Volume 9, Issue 2 - March/April/May 2007

The Judgeís View
Bickford Sees Value in Repair Competition
By Les Shaver

Jay Bickford has worked in the auto glass repair industry for two decades. He started as a repair technician for Novus Windshield Repair in Albuquerque, N.M., in 1987 before moving to the companyís franchise management team in 1996. Currently, heís director of training and development for NOVUS Franchising in Savage, Minn. This resume perfectly positioned Bickford to judge last yearís Windshield Repair Olympics. Here are his thoughts on the event:

Q: How do you think competitors can best prepare for the Repair Olympics?
A: One of the best things I think they can do is work on their customer interaction skills. This should include their presentation before the repair, explanation of the repair process itself, and post-repair items, such as discussing the results of the repair with the customer and filling out the invoice and getting the customerís signature.

Q: What was the most common mistake/problem you saw with competitors in last yearís competition?
A: I think what a lot of people didnít realize was just how important the interaction with the customer was to the overall score. We are looking at the entire customer experience and not just the quality of the repairs. This is where the best people had the edge.

Q: As a judge, what did you find most difficult in judging the competition?
A: Since there were several competitors all working at the same time, one of the most difficult things was just keeping up with everyone and making sure I was checking what I needed to check with each one. The assistants were a really big help in this area, because if I didnít see or hear something, they usually did. But, then again, there were more of them than there were of us.

Q: How do you think the competition compares to day-to-day reality and what can we learn from each of these contestants?
A: I think that, although the competition is by its very nature an artificial creation, it does compare to day-to-day reality in that the things we are looking for and judging on all contribute to higher levels of customer satisfaction. If we can all learn how important it is to strive for high levels of professionalism and customer satisfaction, that will be a very good thing for the industry.

Q: What advice would you give competitors?
A: To study the rules of the competition thoroughly before they arrive. The types of things we are looking for are all listed, so if you study the documents beforehand, you will have a pretty good idea [of] what we will be judging on. Another thing is to imagine that you are on a real mobile repair job and then take appropriate precautions for that environment.

Q: What do you look for when judging?
A: I was looking for great customer interaction and great repairs. I was also looking a lot at the care the technician was giving the customerís caróthings like using a proper fender/hood protector and not putting the tool box on the hood of the customerís car.

Q: Why is it harder for competitors to perform under pressure?
A: I think it is natural to feel nervous when you know you are under the microscope, and that is certainly what is happening in a competition such as this. I think the key is just to practice your routine over and over until you make it your own. And by this I donít just mean that you practice your repair skills, but your customer interaction skills as well. You could tell that the competitors who did well last year were a just little more comfortable. They were just doing what they do every day.

Q: Do you think contestants can use the competition to improve the quality of their repairs?
A: I donít think that at the point of the competition you should be working on improving the quality of your repairs too much. However, I think the competition can serve as an inspiration to improve your repair quality before you get there. In the end, the whole point of the competition is to find and recognize the best of the best in the industry. Striving to that end is a worthy goal.

Q: How do you think contestants can use the competition to market their businesses?
A: That is pretty easy if you are the first- or second-place finisher, because, if it were me, I would let everyone in my marketplace know that I had won or that one of the technicians from my company had won. I would put that fact in all of my advertising and marketing materials.

Q: What do you like most about judging?
A: It was fun to get together again with so many of the great people I have met in this industry in my 20-plus years of involvement. 

Q: What did you like least about judging?
A: There wasnít anything that I can point to that I really didnít like. I love this industry and it is great to see it coming to a greater level of maturity. Being a judge was a good experience for me overall.

Q: Have you incorporated anything you learned from the judging experience into your job or what you teach your installers?
A: Nothing new really, but it did serve as a reminder that we all need to push for high levels of professionalism and customer satisfaction at every point where we deal with the customer. 

Les Shaver is the editorial director of AGRR magazine.

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