by Tara Taffera
Recommended Practices Committee from left to right: Dave Schuh, Ed Tingley, Dick Inman, Fred Sorenson, Rich Campfield, Jackie Newman, Dave Casey, Paul Gross, and Dave Taylor.
If you weren't at the third annual National Windshield Repair Association (NWRA) convention held in Orlando, FL, in February, you missed a great deal. This included the completion of a draft copy of windshield repair recommended practices, progress made toward a technician certification program and a face-to-face meeting with State Farm representatives (see page 98 for story). While most attendees were windshield repair technicians, the issues discussed have broad interest to others in the auto glass industry.
In addition to decreased attendance this year, the conference had a few other notable differences from previous years, including the presence of Columbus, OH-based Safelite, a company that was previously replacement-only but now is heavily involved on the repair side of the industry. Knowing that many people may be a bit uneasy about Safelite's recent merger with Vistar Auto Glass of Chicago, IL, NWRA president Dave Taylor of Cindy Rowe Auto Glass in Harrisburg, PA, told attendees, "Whether we think this merger is a good idea or not is irrelevant." Safelite's recent merger isn't the only change at the company. Paul Gross was recently appointed as Safelite's director of repair services, a new position. Gross gave a presentation concerning the safety of windshield repair.
Gross's colleague, Don Giles, vice president of network operations, spoke about the future of windshields. Giles outlined some future technologies that will affect the work of windshield technicians in the coming years. These include head's up displays (HUDs), heated windshields, heated wiper pads, passive defrost systems, encapsulated parts and air bags. While all these new technologies will affect repair technicians, Giles said replacement technicians will face similar challenges. He said the creation of antennas integrated into the glass will be a particular challenge. "We are on the threshold of the next 25 years being very different than the past 25," said Giles. Another popular speaker was Fred Sorensen, Mobil Glas 2000 APS, who talked about the importance of customer service. Sorensen told NWRA attendees of his thriving business in Denmark (his company holds 90 percent of the business there) where windshield repair is widely accepted. Sorensen has 30 vans traveling all over the country with each technician performing 14 to 18 repairs a day, translating into 30,000 to 40,000 repairs per year. However, Mobil Glas performs both replacements and repairs and the repair/replacement technician ratio is 50/50. Following his talk, one repair technician said to Sorensen, "You have a utopia. It's what all of us want."
Sorensen replied that his journey toward success was a long one and not always easy. He credits part of his company's success to the emphasis placed on customer service and encouraged attendees to keep customer service considerations at the top of the priority list. When asked how he does this, Sorensen said, "By now it's a culture in the company. Everyone helps everyone. You may not do it the same way, but you must solve the customer's problem."
Other conference seminars included: Publicizing Your Business, Deb Levy of USGlass magazine, Garrisonville, VA; What is EDI?, Tom Bowles of Mainstreet Computers, Inc., Belleville, MI (followed by a panel discussion with Bowles and Terry Miller of Quest Software, St. Johns, MI); An Alternative Way to EDI, Bob Davis of Glasscomp, Morton, IL; The Numbers Inside Your Business, Joel Morse of Dee's Windshield Repair, Westminster, CA; Liability Insurance, Brant Watson of Hefferman & Peterson, Sonoma, CA; State Farm and Windshield Repair, Bill Hardt and Tony Ferrara of State Farm, Bloomington, IL; and The International Experience in Windshield Repair, Russell Zimmerman, Glass Medic International, England.
Taylor said this convention was the best of the three annual conferences to date. "For me, the highlight was easily the recommended practices committee vote," he said. "We now have a document ready for public comment."
The draft will be distributed for comment by everyone in the repair industry until July 31. After this date, the committee will meet to evaluate comments and make necessary changes. The group has not yet decided how often the guidelines will be reviewed.
Another NWRA committee that reported on its progress is the certification committee. Leo Cyr, NOVUS Franchising Inc., Gulf Breeze, FL, and chairman of the committee reported on the groups' progress. Cyr said approximately one more year of work exists before the process is complete. When this occurs, repair technicians will have the opportunity to receive professional recognition.
"We're sending a message that windshield repair will not be ignored," said Cyr. The test, which should be ready by early 1999, will be computer-based.
While attendees found some of the seminars helpful, most said interaction with others was the highlight. "The connections made with everyone was invaluable," said Dee Morse of Dee's Windshield Repair of Westminster, CA.
"I received a million dollars worth of ideas," Lucien Boulanger, A-1 Windshield Doctor, of Seekonk, MA, agreed. "The thing I liked most about the conference was learning from other people," he said.
Tara Taffera is the assistant editor of USGlass magazine.
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