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Volume 7    Issue 5           September/October  2005

Customer Service
Tips for quality service

Increase Your Profit Margin
by Carl Tompkins

I recently learned of an incident involving a vehicle owner who called around looking for a deal on a windshield. He received a quote for any new windshield of $125 or used for $60, installed. (No other information was provided by the glass shop in relation to the pricing offered.) He had the work done, a new windshield installed at his home. 

It was interesting to hear his experience. The technician showed up a day late with no phone call or notice of delay. His wife had a hard time communicating with the technician. The appearance of the glass shop truck and technician was disgusting. The parts removed from the vehicle during the glass cut-out were laid out on their front lawn, the technician stepped on one of the wiper arms and bent it. 

Upon completion of the job, the technician completed a small cash receipt when he received the $125 payment and bid farewell. The car had chunks of cured urethane beads left in the floorboard area and residue dust around the interior dash. The glass was not washed and the exterior paint areas surrounding the windshield were smudged with oily fingerprints. The top and sides of the windshield were taped down with silver duct tape. The bent wiper arm was straightened out as well as possible, but only half the wiper blade touched the glass. A razor blade was found under the car.

When I inquired as to warranty and safe drive-away time, the owner claimed to have been provided nothing concerning these subjects. He did recall the technician telling his wife to leave the tape on for a couple of days before removing it.

Cleaned Up or Out
Using a lot of elbow grease and cleaners, the tape was removed resulting in the top molding pulling away from the vehicle. The windshield leaked at both top corners. The glass shop did not come back to repair the situation for more than a week and denied any responsibility of damaging the wiper arm.

The vehicle owner suddenly came to realize why his great price was nearly half what other area glass shops had quoted and, following my inputs about other safety and operational concerns that should be investigated, he felt totally ripped off!

This scenario represents an element of competition against which glass shops must learn to compete. While this particular customer does not need to be counseled about how to make a better glass shop selection next time, having gone through such a horrific experience, our combined concern is to help automobile owners make the best decision the first time. The best decision equates to paying a fair price for proper glass installation.

The theme to follow in selling the right job for the right price is referred to as “leveraging your value.” Customers will pay any price quoted as long as that price can be justified through the values provided. The current problem glass shops face is that the general public is not educated on the merits of a safe auto glass installation completed in a quality manner with good customer service. In essence, they view all glass shops as being equal and, until we reach this level of customer and teach them the difference, many are going to seek the lowest price.

Leverage Your Value
So, how best to leverage your value? The following steps, when done properly, will create a larger accepting audience for higher prices that will return acceptable margins of profit.

1. List the values that your company provides.
The key to listing values is to understand that they represent “features” you provide within your products and services. As you list such values, be sure to associate each with a “benefit” to the customer. A tip on drawing features and benefits together within your value listing is to add the phrase, “...and what this means to you is....” For example and right up front your leading feature should be that, “All auto glass installed by our company complies with the ANSI/AGRSS standard for proper auto glass installation.” How this feature listing should be completed is, “... and what this means to you is that you can rest assured that your auto glass parts will provide their required safety device function in terms of structural integrity and occupant protection.”

There are many values to list. To name a few, consider the topics of mobile service, warranty, safe drive-away time, OEM materials, technician certifications, scheduling, locations, time in business, insurance coverage, outline of installation service, appearance, additional products and services, associations and registrations.

As a reminder, remember that customers’ buying decisions revolve around the elements of reliability, responsiveness, assurance, empathy and image.

2. Sell your values.
Equipped with your value list, made up of features and benefits, the next key issue is educating your customers so that they understand the relevance of these critical topics which, in turn, justifies your price. While the features and benefits aspect of your values should sell themselves, the idea is to reach as many customers through as many mediums of communication as possible to promote your business.

Make sure all your employees are schooled in your values so that they can present such information when the opportunity arises.

When considering mediums of communication, brainstorm all possible avenues. Examples would be phones, outside selling efforts, ads, yellow pages, phone recordings, trade shows, associations, direct mailers, television, radio, fliers and customer referrals. As a reminder, research indicates that many glass shops have utilized such mediums to sell their products and services. Unfortunately, these shops often only outline features and fail to tie relevant benefits to each.

The goal is to make sure every person within your market area understands how to make a value-based decision in selecting a glass shop that involves far more than an invoice amount. 

I find strong merit in using the motto that the cheapest windshield job can be the most expensive mistake a customer can ever make! 

Another valuable tip is to take into account that the closer customers are to the result of the job, the more sensitive they are to the values you provide. 

This means that automobile owners are the best target to leverage your values.

Since it is their car and safety at stake, they will be the most interested to become educated on the subject of safe auto glass installation and other associated services you provide.

3. Validate your values.
Look at your list of values. What are they really worth to the customer? From the many insurance seminars I conduct around the country, one of the most common questions I get from agents is, “I bought a used car for my child that he uses to go to work. How can I determine if the windshield has been replaced and done properly?” 

I encourage them to take the car to a qualified glass shop for inspection. The worst that can happen is that they buy a new windshield which may cost $350. I conclude that those riding behind that windshield are well worth the investment. 

Critical Education
In nine years I’ve never had an agent blink an eye. Why? Because by the time they finish attending the seminar they have been made fully aware of the critical nature of a properly functioning windshield. Proof positive of the value of such education is this constant comment I get from agents, “I never knew how important safe auto glass installation has become.”

If you take the time and exert the right type of effort, you too will find many customers coming to the same conclusion. 

Will all customers be equal in how they determine the value of your services?

The answer is, unfortunately, no. There are those few who just don’t care. I had a glass shop owner tell me a car owner stated, “You’re just trying to scare me into using your glass shop!” What a pity. 

8 Out of 10
Being realistic, the higher majority (I estimate 8 out of 10) are going to be very sensitive to the safety aspects if they can be reached with the proper education. 

The question then becomes, “What is safe windshield installation worth on an invoice?” You need to determine the answer to this question based on the costs associated with the use of proper products, well trained and certified technicians, supporting services and the necessary profit to sustain the on-going availability and function of your business. I like to refer to this as the price baseline.

While safety is the cake of your value list, the icing would be the elements of appearance, timeliness, warranty, courtesy, location, hours and other associated services. Each will have an itemized value to the customer and your long-term goal is to identify how many dollars each is worth. 

For example, you may determine that your average cost and required profit to provide safe auto glass installation sets an average price at $300. From this base of $300, your “icing” category of services add up to be worth an additional $45 per job. This culminates in a goal of $345. The $45 dollar add-on can become the variable of negotiation as you work through your matrix of customers.

The Bottom Line
Looking back to my earlier story of the $125 windshield job, that customer claimed on-time service was worth $20 because of the time and frustration of rescheduling. The clean up they had to go through was worth at least $30 for the time he spent doing what the technician should have done. The cost of his wiper was $42 and he was left with a “crummy” feeling about the whole affair when he had to clean his driveway and found the razor blade. 

I asked about the safety aspects of the job and he merely shook his head and said, “I don’t even begin to know how to put a price on that aspect of the job.”
The key is to have a strong offense in selling the benefits of paying your price. The stronger your offense, the less defense you have to employ in terms of cutting price to the point of a losing battle. 

Carl Tompkins is Western states area manager for the Sika Corp. of Madison Heights, Mich. He is based in Spokane, Wash.

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