AGRR Magazine
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Industry Focus on Las Vegas Meetings

Las Vegas was the epicenter of the auto glass replacement and repair educational effort last week, with the Independent Glass Association (IGA) and National Windshield Repair Association (NWRA) both holding their annual meetings.

The educational program in Las Vegas got underway on Thursday, March 2, with a joint session of the IGA and NWRA on two of the most important developments affecting the industry, the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard (AGRSS) and Repair of Laminated Auto Glass (ROLAGS).

Carl Tompkins, chairperson of the AGRSS credentialing committee, explained how the AGRSS program works. "Our future depends on AGRSS," he told the crowd.

While companies register with the AGRSS program, Tompkins explained that all AGRR businesses have access to AGRSS and gave the example of the body shop which asked the AGRSS Council what its stand was on used glass. The result was a ruling by AGRSS that used glass can be used but is only acceptable under several very specific circumstances.

"We have corrected and continue to correct the ills which our industry has been subjected to historically," he said. "We have improved technician performance and professionalism, provided procedures to meet pertinent FMVSS standards, set guidelines and objectives for suppliers, promoted awareness for safe auto glass installation, provided a code of bet practices, achieved consistency among installation practices, and created a common benchmark," he explained.

He pointed out that the registration program was created so that businesses could promote themselves as complying with the AGRSS standard. "You must take the initiative in your local community to brand AGRSS with your company. No association can do that, the AGRSS Council can't do that, you have to do it," he told attendees.

Tompkins explained how AGRSS has now moved to a phase two stage in which companies have to do a self-assessment to show that they do comply with the AGRSS standard. "We're saying you don't just walk the walk, but talk the talk," he said.
He made the point that while AGRSS is a voluntary standard, it should be treated as if were a law because other voluntary standards have been used to show liability when not complied with. "It's not a law until you break it," he stated. "Then it can be used against you." Tompkins also predicted that eventually, consumers will demand that a company be AGRSS registered before they give it the job.

The Windshield Draft

Dave Taylor, vice chair of the ROLAGS committee, described the draft standard for windshield repair. "This effort is to make the windshield repair industry more professional," he stated.

He explained that the genesis for this effort is that repair is entirely different from replacement. It requires different skills, equipment, and training. "The fact that you can replace a windshield does not mean you can do a repair. Just because you can eat gourmet food does not make you a chef," he said.

The draft standard has a glossary of repair and related terminology, damage types and reparable dimensions and repair limitations, among other things.

Taylor said that a subcommittee is currently working on the comments which have been received to the proposed standard.

Once these have been addressed, they will go to the committee and it will address them. "This will take some time," he said.

There is not a specific timetable, but Taylor said that the effort would almost certainly go into next year. He pointed out that states which have periodic motor vehicle inspections will be most affected by the standard once it is completed.

Click, Click a Lead

A lot of companies are going to be under a lot of pressure during the next year. There is a lot of price pressure and a lot of consolidation by the suppliers, Marc Anderson, IGA executive director, told attendees in opening the association's individual program. "There are two places that we are being hurt. By steering and by the Internet," he stated. "As a stand-alone shop in an individual market, it is hard to harness the potential of the international Internet," he explained. Anderson said that insurance companies are in a state of conflict of interest by using companies to process their claims as well as do the work involved in the claim. He then introduced Dave Zoldowski, IGA president, who explained a program under consideration to level the Internet playing field by having an IGA Web presence for consumers who need auto glass work.

He pointed out that customers looking for glass repair shops on-line have grown 800 percent in the last five years, with a 240 percent growth in 2005. On the Yahoo search network alone, in January of this year there were almost 170,000 people looking for auto glass on-line.

"The pay per click market is very expensive, and as an individual shop, you can't do it," he said. "But as a group it becomes possible." Zoldowski said that his company's referrals from yellow pages has dropped from 16 percent to 8 percent, and he is finding that more of his referrals are coming from people who found the company on the Internet.

The goal, he said, is to be fully active by April 15 with a high-profile Web site that comes up when consumers do an Internet search for auto glass and AGR. It will have over 33,000 pages and is designed to capture any Web searcher looking for auto glass repair or windshield repair within their local hometown. On-line customers can choose their state and city and be able to see what glass shops are listed in their local area who are IGA members. "It will operate on the same principle as other Internet operators such as 89glass, which captures the job and then puts it out for bid and pays the local shop which does the work," he explained.

IGA has contracted with a lead optimizer, Jay Bale, to operate the e-commerce operation. "Contracting these skills will give the IGA the ability to place our Web site in a market position that will ensure our survival as the leads system turns toward electronic media," Zoldowski told attendees. "We feel that we can get an advantage quickly," he added.

Steering-The Not-so-silent Killer

"Steering and pricing are interconnected issues," said Anderson, in introducing a session on that subject. He said that, although it is controversial, litigation is the way to go to control this practice because it is a legal issue. "We say to the court that we think this is an illegal practice and we want you to rule on it," he explained. "We think that if we can change their scripting practices such as telling consumers that they may have out-of-pocket expenses, that will go a long way." Anderson said that there are laws in dozens of states which give consumer choice and when that is being ignored, the law is being flaunted. "The IGA is about making a level playing field and using the law to do that," he said.

Tom Goodman, IGA attorney, gave a status report on the IGA anti-steering litigation.

He said that on none of the grounds on which IGA sued did it lose on the merits. The claims were dismissed on procedural grounds, he stated. For example, he said the fraud charges were dismissed because the judge ruled that IGA did not have standing to bring the suit because all its members had not been affected. "This is the same thing as saying the NAACP could not sue for discrimination because not all black people are discriminated against," he said.

"In round two," he continued, "we will start a new list and take shops on the list which have asked us to become plaintiffs, and a list of the consumer statutes which apply and we're going to sue. We are not going to sue as an association. We will not make that mistake again. The use of unlicensed insurance adjustors will be approached in a different way. We're going to claim that it is a fraudulent practice on Safelite's part."

Anderson said that he didn't know what the timeframe is for round two, but the expectation is that it will be soon.

METRYX Discussed

After a lunch break, Chris Umble, vice president of strategic operations, LYNX Services, discussed the METRYX industry services registry.

He spoke about value creation and its importance to the industry. He said the question has been, "How do you take that value creation and allow customers to understand and use the differentiating qualities of your company for them to make a decision?"

He explained that the stages of buyer readiness/loyalty are: awareness (which means getting them to call you first, perhaps through a yellow pages ad), knowledge (comprehension by the consumer of what is important and what your company offers) to preference (which is taking the action of giving you the job).

Over 9,500 companies have registered with METRYX. They have over 25,000 service areas, with less than 100 zip codes which are not covered. There are almost 30,000 registered technicians. "That is a lot of data to validate," he said. He gave the example of AGRSS registration. Approximately 1,800 companies reported they were AGRSS registered, and in reality there were only 500 which were. So they had to contact the companies which said they were and tell them they weren't. Some, he reported, thought that they were AGRSS registered and were surprised to find out they weren't.

He referenced Dave Casey's article in the January/February issue of AGRR in which he says that if METRYX does not result in value creation for the consumers, companies and insurers, then it is a waste of time. "We agree with that completely. We don't have any more time and money than you do, so we want to go on from validation to value creation," he said.

Award Time

Marc Anderson presented two awards. The Glass Man of the Year award went to Mark Rizzi, ACR Glass, Alliance, Neb. Rick Rosard, president of the Minnesota Glass Association and an IGA board member, received the President's Award.

The Key

Chuck Lloyd, an attorney who has been prominent in the auto glass industry, gave the keynote address.

"I'm tired of presiding over business funerals," he said at the outset. "I've had it with an industry that has been trampled on and has turned its fate over to others and waits for a knight in shining armor to come to the rescue."

He said that the IGA undertook what he called a very ambitious project two years ago when it filed the lawsuit. He said that he didn't sign on with that effort because he did not think that the industry had the resolve to do what needed to be done to win it.

"Unfortunately, I was right." However, he said that he thinks enough has happened since then, he the industry's ire has been raised enough to tackle the issue now. That's why he has signed on as co-counsel with the new IGA lawsuit.

He said the three most important things facing the industry are: access to jobs (the number one issue), price erosion, and lack of vision. "No one wants to look beyond their own misery," he said. "You've got to. That's the only way problems like steering and short pays are going to be dealt with. It's not a fair fight and you can't win on your own," he said.

He also spent considerable time talking about the lack of marketing. He called current industry marketing efforts, overall, pathetic. He said that being on a rotation basis with the networks makes marketing more important than ever. "You have to promote your services, your quality," he told attendees.

His advice was to talk to people about the things which matter to them. They want convenience, they want security, they want safety. "You can't assume that consumers know that mobile service is available. Some one is telling them, but they may not know that you can do it," he said. "You've got to let them know." Find out why consumers are canceling their jobs. "If it's because they are being told that they may have out of pocket costs if they use your shop, you have to let IGA know. That's what we're here for," he said.

Show Time

Following the close of the educational program, the Spring Glass Show opened in the Cashman Center exhibition area.
The three-hour event allowed attendees to examine the offerings of a range of industry suppliers.
Pilkington sponsored a two-hour social event on the show floor.

Fund Raising

Following Chuck Lloyd's presentation, Marc Anderson called for contributions for the IGA Legal Fund. Many attendees pledged from $500 to $1,500. A total of $23,000 was pledged in 10 minutes.

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