Volume 11, Issue 4 - July/August 2009

I n d e p e n d e n t ’ s D a y

Tracking Steering—Footprints in the Sand
by David Zoldowski

The Independent Glass Association (IGA) presented a highly successful annual conference and trade show to the industry in Florida this past May.

Upon our return from the 2009 Independents’ Days Conference in Florida, IGA publicly launched its anti-steering data collection service that can be accessed through www.iga.org. Our incident report form is now available for use by anyone wishing to report issues of customer intimidation, misinformation and steering. All data is confidential and is being compiled to be made available to IGA members for pooled use.

We have already had some gems come in from members all over the country. Following is an example of the incidents we have obtained. This text below involves the usual misinformation pertaining to national warranties that, in reality, are not warranties.

CSR: Since your windshield qualifies as a repair, [insurance company name redacted] has repair specialty shops in your area who provide professional services. With your permission, I can schedule an appointment now with one of them. Will that be okay?
Customer: No, I want to use [IGA company name redacted].

CSR: [IGA company name redacted]? Have you used them before?
Customer: Yes.

CSR: I’d be happy to contact the company you’ve selected, but would like to inform you the service provider you have chosen is not an [insurer redacted] program participant. Although you are free to choose any services provider, I must inform you that in choosing a non-participant, your replacement or repair will not be covered under the national warranty offered by [insurer redacted] program participants. Any warranty to coverage will be to the terms offered by the company you have selected. I cannot confirm the warranty terms offered by a non-participant. Did you want to continue with [company name redacted]?
Customer: Yes. Can you tell me what the [insurer redacted] warranty is on a repair if I were to use a different company?

CSR: Uh-huh, let me just look it up so I can give you the exact information.
Windshield repairs are warrantied against spreading for the life of the vehicle or the length of the warranty, whichever is shorter. The warranty is limited to the credits towards the purchase of a new windshield installed in the original vehicle. And the applicable deductible for the new windshield is the responsibility of the owner.
Customer: So, it’s basically the same thing. It doesn’t matter. I still have to replace it. I still have to pay that deductible. So there really is no warranty.

CSR: Well, it’s just that the warranty by [insurer redacted] would be under the warranty of the shop.
Customer: But, there’s no warranty by [insurer redacted] because it’s the same deductible for me.

CSR: The warranty is limited to a credit towards the purchase of a windshield.
Customer: But my deductible is the same regardless. Okay, that’s fine. I get it.

This call took place after the IGA member shop explained to the customer exactly what the insurance CSR would tell her. It is IGA’s contention that the “soft-steer” of a non-existent warranty should stop once the customer tells the insurance company that they have selected a shop. IGA is collecting simple examples like the one printed above as well as more benign and aggressive examples of customer intimidation and steering.

The auto glass industry has a unique nuance to its direct repair contracts; the competitor-administrator (CA), or a TPA that makes and installs glass. CAs contract with major insurers to install glass at a low price and also hold the contractual rights to take the first notice of loss (FNOL). This gives the CA direct access to a customer who might not have selected it otherwise. These CAs take advantage of the naiveté of consumers and most likely digest the majority of the calls they receive.

The rub in the auto glass industry occurs when a local independent outbrands the CA and the consumer calls in with a shop in mind. These instances have increased over the past five years with the increased use of the Internet by shops. Many consumers will run an Internet search before they ever pick up a phone. When an independent shop is mentioned to the CA, terms such as out-of-pocket expenses and the promise of national warranties are used.

Independents have found ways to combat these aggressive tactics by making three-way calls, filing the claim for the customer or handling cash-only business. However, we have seen the next evolution of the FNOL competition with “concierge services” where the consumer is required by contract to leave the car with the insurance company for repair and the “only the insured may be on the call” tactic.

The IGA membership has invested in this fight for the good of the entire industry. Isn’t it time your company helped contribute to this fight with IGA membership and wary enforcement of free access to the market?

“When an independent shop is mentioned to the competitor-administrator,
terms such as out-of-pocket expenses and the promise of national warranties
and controlled pricing are used.”

David Zoldowski is the president of Auto One in Brighton, Mich., and president of the Independent Glass Association (IGA). Mr. Zoldowski’s opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.

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