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Feeney Works to Dispel Myths about Safelite Solutions

Tom Feeney, executive vice president of Belron US, spent more than an hour on Friday, May 2, attempting to dispel many misconceptions he feels independent shop owners have about Safelite Solutions, the third-party administrator branch of the company.

Feeney spoke for more than an hour on Friday, May 2, about issues of importance to independents.

"I thought hard about why I was coming to an audience called 'unfriendly,'" he said. "In the end, I believe all our constituents will be served better by working together on things about which we do agree."

After giving a bit of history on how Safelite came to develop its own network-in response to a need for shops in locations where there previously weren't any—he took on the myths surrounding the company.

Among these was one issue he called "the elephant in the room"—steering (or deceptive referrals) (CLICK HERE for related story.)

"You give us way too much credit," he said. "We're not as good as you think we are. Why would we risk a major multi-million contract to give an extra replacement to one of our auto glass shops? We'd never risk our business by doing something illegal."

He added, "We are a very competitive organization, but you are not my competition."

Feeney also reminded audience members who Safelite Solutions' customers are.

"We take very seriously that those calls are not our customers—they're the insurance companies' customers," he said.

Feeney's session was one of the most popularly attended of the three-day event.

And pricing? "When you get the price from Safelite Solutions, I assure you it's the same price insurers give us," he said.

Feeney also talked about timing on pricing, noting that the company pays shops in 12 days or less from the time the invoice is received, and that the money is released from Safelite within one day of its receiving payment from the insurance companies. In instances when this doesn't happen, Feeney said it's likely either an invoice wasn't received quickly at Safelite, or there was something wrong with the invoice. He encouraged attendees who had examples of late payments to contact the company to figure out what the issue might be.

"If you haven't been paid, there's something wrong with the invoices," said Feeney.

Later in the presentation, when asked about this again, he added, "Many shops are not fast billers-but that's your business, not ours."

He also spoke to concerns that shops' proprietary information is distributed throughout the company's other divisions, including its retail portion.

"Information we get from you is not disclosed to Safelite Auto Glass field management," Feeney said.

And how does the company feel about anti-steering legislation?

"We support anti-steering legislation," he said. "We do not support the gag order where we cannot tell consumers about their policyholder rights or legislation that says you cannot answer phones (i.e., administer claims) and install glass."

Many in the audience also commented that they had jobs "stolen" from Safelite-for example, a technician showing up to do a job and finding that a Safelite technician was in the process of completing the job already.

"We do not steal jobs," he said. "Safelite field management complains about this too. They think we steal jobs from them too."

"I thought that might give you a little tug at the heart," Feeney chuckled.

He stressed openness throughout the presentation.

"Anytime you're in Columbus, Ohio, the hot spot of America, we'd be happy to host you in our offices," Feeney offered.

GlasWeld president Mike Boyle asked Feeney if all the myths are untrue, why he believes Safelite has the reputation among independents that it does.

"The fact that we have shops that replace auto glass and that we answer the phones," he replied.

Feeney took questions from numerous audience members, including Donna Braden of Jack's Glass, who advised she's encountered not only steering efforts, but also "hostility" from Safelite Solutions' customer service representatives when assisting customers with setting up glass claims.

Feeney encouraged Braden to provide information on the particular calls to him so that he might pull the tapes of the calls and can look into the circumstances surrounding the calls.

"Hostility and rudeness—there's no place for it," he said, adding that to pull a call, he'd need information such as the date of loss, reference number and/or the customer's name.

Another audience member commented on Feeney's observation that Safelite doesn't "steal work" from independents—noting that he's shown up for jobs before and found Safelite techs there.

"We're as curious about those instances as you are," Feeney responded.

Another wondered why glass shops must provided their "proprietary information," such as how much they pay for glass, to Safelite Solutions when it processes claims in which the shop is involved.

"It depends on the requirements of the insurance companies," Feeney advised, "but that information doesn't go any further than that."

Those in attendance seemed to appreciate Feeney's presentation at the conference, despite their many questions and concerns.

"I give [Safelite] a lot of credit to show that they're extending the olive branch, as they know there's a lot of negativity out there toward their corporation," said IGA board member Mike Russo of Thru-Way Glass in Syracuse, N.Y.

Russo added, "I also credit [Feeney] with taking questions that were not pre-selected or pre-screened."

Stay tuned to™ for more coverage of the IGA Conference tomorrow.

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