Volume 8,  Issue 4                         July/August  2006

Shop Owners Report AGRSS Registration Helps Their Businesses
Following guidelines makes it easier to deal with customers and insurance companies
by Les Shaver

Auto glass shop owners who are following the Auto Glass Repair Safety Standard (AGRSS) report that it is helping their businesses. Though they say they’ve always relied on quality, most agree that AGRSS has helped them revamp their system. 

It’s also given them a resource for their employees and customers—both off the street and in the insurance industry. One thing they lament is that customers still don’t recognize the standard. And some question the self-auditing process. But Cindy Ketcherside, president of AGRSS Inc. and chairperson of its Standards Committee, and her AGRSS colleagues are pushing forward with a continuing education certification program that promises to continue to upgrade installation practices.

When owners talk about how AGRSS has improved their operations, they’re most often talking about paperwork. According to Keith Stevenson, owner of K.C.’s Auto Glass in Sterling, Va., “Our paperwork got better on drive-away times. We always advise our customers, but we never put the DOT number or drive-away time down. We always did the inspection report. But the paperwork has gotten much better. We had to make sure paperwork was being done.”

Cedric Solland, president and CEO of Indianhead Glass, in St Croix Falls, Wis., has seen similar improvements in his four-store chain. “Prior to becoming an AGRSS registered company, we weren’t as paper- or document-savvy as we are now,” he explained.

Up to Speed
But others report they haven’t had to upgrade their paperwork. “We always followed the procedures,” said Scott Reininger, vice president of the automotive and residential division of Flower City Glass in Rochester, N.Y. “It wasn’t difficult at all. The volume of paperwork today is large for LYNX, Safelite and all of the networks. We have everything on file and can provide back up as well.”

Hank McLaughlin, owner of Hank’s Auto Glass in Tuscaloosa, Ala., agrees. “They’re [terms of the AGRSS Standard] not difficult to comply with,” McLaughlin said. “If you do things the right way, you don’t have to worry about it.”

In some cases, the AGRSS Standard helped shops upgrade their installation practices, as well. 

“It changed the way we work with rusty vehicles,” according to Solland. “If there is a rusty pinchweld, we send it to body shop.”

Of course, this has meant Solland has lost some customers.

“There have been some jobs I had to turn down because of rust,” he added. “Some people won’t spend the money to take it to the body shop and they’ll take it to someone who doesn’t care. I figure I can afford to lose those windshields. We sleep better at night.”

Solland isn’t the only one who points to the value of the AGRSS rust requirements.

“We think we need standards to deal with rust and rust issues,” Reininger said. “That gives us standards to refer to so that everyone can work off the same guides and points. It’s not a judgment call by technicians because you have guidelines in front of you.”

Stevenson likes these guidelines, as well, and would like to see even more shops accept them. “I like AGRSS because it set some guidelines,” he said. “If we could get them out and promote them and people would adhere to those guidelines, it would be even better.”

Having a Backup
Yes, the AGRSS registration process can help shops internally, but it also has value with clients as well. Reininger thinks it’s especially effective when it comes to rust. 

“It makes it easier to explain things to customers,” Reininger said. “It makes it a little easier for them to understand. It’s not something that Flower City is making up. These are the standards. This is what is acceptable and what is not.” 

It is especially handy when rust issues force shops to send a car back to the body shop for more work.

“We tell them, ‘If we go ahead, this is what could happen,’” Reininger said. “We also tell them, ‘If we stop now, we could prevent something from happening down the road.’ It’s a place to work from. It’s a tool.”

It’s even helped Solland improve his shop’s credibility with customers. In one case, an Indianhead installer went out to replace the windshield on a Camaro, but it had corrosion in the pinchweld.

“The installer told the guy he couldn’t do it because of a rusty pinchweld,” Solland explained.

“The [vehicle] owner went to the body shop and we came back to put the windshield in. He was very happy that we did it the right way.”

In another case, following the AGRSS Standard led to repeat business for Indianhead. 

“One company had a service van that needed a windshield,” Solland said. “I wouldn’t cut the old one out because it was so rusty. I told them I couldn’t do it. But I ended up doing three windshields for the guy. It showed we had credibility.”

While shops have been able to use the AGRSS Standard to communicate with customers, insurance companies are another situation altogether.

Educating Insurers
“We also refer to it with insurance companies when there are issues,” Reininger said.

“Honestly, they normally won’t pay for it [the extra rust work]. Most of the time, they’ve never even heard of AGRSS. We educate them as well.”

Many customers don’t know of it either, which is one reason Reininger hopes one day AGRSS gets more acceptance. “I don’t think consumers recognize it,” he said. Because of that, Reininger doesn’t spend a lot of time promoting the program.

“We advertise LYNX and they don’t know that. Some people know PPG or Carlite or some of the real popular logos. We have eight stores,” he explained. “It’s very difficult to fit all of the information in the ads. Some things you can’t fit.”

Stevenson also gives other logos, like ProStars, higher priority in his shop. “I don’t think that AGRSS is recognized as much as it should be,” he said.

Entry Issues
Despite the fact that the AGRSS registration program isn’t as known as he wishes it were, Stevenson has one small problem with the program. He thinks it should be more difficult to be in the program. “I’d like to see stricter guidelines for shops,” he said. “They need stricter guidelines and not the self audit.”

Stevenson goes so far as to recommend tighter auditing procedures. “You should go by reputation and by how you do your work instead of just filling out paperwork,” he said.

“Maybe you should have someone come in and do a spot check. There are plenty of people out there doing it right, but there are plenty of people doing it wrong.”

Ketcherside has heard the argument for tighter auditing procedures, but she said the self-auditing procedures have been accepted by the insurance industry. The auditing process requires shops to submit paperwork that proves they are following the AGRSS Standards, by recording things like the cure times and DOT numbers.

“The self-audit process is the first step to validate that people are doing the work correctly,” Ketcherside explained. “In every step of the AGRSS registration process, there is evidence that they have to produce. We’d like to get this implemented and people comfortable with producing self validation.” 

To go to a more intensive auditing process is possible down the road (including ones where AGRSS members may have to certify that they’re following the guidelines) but there are issues. “A true audit costs money and the industry would have to share in those costs,” Ketcherside pointed out. 

Now that the AGRSS self-audit program is up and running, Ketcherside’s focus has turned to the organization’s training certification program. The goal: To make sure training programs, whether they’re from individual shops or associations, meet AGRSS standards. 

“For a training program to qualify, it must go through the eyes of the committee,” Ketcherside said. “They must submit evidence that it meets the AGRSS standards. That’s the best way to do this. It [the training program] is the final piece we need to verify. Continuing education is the key if you are going to do it right, because there are always so many changes in this industry.”

Solland agrees with Ketcherside. He also thinks it takes more sophistication to install glass than it used to. That’s why he signed up to be an AGRSS registered company. “I signed up because auto glass is no longer a simple installation,” he said. “It requires some training and technical knowledge.”

This knowledge, combined with the fact that he knows a lot of people aren’t installing auto glass correctly, reassures Solland that AGRSS will continue to gain in popularity and shops that do quality work will benefit.

“I believe the best is yet to come,” he said. “AGRSS is still relatively new. Anytime something is new, no one really knows about it. The longer it’s in play and the more horror stores people hear, the more popular it will become.”

This resolution would make the work of Ketcherside, and everyone else involved in AGRSS, very much worth the effort. 

Les Shaver is a contributing editor to AGRR.

Cindy Ketcherside: AGRSS President
You would think that after selling her company, JC’s Glass, in Phoenix, to Auto Glass Centers (AGC), the retail division of Iowa Glass in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Cindy Ketcherside would slow down. But that hasn’t been the case. Even after selling the second-generation family business with over 35 years in auto, residential and commercial glass to Iowa (another second-generation business with 50 years in the business), Ketcherside remains very active in the business (as vice president of sales and marketing for JC’s). She also serves as president of AGRSS Inc. and chairperson of its Standards Committee.

AGRSS is clearly something that’s near and dear to Ketcherside’s heart. JC’s tested the standard before it was rolled out to the industry and it improved the business. 

“We found that it was a great management tool,” she said. “It allowed us to go in and say, ‘We need to change our processes.’ Being involved in AGRSS definitely improved the quality of JC’s Glass.”


AGRR
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