Volume 14, Issue 6 - November/December 2012

Feature
Auto Glass Winners
Everyone Came Home a Winner after Auto Glass Week™ and Its Repair and Replacement Competitions
by Megan Headley

It’s true that everyone came home a winner from the 2012 Auto Glass Week™ in Louisville, Ky.; attendees had tons of takeaways from seminars on leadership and best business practices, product innovations on the Exhibition Extravaganza trade show floor, and the opportunity to watch the best auto glass repair and replacement technicians wielding their craft. However, two individuals also came home with a gold medal and a check for $10,000 each.

K-Shard Fields of Glasspro Inc. in North Charleston, S.C., won the top ranking of gold medalist in the 7th Annual Pilkington Clear Advantage Technician Olympics (AGTO), while Brian Fenner of Safe Glass Technologies in Easton, Pa., took home the gold in the 7th Annual Walt Gorman Memorial Windshield Repair Olympics (WRO).

Fields, 30, brought to the competition more than eight years of experience installing glass. Still beaming from his win, the AGSC-certified technician told AGRR magazine that hearing his name called “was overwhelming.” He added, “It was so surreal, because a couple of years ago they were doing the [competition practice] at our job and I didn’t want to bother with it because I saw how much pressure they were under, but when I thought about it, I deal with pressure so much at my job on a daily basis, so why not? I took a shot at it, and here I am.”

The judges for the AGTO, who had the difficult task of selecting the “World’s Best Auto Glass Technician,” included: Bob Beranek of Automotive Glass Consultants Inc., Bruce Gates of Gates Brothers Glass Shops, Jeff Olive of Glasspro Inc., and Rick Maciel of Techna Glass Inc.

With 11 years of experience repairing windshields behind him, Fenner, 43, is no stranger to the gold; he was the 2009 WRO gold medalist and 2008 silver medalist. Following the announcement of his latest triumph, Fenner said, “It feels wonderful.” He added, “It’s such an honor to be able to compete in our industry’s premiere event.”

Fields was followed by Travis Crebs, in second place, and Nick Gittins, both of Techna Glass in Utah, in third place in the AGTO. Chris Smith of Techna Glass in Draper, Utah, rounded out the WRO at second, with Robert Rask of IntegraGlass in Orem, Utah, following at third.

The judges for the WRO, who selected among their finalists the “World’s Best Windshield Repair Technician,” included: Korey Gobin of Delta Kits Inc., Frank Levesque of Glass Doctor, and Gerald Zwart of Clearview Windshields.

In addition, Gittins was recognized with the newly named Ray Asbery Innovation Award for his development and use of modifications to his setting tool. “My buddy Dan Atkinson—he’s a machinist—he helped me alter a setting tool so it’s adjustable and it adjusts to the pitch of the windshield … I owe him a lot of thanks,” Gittins told AGRR magazine. “I’ve been asked about it [by other technicians] pretty frequently.”

The Innovation Award was dedicated to Asbery this year, and has been renamed going forward in honor of the innovation brought to the industry by the founder of Equalizer, who passed away last year.

As competitors and attendees were all quick to point out, Auto Glass Week has come to be known not only as the home of the Olympics, but also as the one place to find all of the industry’s top experts. For the second year, the auto glass industry’s biggest associations came together to sponsor the event. As the event opened, representatives of the Auto Glass Safety Council (AGSC, formerly the AGRSS Council Inc.), Independent’s Glass Association (IGA), National Windshield Repair Association (NWRA) and National Glass Association (NGA), as well as AGRR magazine, met to provide an overview of the work done in the last year to move the industry forward.

Top Notch Speakers; Top Notch Presentations
Those associations also brought together a panel of top-notch speakers with concrete tips for their audience to take home from Auto Glass Week™. During a seminar entitled “Staying Ahead of the Curve,” attendees were treated to a number of hands-on tips and practical advice intended to help glass retailers better prepare for the behaviors, attitudes and values of tomorrow’s consumers during a seminar. The panel discussed the claims process, a hot topic throughout the week.

On this topic, Gary Hart, executive director of the IGA, advised that it’s important for glass retailers to “control the call” when it comes to the third-party first notice of loss. When you get the third-party administration (TPA) customer service representative (CSR) on the phone, he said, “It’s very important that you tell them very firmly that this is your customer.

He also advised that shops not agree to inspection requests. “If you have a customer on the phone, it’s obvious they have a glass issue,” he pointed out.

Hart also reminded the audience they do not have to be on a network to report and file glass claims to a TPA electronically.

“I’m not on any of the networks and a lot of people don’t know you can bill electronically,” chimed in Rick Rosar of Rapid Glass. Rosar noted that his shop always does a three-way call, and recently implemented a policy where they only use the term “TPA” rather than identifying and therefore branding the company on the other end of the line. They also explain to the customer what they will hear from the TPA, and combat that with education about independents. The big point that Rosar’s team makes to customers is that they will not be charged the difference of their deductible.

Marketing Keeps Glass Shops Ahead of the Curve
The seminar also featured a discussion on “gathering” customers and company marketing. “When we’re talking about gathering customers, we also have to educate them at the same time,” Hart said.

He suggested that his auto glass industry listeners ask themselves the following questions: are you looking ahead and identifying industry movements, such as new and evolving ways to find customers? Are you developing the right services to meet your customers’ needs? According to Hart, it’s no longer enough to rely on your brand—your company is being represented by satisfied customers through various social media platforms.

Matt Bailey of 20/20 Auto Glass added that having those voices on your Facebook page expands a company’s reach immediately. “You have to solicit that,” he added. He has offered customers, at the end of a job, “a five dollar gift card by just going on the website and posting a review—it doesn’t even have to be positive.”

“Social media actually has a higher degree in helping customers decide what to do,” as opposed to more traditional routes such as the Better Business Bureau,” Hart said.

He also talked about “the customer,” noting that today’s customers are better educated and more discriminating than ever, thanks to technology. Use of technology also makes it key for companies to be online where these new customers can find you. Once they do, and are pleased with your service, they’ll become your ambassadors.

Because of this new focus, the group stressed the importance of glass shops adopting the best available technology. From tools for electronic signature capture to a mobile point-of-sales tool, it’s important to be able to work anywhere at anytime.

Another suggestion from Hart: “Always be open.” Rosar subscribes to a messaging service that customers can reach 24 hours a day. An interactive website also satisfies customers’ need for an instant reply. While the ability to get an instant quote is huge, Hart advised also having the capability to instantly schedule that job.

Bailey added that while the instant quotes are valuable, “If you don’t follow-up on them immediately, it’s virtually useless.”

Customer Service Stays Key
Attendees also were treated to some concrete tips to take home on running their businesses more effectively. Chris Umble, vice president of strategic initiatives for LYNX Services, rolled out a number of strategies for addressing the common business of customer service in a session on “Meeting the Expectations of Insurance Customers and Consumers.”

“Customer service, at the end of the day, is the thing we all have in common as we go about our duties in the auto glass ecosystem,” Umble said. What’s more, he added, “At the end of the day, customer service says everything about the business.”

He defined “excellent” customer service as “the ability of an organization to constantly and consistently exceed the customer’s expectations.”

As Umble elaborated, “You can only meet expectations if you give the customer what they ask for. You can only exceed expectations if you give them something more ... If you wait until they ask you for the ‘next generation’ [product], where did they get that idea? Maybe from your competitors.”

Umble added that he believes excellence in customer service is a function of change management, and the fine balance of change and consistency which seem to be opposing if equally critical components of customer service.

He pointed out that the AGRSS Standard™ is following the path to exceeding the “customer’s” expectations. “Taking the practices and turning it into a standard is an innovation. What comes next is the training ... Out of that drives consistency,” Umble said. “The validation step is what’s going to drive consistency. As a result of that, differentiation will be the end product.”

What’s more, Umble added, even during the event’s Auto Glass Safety Council Standards Committee Meeting, chair Bob Beranek was pointing out that at the next meeting, the group would promptly begin work no the next standard update, thereby continuing to drive change.

Umble also said auto glass techs have told him that standards compliance—and consistency—is helping to save money via fewer callbacks.

Legal and Business Tips to Implement
Chuck Lloyd and Debra Nelson of Livgard & Lloyd succeeded in their goal of providing an hour’s worth of business and legal tips sure to help auto glass businesses protect themselves.

The first idea was useful for the entire audience. Lloyd advised taking notes on all of the ideas being presented at Auto Glass Week, but committing to implement at least three of them after returning home.

The pair left the audience with this last tip: “So much of what we do in life and in business is try to avoid losing. You’re much better off if you go out and try to win. It’s the number-one thing you can do to help your business,” Lloyd said.

Auto Glass Week™ Exhibition Extravaganza Packs a Punch
The Auto Glass Technician Olympics and Windshield Repair Olympics drew to Auto Glass Week™ 2012 riveted spectators rooting for the competitors and hoping to learn a few tricks of the trade from the best of the best.

“Everything’s been informative,” said Justin Manuro of Insight Auto Glass in Centennial, Colo., even as he remained focused on the competition. “You learn a lot about OEM specs and a lot about the industry. If you’re in auto glass, this is the place to be.”

However, the competition wasn’t the only avenue for checking out new tools. Exhibitors brought their latest and greatest product innovations to the Auto Glass Week Exhibition/Extravaganza.

Some exhibitors used the show as an opportunity to test new waters. Gill Lindsay of A+ Career Apparel in Dallas, Ga., found the trade show floor to be a helpful place to identify a new audience of small business owners for his direct-to-sell technician apparel.

Others sought to familiarize attendees with a new part of a well-known business. James Ward Jr. with Sunroof Express in Troy, Mich., explained that while the company has been nationally known for its claims management, fewer people know that it is also a wholesale sunroof parts supplier. “A lot of shops shy away from sunroof repair because they don’t know if they can pull it off,” Ward said. Sunroof Express is aiming to simplify the process for ordering and installing sunroof components.

Still other manufacturers found the show the best way to give auto glass companies a chance to test out products they may have only read about before. Joe Walsh and his colleagues at GTS Services were showing off their smartphones and tablets to a crowded booth in order to demonstrate the new mobile applications for their auto glass software. “It allows [techs] to move to the next level,” Walsh explained of the LX-Mobile software.

Finally, many exhibitors came to be part of the party atmosphere that took place each day on the trade show floor because they knew it was the best place to meet with countless customers in one spot.

As Dennis Garbutt of GlasWeld commented, “This is a small industry and it’s a really good opportunity to see everybody in one place without traveling around the country.” He added, “I think there are a whole lot of quality people here who are trying to up the bar every year.”

For a peek at just some of the products highlighted on the exhibition show floor, turn to the Showroom department on page 16.

Megan Headley is the interim editor for AGRR™ magazine.
AGRR
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