to stay ahead of the game.

But the 48-year old director of national sales for LYNX Services by PPG Industries gets excited when he talks about his company’s new claims administration program with Allstate Insurance (see related) story.

“It’s all about choices,” said Umble in an exclusive interview with AGRR magazine on September 6. “The new Allstate program allows policyholders to choose their glass shops, and it allows glass shops that can compete more efficiently to do so.”

Umble says that LYNX and Allstate worked together to develop the Customized Offer option (COO) that premiers this week. “Allstate had been used to a more traditional network model,” he said, “but their experience with LYNX over the past two years demonstrated the advantages of an open, inclusive business model. Cost is important, but so is customer satisfaction. This program is designed to promote satisfaction among all parties.”

Umble said that glass shops should not view COO as a real-time auction, or anything close to that, but rather as “an opportunity for those companies who can fine-tune their prices in certain markets to do so.”

Umble disagreed strongly with the premise that such a pricing model might force companies to reduce quality and material in an effort to better their prices. “The COO is not about that,” he said. “In fact, under this program, Allstate will measure customer satisfaction at the shop level. Surveys will go right to the policyholder, and track the quality of their experience among other items. Allstate plans to capture these ratings and quality—not just cost—will be come a measurable outcome of this program.”

He also addressed some of the skepticism he hears in the marketplace about PPG’s role with LYNX Services. “LYNX is a claims administrator. In fact, it is now ‘out of its own’ and has been moved out organizationally from ARG. We must now compete for capital dollars and other resources with other business segments including ARG. I hear the stories but let me say, if PPG was going to get into the auto glass retail business, it would have done so by now. LYNX was created to help insure the continuation of our customer base, not to compete with them.” Umble said insurance companies occasionally have the same concerns, but the fears are allayed easily.

“Will I, or anyone else at PPG, have access to what particular companies are charging? No. I don’t even know how to find out that information. And if we did, we would be in big trouble with our customers. We’d violate our agreements with insurers,” he said. “It just won’t happen.”

Indeed, a tour of the call center headquarters in Fort Myers, Fla., provided a glimpse at a very sophisticated and complex operation that would be difficult to access without a deliberate edict.

Umble responded negatively when asked if there was an inherent lack of fairness in the program’s parameters which allow prices to be lowered at any time, but that they not be raised for 120 days. “This is not a daily, weekly or even monthly bidding mechanism. It’s simply a mechanism that enables companies that chose to do so to enhance their offer. But that offer entails a commitment of at least 120 days.”

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