Volume 13, Issue 2 - March/April 2011

Independent’s Day
an iga viewpoint

Using Technology to Service Our Customers
by Alan Epley

On Friday, February 11, I had the privilege of attending an auto glass industry summit in Scottsdale, Ariz. Joining the summit were the board of directors of the Independent Glass Association (IGA), a number of respected industry representatives from point-of-sale providers, retailers and others. As many of you have probably heard by now, the IGA is spearheading the initiative to develop technology standards to streamline the insurance claims process, from first notice of loss (FNOL) to closing the claim. The purpose of the summit was to introduce the concept to the industry and to initialize the process. A number of interested professionals already have signed up to be on the committees. Participation is open to any industry professional that has an interest in improving the insurance claims process.

Everybody Wins
The IGA’s board of directors strongly believes that technological standards will be a win-win-win for policyholders, glass shops and insurance companies alike. We all are aware that there are a number of issues confronting the industry from customer service to fraud, and I believe that standards incorporating the use of state-of-the-art technology will allow the industry to improve the process, reduce the incidence of fraud, and, most importantly, make the entire process user-friendly for the folks we all want to please—the policyholders.

“The claims-reporting process should be a pleasurable experience for the policyholder …”

The best way for me to illustrate how technological standardswould be beneficial for all is to discuss some stages of the claims process. Let’s examine the FNOL. Under current procedures, a policyholder must report his loss to an agent, a third-party administrator or an insurance company’s claims department. We all can agree that the overhead involved in this process is excessive (though it does not need to be). In addition, we know that it is common for a policyholder to be involved in a telephone call that sometimes lasts in excess of 20 minutes, a reality that should not be acceptable to the shop or the insurance company—and certainly not the policyholder.

The Goal
The claims-reporting process should be a pleasurable experience for the policyholder and one with which the insurance companies should be overly concerned. With the use of technology, the policyholder or his representative should be able to report the claim online, delivering the necessary information directly to the insurer or representative, making the initial impression of the insurance company a satisfactory one.

Some insurers have undertaken measures to prevent fraud, especially as some auto glass companies have begun marketing their services directly to consumers. In an effort to combat fraud, insurers sometimes are sending inspectors to confirm reported damage to a windshield, which delays our industry’s ability to service a customer. The IGA has heard from some members that have had inspections delay work for more than a week. Again, the name of the game is to service our mutual customers and I think that everyone would concur that this type of time delay is unacceptable.

By introducing technology in the effort to fight fraud, a shop or mobile technician can use digital photography to take photographs of the damaged area and can send these images electronically to their insurance companies or representatives to confirm the damage. The insurer and/or its representative then can verify the damage and validate the claim instantly. Again, it’s a win-win-win opportunity for all involved and will drastically improve customer service.

I hope that you all share my excitement, enthusiasm and determination to succeed in the development of technology standards as the best effort to improve customer service and to level the industry’s playing field. I can think of no reason why this initiative would not be widely embraced across all industries involved, and I encourage everyone to participate in the process. Standards will streamline the entire insurance claims process, making it both a pleasant and economical experience for all involved.

Alan Epley is president of the Independent Glass Association (IGA). He also serves as president of Southern Glass and Plastic in Columbia, S.C. Mr. Epley’s opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.



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