Fleet Work, Direct
Billing or Networks?
by Walt Gorman
As Part of the National Windshield Repair Association (NWRA) Conference in Las Vegas in March, a roundtable discussion about the advantages of fleet accounts, direct billing and network jobs took place. Business owners in the windshield repair industry have varying opinions and success with each of the three.
From the 1970s into the mid ‘80s, choices were fairly simple. It was easiest to go to car lots and other fleet accounts and ask them if you could walk their lot once or twice a week and repair any repairable damage to the windshield at an agreed upon price. In the early ‘70s, there were very few manufacturers of windshield repair material and very little knowledge of the service. This added up to very little competition. All you needed to do was provide some education, demonstrate the repair process and be dependable, and you had a loyal customer for years.
The education, demonstration and offering dependability also worked well with insurance customers. The networks were not involved in billing of windshield repair in the 1970s and ‘80s. Many repair technicians found their customers through good relationships with their local insurance agents, advertising and word-of-mouth referrals.
The networks arrived in the early 1990s and changed the climate of the windshield repair industry. At first, many windshield repair and replacement businesses resisted the networks or thought that they could work around them. They soon realized that, if they wanted insurance work, they would have to work with the networks. Some learned to work with the networks, but many did not. Their insurance jobs decreased and they either had to learn new ways of marketing and doing business or they were going to fail. Many businesses did fail. Windshield repair was not as easy a business to be in as it was in the 1970s.
Many small windshield repair business owners are still looking for the answers in this changed market. Some just do fleet work, but find it difficult to survive on this alone. Changes in management, lower pricing by the competition or a decision by the same fleets to start doing their own windshield repairs can cause a shop to lose business. It is very difficult to depend on fleet work unless there are national contracts involved and you belong to a group that has these contracts. Repair companies receive their payment for the repairs from the owner of the fleet business.
Some businesses choose to do insurance work without being involved with the networks. They find their own customers through advertising, word-of-mouth or by being available at locations such as car washes, oil and lube shops or tents. They receive payment directly from their customers. Some will give their customer an invoice and inform him or her that the insurance company may pay for the windshield repair. Others choose not to mention it.
Many windshield repair businesses do their billing through the networks. They sign a contract and have a business relationship with the network. They are put on a list to which the network refers when they are called by someone looking for a repair or replacement. Sometimes a business gets “the job” from the network and other times, a repair business finds its own customers.
If they are on the network, an AGRR company calls the network with the insurance information and receives an authorization number to do the work. After completing the work, the company sends an electronic invoice to the network and receives payment from the network.
Steadily the climate has gotten more difficult for the small independent shops. Many are still looking for answers in the ever-changing environment of the repair and replacement business. This is part of what was addressed at the NWRA Conference. We look for answers together and share what we have learned.
What are ANSI and ROLAGS?
The National Windshield Repair Association (NWRA) and the National Glass Association (NGA) are partnered in developing a standard for laminated automotive glass.
The effort is to develop a national standard for proper windshield repair and have it approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). There seems to be some confusion about this effort and how the work is moving forward.
Following is some information which should help clear up some of the questions which officials at NWRA headquarters have been asked.
What are ANSI and ROLAGS?
Let’s start with ANSI. ANSI is the American National Standards Institute.
The institute oversees the development of American National Standards (ANS) and provides a process to develop a standard. There are more than 10,000 ANSI standards.
The process is a series of steps that a standards developing organization (SDO) must follow to develop a standard.
An organization must apply to ANSI to become an accredited SDO. To become an approved SDO, the organization must write and submit its procedures to ANSI. The procedures must assure ANSI that the process to develop the standard will be open, balanced and provide consensus and due process.
Repair of Laminated Automotive Glass Standard (ROLAGS) is the name of a proposed standard being developed by NGA, as the SDO, partnered with the NWRA.
According to the proposed standard, “The goal of ROLAGS is to provide a nationally recognized standard to aid in the decision to repair or replace damaged laminated auto glass; to assist the public to understand what is achieved through windshield repair; to encourage technicians to follow the industry’s best practices; and to codify a consensus statement of the industry’s best practices.” The proposed standard can be read at www.rolags.org.
Peg Stroka is the director of operations for the National Windshield Repair Association (NWRA).
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