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Volume 7    Issue 3            May/June 2005

Field of Vision
     from the Editor

Do Networks Work?
by Charles Cumpston

There truly ARE a lot of hard feelings and hostility out in the industry toward the networks. You hear it all the time, of course—how they’re running the industry and driving every shop’s profits into the ground—but when we decided to do our “Rate the Networks” survey, even I was astounded by how many people wanted to participate and have their say. I received numerous calls from voices almost filled with glee at being able to express their feelings about the subject.

You can see for yourself what they did say in the article on page 30.

The auto glass repair and replacement industry is made up of very independent-minded entrepreneurial-type individuals, so it is easy to see where there is going to be a clash in a network-type set up. What is more corporate than the way the networks and third-party administrators operate: standard procedures, standard processes, standard methods, standard rules? It’s all designed to make the type of individual mentioned in the first sentence of this paragraph chafe.

But setting this general conflicting approach aside, two of the biggest problems survey responders pointed to are pricing and steering. We’ve covered these issue in the pages before, and I’m sure we will again. 

A great majority of respondents said that, while it might work in a larger more job-controlled environment, the pricing being set by the networks or offered by the insurance companies in their programs are not sufficient for smaller independents who do mobile jobs and provide services in rural areas where the market is smaller or in the larger markets that must be covered.

The second big issue sited by respondents to the survey was steering. This subject needs no introduction. There have been numerous efforts at the state level to put into place legislation which makes steering, or not giving the consumer the choice to go to his or her preferred shop for a job, illegal. The Independent Glass Association has spearheaded, along with three other plaintiffs, a lawsuit against Safelite designed to settle the legalities of steering in the auto glass industry. What effects these efforts will have only time will tell, but the subject is one that survey respondents were very vocal about.

Networks are an emotional topic for many in our industry. Our survey is not going to resolve any differences between independent glass shops and the networks. It was never meant to. But it did give many readers the chance to voice their opinions in a way that would be heard—their input decided the outcome of the survey.

Hopefully, it has also served as a free, independent market research report for the networks and third-party administrators. Looking at the various pieces of data, they can see their individual strengths and weaknesses as well as those of the market as a whole.

We want to thank everyone who did take the time to complete the survey. There was a lot of good feedback. We hope the industry is better for it having been done. 

Charles Cumpston is the editor of AGRR.


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