Auto Glass Week™ Attendees Get Tips for Staying Ahead of the Curve
September 24, 2012

by Megan Headley, mheadley@glass.com

Auto Glass Week 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 entitled "Staying Ahead of the Curve." Gary Hart, executive director of the Independent Glass Association (IGA), moderated Saturday's interactive session on emerging issues for auto glass repair and replacement retailers.

The session opened with a discussion on gathering customers and promoting companies. "When we're talking about gathering customers, we also have to educate them at the same time," Hart said.

He suggested that attendees 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, thanks to social media.

IGA board member Matt Bailey of 20/20 Auto Glass added that having those voices on your Facebook page expands your reach immediately. "The only thing is, you have to solicit that," he said. He offers customers at the end of a job to "get a $5 gift card by just going on the website and posting a review. "[It] doesn't even have to be positive," he said.

By show of hands, the audience demonstrated that their companies are on Facebook, but few said they are actively pursuing an audience.

Bailey added that his techs will post fun photos to engage viewers in the brand.

"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.

Hart 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 your company to be online where these new customers can find you. Once they do, and are pleased with your service, they'll become your ambassadors.

Another suggestion from Hart: Always be open. IGA treasurer Rick Rosar of Rapid Glass 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 also advised that having the capability to instantly schedule that job is key.

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

In response to an audience question about the best methods for advertising, Hart suggested networking with other businesses. Get creative, he advised, suggesting valet stands, hotels and other places where a vehicle is going to be for more than 10 minutes.

"Direct marketing is now the new solution in the industry," Hart said. "Go where the jobs are."

Hart cited retailers who check depths of tire treads and offer coupons to partner tire shops. "It shouldn't stop at auto glass," Hart said.

The panel next went on to talk about the claims process. Hart 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 glass shops not agree to inspection requests. "If you have a customer on the phone, it's obvious they have a glass issue," said Hart.

Hart also reminded audience members that 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," Rosar chimed in. Rosar noted that his techs always do a three-way call, and recently implemented a policy where they always use the term "TPA" rather than identifying and therefore branding another company. They also explain to the customer what they will hear from the TPA, and combat that with education about independents. Rosar said his team advises customers that they will not be charged the difference (if they choose to use his independent shop).

Finally, the panel agreed that it's important to promote your warranty whenever possible. Bailey added that a warranty that goes above and beyond - chip hazard repair or money back for a water leak - can be worth the cost because it's an excellent differentiator and strong marketing tool.

All of these suggestions were tied into the panel's advice to always communicate. From thank yous and follow-ups to appointment reminder emails, it's important to keep a line of communication active with the customer. "It makes [the customer] feel better to the point that they'll come back with one more thing," Hart said.

The group also stressed the importance of 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.

Look for more coverage of Auto Glass Week in the November/December issue of AGRR™ magazine.

This story is an original story by AGRR™ magazine/glassBYTEs.com™. Subscribe to AGRR™ Magazine.
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