Volume 13, Issue 4 - July-August 2011

Feature
Standing Start
Auto Windscreens Managing Director Discusses New Ownership and More
by Penny Stacey

United Kingdom-based Auto Windscreens was placed into administration under the care of Deloitte LLP in early February, after an ongoing financial struggle, including a $14.1 million (U.S dollars) loss in 2010. Shortly after, Trifords Ltd., which is part of an insurance group, Markerstudy, purchased the company’s brand and some of its assets (see related story in March/April AGRR™, page 16).

Auto Windscreens managing director Nigel Davies (ND) recently discussed the future of the business under its new ownership, the company’s future, tips for others and the latest technology with AGRR magazine.

Davies previously served as sales and marketing director for the company, prior to the re-launch under Trifords.

AGRR: Is the company now back to full capacity?

ND: We are very much indeed. Obviously we started off as a new business from a standing start, set up with 250 staff, set up to take on the new business we were hoping to get in the early days, and I’m delighted to report we have more than 1,000 account holding customers back on board and growing by the day.

AGRR: Has anything changed now for your customers or the business?
ND: Significantly, yes. What we’ve tried to do is implement the best of traditional service quality, such as managers actually managing urgent responses and managing their own stock-holding, but have combined it with the leading technology to be introduced, such as all work being managed by our PDA system, and the sort of management information that produces. By combining the best of both worlds, we’ve got the traditional service level with the IT reporting that a lot of our customers now demand nowadays.

“As anybody in the glass industry knows, it really is a combination
between competitive pricing and consistent quality of service.”
—Nigel Davies,
Auto Windscreens

AGRR: I understand Auto Windscreens had some insurance contracts previously, and that Admiral Insurance had switched to a different auto glass service provider just before Auto Windscreens was placed into administration. Are you able to comment on if any of the old contracts have been revived, or if any new insurance contracts have been attained?
ND: Yes, certainly. We have billing arrangements with the vast majority of motor insurers, and day-by-day are moving through to a preferred supplier status. We’re quite close to announcing our first significant appointment in the next two to three weeks, which would make a major impact on our business levels.

[Editor’s note: Shortly after the interview the company announced a contract with First Central Insurance.]

AGRR: I understand that the Auto Windscreens auto glass manufacturing plant was put up for sale by the company handling the administration process. Did the company retain any manufacturing capacity?
ND: No, we source all of our products from leading distributors of glass themselves. We didn’t acquire the factory from the liquidators.

AGRR: What is different for you now that the Auto Windscreens brand is owned by an insurer group, Trifords Ltd. (part of the Markerstudy Group)?

ND: The positive for [the staff] is that our service level has to be at very high standards, because obviously we carry out work for Markerstudy itself. The joy for myself is that Kevin Spencer, who serves as the chief executive officer for Markerstudy, has allowed me to run the business on a professional basis as we see fit. The benefit [is] that the very experienced group of people that I have running the business can run it to the very highest standards. I’m pleased to say we conduct a survey at the end of every job we do for the customer. We’re currently running at 99.8 percent customer satisfaction levels, and with a score of 9.53 out of 10 to reflect that satisfaction level, so our customers are telling us we’re doing a very good job as well, which is very pleasing.

AGRR: How do you conduct the surveys? Are they done electronically?

ND: Yes, they are conducted on the PDA systems through which we process all of our work. The customer will sign pre- and post-inspection [forms] on the PDA. They will then sign to complete the job. At the end we offer them a seven-question survey, taking them through the customer journey from the first point-of-call level of communication, the progress of the technician and the quality of the workmanship. We then ask them to rate us between 0 and 10, with 10 being the highest score for how satisfied they were. We also recently introduced a score of 0 to 10 to see if they would promote us, so again we can check to see how happy they were with the whole level of service. If anyone marks on there that they were dissatisfied, if they scored a 6 or less, or said they were dissatisfied with any part of the service, that actually generates a message to our customer care department, where we automatically follow up by phone with that customer within five to ten minutes to try and ascertain why they weren’t satisfied with the service.

AGRR: Auto Windscreens has been a leader with technology with regard to the Chip Checker mobile phone app, and I am curious about what type of response you’ve gotten from customers on that system (see box to the right).
ND: Yes, the Chip Checker was quite interesting. In our industry people still tend to telephone first, being [that auto glass is] a distress purchase. But we’ve had a good take-up with the Chip Checker and we still get jobs every week coming in by that route.

AGRR: Auto Windscreens has been called Belron’s number-one competitor in the United Kingdom (where the company operates as AutoGlass). What tips would you have for others in the world competing against such a large, worldwide company?
ND: We are obviously just a national firm, so we can tell you our product offering is very much required on that basis, but as anybody in the glass industry knows, it really is a combination between competitive pricing and consistent quality of service. Within that realm I believe you have the opportunity to build your business to an incredible size.

AGRR: What would you say the number-one challenges are in the United Kingdom market right now?
ND: The main challenges for the market is that we are experiencing rising fuel costs, rising motor insurance costs, and continued congestion on the road. So the actual motor park itself is quiet depressed in that respect. As a result, glass demand is likely to reduce slightly as we all travel less and use our cars less.

AGRR: How do you combat rising fuel costs?
ND: It’s very challenging to do that, in truth. We insist that all of our technicians utilize the lowest-cost fuel provider within their area, which does tend to be national supermarket chains. And, by utilizing the reports from our fuel car providers, we do analyze quite closely exactly where our fuel costs occur.

AGRR: Have the inspections that some insurers are now requiring prior to authorizing work impacted your company? (See related story on page 16.)
ND: No, not at all. We’re quite fortunate that we can photograph all jobs before we start. We hold that photography on our mainframe system so customers of any kind can request those photographs, and very shortly we’ll be introducing an online portal—a security-protected portal—whereby key customers can actually go in and view those photographs if they wish to question anything.

AGRR: Do you have any tips for other companies, having gone through the administration process and being taken on by new ownership?
ND: Yes, from our perspective, it’s just ensuring that the needs of the customer always come first.

AGRR: Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers?
ND: No, apart from that it’s hugely exciting times for us at the moment. Everybody in the business is massively motivated, because we’ve had a chance to re-design the business from scratch, and therefore implement what we know is best for both the customers and for ourselves, and we’re just loving every minute of it at the moment.

Penny Stacey is the editor of AGRR magazine/glassBYTEs.com™.


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