NWRA Annual Conference Offers Fun and Education
by Brigid O'Leary
The National Windshield Repair Association’s (NWRA) Annual Conference took place at the beginning of March at the Cashman Center in Las Vegas, with some new topics for association members to consider.
After a brief introduction of and welcome by NWRA president Paul Syfko, attendees to the NWRA conference joined attendees of the Independent Glass Association’s (IGA) Conference and Independents’ Spring Glass Show, which was co-located at the Cashman Center, for a joint session on industry standards. Carl Tompkins of Sika took to the podium first, explaining the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard (AGRSS), its formation and how it has evolved over the last eight years from conception to fruition. Following Tompkins was Dave Taylor, secretary/treasurer for the NWRA, who discussed the Repair of Laminated Auto Glass Standard (ROLAGS) that is being drafted currently. Taylor, who also serves as vice-chair of the ROLAGS committee, explained the goals of the Standard and the need for having one in place.
“Just because you eat doesn’t mean you can cook,” he said, using the analogy to apply to those in the auto glass business who are of the belief that by being a member of the industry as a whole makes them qualified to perform windshield replacements.
The Future is Now
After the joint session, the two trade associations returned to separate meeting rooms to continue the seminar tracks specially designed for each of their memberships. Don Giles of Medlife Planners explained the NWRA Health Insurance plan that the association is able to offer to members and how members could determine what the best plan for their companies is.
After Giles’ presentation, Debra Levy addressed the crowd briefly regarding the future of the NWRA. Levy, publisher of AGRR magazine and the glassBYTES newsletter, is president of Key Communications Inc., the parent company to several industry magazines and now management company for the NWRA. Levy told the assembled industry members that the association is now out of the formation phase and has moved into the institutional phase. She also informed the attendees that in the course of the next few weeks, they will receive a needs assessment form that will ask them to share what concerns them most about the windshield repair industry. The results, she said, would be reviewed at the NWRA Board of Directors meeting in June.
Keeping a tight schedule, Levy kept her presentation to less than 10 minutes and upon her conclusion, Dave Casey of Superglass Windshield Repair took the podium to lead off the “Cool Tools” discussion, introducing some new and innovative tools to the industry and sharing how windshield repair companies can benefit from the tools, many of which are simple to make or obtain and don’t have to be purchased through industry-specific suppliers.
Joining Casey in the presentation were Syfko of Glass Medic, and Mike Boyle with GlasWeld. Three speakers introduced 11 tools that could help ease the job of the windshield repair technician.
Casey showed a UV shield made of a window film designed for ultimate ultraviolet (UV) light rejection. Malignant melanoma cancer patients and others who must be protected from UV light often employ the same film on their houses and cars as his company used to make the shield. Casey also introduced an infrared thermometer and discussed the not-necessarily-new but very practical and handy use of an apron, similar to those worn by restaurant wait staff. The apron, Casey explained, would protect the vehicle from belt buckles and tools and can be used in branding if the company’s logo is applied to the front.
Syfko presented a windshield-cooling device, similar to a standard gel pack that works by placing over a windshield and pouring water over it. The effect, he explained, is like that of a diaper. The pack absorbs the water and holds it in rather than letting it pour over the windshield, but also channels the coolness of the water to the glass. Syfko also caught his audience’s attention by showing what, in effect, was a miniature windshield. Made of laminated glass cut down to the shape of a windshield and silk-screened, the mini-shield is used to demonstrate a repairable windshield break and what it looks like repaired.
Boyle took the stand with some simple tools, some of which can be purchased over the counter at your local drug store, such as the magnifying glass with a light attached to it, or the pen flashlight with the infrared thermometer. Of particular note, however, he also showed how the Apple iPod can be used as a training tool, as they are now available with video capabilities. Boyle explained that presentations can be filmed, downloaded and watched at the convenience of a trainee’s car or rather than bringing them into a shop to watch a video or as an explanation for customers or potential customers as to what happens with a windshield repair. Additionally, He mentioned that with the new technology that allows some iPod owners to download television shows, technicians can even offer to let customers watch television while the repair is being performed.
Boyle wrapped up his session by explaining that he felt the coolest, and most overlooked tool, is the individual person’s mind. He stated that the two fastest growing consumer markets are women and people older than 55 years and reminded attendees not to forget about these markets if they wanted to ensure continued success.
The last of the morning sessions was an open board meeting, during which board officer elections took place. Syfko was reelected president of the NWRA; Casey and Taylor were reelected as vice president and secretary/treasurer, respectively. Also at the board meeting, Levy announced that the NWRA website is undergoing an update and redesign. Still in the design stage, Levy encouraged audience members to check out the proposed new look and offer feedback on it. The proposed new look can be viewed at www.nwrassociation.org.
After lunch, Casey and Boyle took to the podium again with a presentation titled “how to keep every repair.” They discussed the more common steering tactics used against the windshield repair industry and how to combat them, from keeping your cool with the customer service representative (CSR) to point-for-point rebuttal to the arguments that are most frequently heard during steering.
The pair advised some specific dos and don’ts:
• Don’t tell the customer to “call your insurance agent and ask for us;”
• Do set the appointment with the customer before making a call to the insurance company;
• Don’t get angry with the customer service representative;
• Do try to understand the system and how it works;
• Don’t hesitate to educate the policyholder; and
• Do always convey your professionalism.
Stressing the last point, Boyle reminded attendees that “professionalism starts when [the customer] sees the van pull up,” and even as early as the initial phone call. He called on Taylor to share an experience he’d had listening in on taped third part administrator (TPA) calls that included glass repair shops continuously putting the TPA and the customer on hold and working in an environment that included background noise loud enough to drown out conversation.
Wrapping up the NWRA Annual Conference 2006, attendees were invited to participate in roundtable discussions, moving from one table to the next to discuss topics revolving around payment issues such as direct billing the insurance companies, going through TPAs or billing the customer.
After a day of seminars, members of the NWRA joined members of the IGA, as well as some earl-bird attendees to the International Window Film Conference and Tint-Off™ (IWFE) at the Spring Glass show, where auto glass and glass repair companies from across the country came to exhibit and reach potential new customers.
“I learned a lot here. It’s been fun and very educational,” said Julie Kamesch of Nu-Shield Windshield Repair in Atwater, Calif. “Every time I come to one of these events, I learn something new.”
Brigid O’Leary is a contributing editor to AGRR magazine.
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