Volume 10, Issue 2 - March/April 2008

Mandate to Validate
It’s Time to Inspect What We Expect
by Penny Stacey

If you ask Cindy Ketcherside, chairperson of the Automotive Glass Replacement Safety Standard (AGRSS) Council Inc. and president of JC’s Glass in Phoenix, or Carl Tompkins, chair of the AGRSS accreditation committee and western sales manager for SIKA Corp., the next step in the Standard’s process, the answer is clear: third-party validation.“Now is the time to inspect what we expect,” says Ketcherside.

The subject of third-party validation was a lengthy discussion at the annual AGRSS conference in November in Las Vegas (see related story in the November-December issue of AGRR, page 38). Now, as we ease into the middle of 2008, it’s becoming more and more of a reality.

The group’s goal is to institute third-party validation, through an independent audit process, for AGRSS-registered shops at the beginning of 2009.“We needed to be able to crawl before we walked before we ran,” Ketcherside says. 

“Now, with the third-party validation, we will allow someone else to come into a shop and say, ‘yes, you’re right, you understand that we’re in the safety business and that the windshield is a safety mechanism and that you’re installing to that.’”

In the past year, the AGRSS Council’s accreditation committee has established four subcommittees within to ensure that the mission is complete by 2009. Tompkins chairs the accreditation committee. The four subcommittees are as follows:• Audit Organization Development, chaired by Ketcherside;

  • Third-Party Audit Documents, Processes and Training, chaired by Charles Turiello of Diamond Glass in Kingston, Pa.;
  • Marketing and Promotion, chaired by Debra Levy, publisher of AGRR magazine/glassBYTEs.com™; and
  • Credentialing Resolution Board Development, chaired by Jean Pero of Mygrant Glass in Anaheim, Calif.

“We’re going through an extensive research and development process,” says Tompkins. “The four committees are working very, very hard this year to bring the final model to the Board of Directors for a vote by the end of 2008.”

How It Will Work
When the idea of third-party validation comes up, the number-one question on most people’s minds is this: how will it work? This was no where clearer than at the AGRSS Conference last fall, when a question-answer session about third-party validation led to many queries, such as: Who will be audited? How often? How will penalties work? Who will be doing the work?Much of this is still to be decided, though, by the accreditation committee and its subcommittees, and many of the preliminary decisions have been made.

First, shops that are AGRSS-registered and are due for registration in January 2009 (or afterwards) will be receiving a new form in their renewal packets.

“That registration packet will include the same things that it does right now,” Ketcherside says. “Shops will still have to do the self-audit, but they’ll also be signing a piece of paper that says ‘I am willing to be audited.’”

As for who will be audited, this will follow the procedures of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the group by which the AGRSS Standard has been accepted.

“According to ANSI, the auditing procedures say that you will have to [audit] the square root of your body,” Ketcherside adds. “So, if we have 385 companies, we would take the square root of that and that square root would be who we would audit. [The selection] would be random, and we’re working on processes and procedures for how that will work.”

Once the third-party validation begins, there’s one thing that’s inevitable: the third-party validators may discover things aren’t being done correctly. What happens then?

“We’re putting together infractions—minor and major infractions,” she says. “There will be consequences of not meeting the Standard … just like if you were a manufacturing plant and you were audited.” 

Advantages
Of course, while there may be infractions—the value of the validation is that it will correct these errors.

“The industry—in terms of those professional companies committed to doing the right thing—they’re very excited about this, because it brings the ultimate in power and proven ability,” Tompkins says. “And they not only like the idea of third-party validation taking them to a much higher level of differentiation, but it’s helping them become even better companies than they already are. It’s going to be designed in a way that is more consistent and more professional and if there’s a time when something incorrect is discovered in a third-party audit, there will always be a chance to remedy the situation.”

Officials from many AGRSS-registered shops agree.

“I’m glad AGRSS is going to institute third-party audits,” says Bob Hittenberger, president of Best Glass, an AGRSS-registered shop in Phoenix. “It’s the only way to really know whether AGRSS-registered shops are holding to the Standard or not.”

Many also suspect that third-party validation will make AGRSS registration more visible—and more accepted—by insurance companies.

“We can’t expect [insurance] customers to endorse a standard if they don’t have outside confirmation that we’re walking the walk,” Tompkins says. “It’s when we can provide that that we’ll have the unique ability to leverage the Standard.”

Ketcherside also points to State Farm’s gift of $20,000 to the AGRSS Council for use in the Consumer Awareness Program (CAP) as evidence of the insurance industry’s notice of a third-party validation (see related story on page 20).

“They didn’t give this to us in the ‘I will’ stage—they gave it to us when we stepped it up to the ‘I do’ stage,” says Ketcherside, referring to third-party validation as the “I-do” stage for AGRSS. “We have to go through this with the understanding that we need to validate and that when we do validate that the insurance industry will embrace it.”And State Farm’s endorsement of AGRSS may just be the tip of the iceberg.

“Obviously State Farm is the leader in [working with AGRSS], but we continue to work with the industry as a whole,” she adds. “This is a mutual customer that we all need to worry about. We need the insurance industry to understand their liability in this and we need to the understand the liability we have.”

In January, Tompkins provided a presentation called “What the Insurance Industry Has Been Waiting for” at Harmon Solutions Group’s National Insurance Summit in Tampa, Fla., to tout the benefits of third-party validation.

In addition, he’s had inquiries from other insurers.

“It takes a few strong leaders to set the precedent, to set the example, and then others will feel more confident in taking those steps,” Tompkins says. Hittenberger agrees.

“Not all insurance companies are fully aware, but AGRSS has done a pretty good job of getting the message out to most of them,” he says. “I think State Farm’s $20,000 donation to AGRSS makes a pretty strong statement about their commitment.”

Corey Hemperly, operation manager for Windshield Doctor Inc., an AGRSS-registered shop in Pocatello, Idaho, notes that he doesn’t expect consumers necessarily to take notice, but that insurers may.

“Consumers do not know one ‘certification’ from the next, so this has to be aimed at insurers in my opinion,” he says.

Tompkins adds that his hope for third-party validation is that, ultimately, it will allow AGRSS to change the industry as a whole.

“There are way too many people in this industry being included in the negotiation process who cheat, who break the rules and who put people’s lives at stake everyday. We consider this as exposing all customers to a liability risk that not even money can repay, and this must stop,” he says.

He adds that for companies that are AGRSS-registered and that complete jobs in accordance with the AGRSS Standard, third-party validation will be an added bonus.

“This is a helpful tool—not a tool of threat,” he says. “The only companies that are going to shy away from this process are going to be those who feel vulnerability from being exposed of doing things wrong.”

Hittenberger also expects that, despite the money paid to become AGRSS-registered, eventually it will add to his bottom line.

“As insurance companies and the public become more aware of the importance of the Standard [through third-party audits], I think it will translate into more work for us,” he says.

Disadvantages
With the undertaking of third-party validation, the AGRSS Council will hire an independent auditing firm to handle visiting shops and auditing them to the Standard, on a random basis. While the group currently is working on selecting an auditing firm, one thing is for certain—they won’t work for free.

Many have cited this as the number-one—if not only—disadvantage to third-party validation.

“I think more information and detailed reasoning behind the need for third-party audits should be discussed by AGRSS in order for its members to justify the increase in member fees to pay for such a program,” Hemperly says.

For Ian Graham of Windshield Solutions in Roanoke, Va., even without third-party validation, AGRSS registration has proved too costly for him to justify thus far.

“Being a very small shop, I have to be sure to put my money into things that have a [definite] return,” he said.

Tompkins, however, notes that while it may cost more under the third-party validation system—the AGRSS registration will be more valuable as well.

“The problem with it today is it’s way too easy and there’s no value to anything when anyone can jump in and have little to no effort, little to no commitment and little to no cost—there’s no value in that. There’s just no differentiation,” he says.

With the safety aspect of the AGRSS Standard, too, Ketcherside assures that the cost will be outweighed by the benefits of providing consumers with safe installations.

“Is there a price on a person’s life?” she asks. “Talk to Jon Fransway—how much would he have paid for the windshield of his sister for her to still be here?”

Fransway’s sister, Jean, was killed in 1999 following a car accident in which the windshield of the car she was driving wasn’t secured properly.

Aside from costs, Graham adds that he can see that third-party validation could also be the motivation many have been looking for from AGRSS.

“I do think that adding ‘teeth’ to AGRSS would be a definite step in the right direction,” Graham adds. Hemperly points out that the AGRSS registrants’ perception of the program—and how it is carried out—could be of concern too.

“If it is run openly, honestly, with the goal being a true third-party audit that helps a company remain compliant by catching items they may have missed, then it will be fine,” he says. 

“If AGRSS-registered companies see this as a ‘big brother,’ the program will be doomed from the start.”

Again, Ketcherside warns this should not be a concern.

“It is crucial to us that there’s no subjectivity,” she says. “We are absolutely unbiased.”

And, what about the “Big Brother” fears?

“There are so many people who think the AGRSS Council is trying to take people out of business—we’re not,” Ketcherside says. “We’re trying to keep this industry in business.”

Hittenberger sees no possible disadvantages.

“Audits are only a problem if you’re cheating,” he says.

Clyde Stephens, owner of Visions Glass in Perham, Minn., thinks the thinks third-party validation is a step in the right direction—but notes he hopes the audits are done anonymously. “I think it’s a good thing, but if they give notice they’re going to show up, well, of course [the shop is] going to follow the Standard,” he warns.

The Next Step
The AGRSS Council and its registrants view third-party validation as the perfect next step for the Standard.

“It’s important to note that the AGRSS Council realized from the beginning [that third-party validation would be needed],” Tompkins says, “but to make this work we needed to take steps in getting to what we call the pinnacle, apex or finale of registration.”

He adds, “With all of the glass industry having had a total of six years to learn about the Standard and to test its compliance at each of their store locations, this industry should by all means to be ready to have a third-party come in and assess their compliance.”

Ketcherside adds that third-party validation is designed as a benefit—not a penalty.

“An audit is not trying to take people out of business,” she says. “It is professionalism and that’s what it’s all about. There will be rules, and we all need to know what the rules are and we need to follow them, and if you don’t follow them, there will be consequences.” 

How to Register with AGRSS
So, you’re interested in registering that you abide by the Auto Glass Replacement Standard (AGRSS) but are unsure of how to do so? Here’s your guide.

First, visit www.agrss.com—it contains all of the information you’ll need.

There, you’ll download your very own application. With this will be a copy of the full ANSI/AGRSS™ 002-2002 Standard.

In addition, you’ll receive an outline of all the procedural requirements, as indicated within the Standard, for registration. Each question has “Yes/No” answer. For example, one question is:

“Do the personnel performing automotive glass replacement refrain from beginning or completing an installation where any related condition would compromise the retention system (examples may include, but not limited to, the following: rust, contamination, suspect materials)?”

In addition, a copy of the form that your company uses that shows that you’ve followed this procedure is to be attached to the back of the checklist, which includes a range of other questions, based on the Standard, and requests for other documentation, for a total of eight deliverables.

The completed form can then be mailed to the AGRSS Council at 800 Roosevelt Road, Building C, Suite 312, Glen Ellyn, Ill., 60137, with the registration fee of $225. The AGRSS Council will then review the checklist and documentation provided.

(Once your application is accepted, the renewal fee per year is $200.)If accepted, along with many other benefits, registration enables your company to display certificates, wear patches, hang signage and use the AGRSS-registered logo in your advertising.

Penny Stacey is the editor of AGRR magazine.


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