Does anyone out there still remember the Sears’ Christmas Catalogue? For those out there who are not past a certain age, this was literally the best connection a child had to Santa. Devilishly mailed to homes somewhere at the end of October, it gave a child of the 1950s far too many ideas early enough to create and lobby Santa’s elves (aka, the parents) for the ideal presents that could be acquired in the great delivery drop on the night of December 24th.
Sad to say, kids grow up and much has changed. Amazon and UPS have ascended while Sears and the Postal Service fight for survival. Yet, the urge to create a wish list for me has hardly diminished over time. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to fulfill a few children’s “fair and reasonable” (just love that phrase) requests. However just one more time, I wish I could put out the milk and cookies and try to lure Santa into granting me a few wishes concerning one of my life-long loves—automotive glass replacement (AGR). Below are some long-time industry aspirations on my list.
AGR is a craft. Let’s treat it as such.
One of the most tired arguments I hear revolves around the numbers game. “How many can you do a day?” is perhaps the most superficial and egotistical question one can boast in AGR. I’m sad to say, for many in our industry remuneration is purely based on that metric. From “Mr. Big” in our industry to a large number of one-person operators, AGRR professionals should be asking “How good?” instead of “How many?”
I can understand the reasons for performance-based pay, but all too often it is the direct cause of bad, unprofessional work. I have never seen such overall poor craftsmanship in jobs. Product quality needs to improve.
It is very hard to install properly when either the windshield or sidelite simply just does not fit, or it is scratched or distorted. Hey, we may be able to install a new door glass $50 cheaper than 10 years ago, but if hardware does not line up or properly stay in the channel, or we go blind looking through it, why are we patting ourselves on the back? Have we become so thankful that our end user is oblivious or just plain ignorant to the fact that the replacement product we use usually is not of the same quality that they had before?
Third-party glass administrators (TPAs) need to be banned.
There is no justification other than protecting insurers from liability and from having increased employee costs for having outside companies manage glass claims, one in particular. The fact that the nation’s largest TPA is owned and operated as a subsidiary and golden funnel of the nation’s automotive glass installation company is simply a travesty. It may be a better built mousetrap for the company but all it connotes to the rest of the industry is that it is more of a rodent infestation that should be stamped out. Its signature behavior revolves around the three S’s: steering, slow pay and short pay.
Six Sigma is not a panacea for success. People are.
I try to operate in the most efficient manner possible. Small operators, especially mobile ones, more often react to orders and jobs than larger operators do. The issue I have with companies that embrace Six Sigma principles is that the employees usually bear the brunt of said “efficiencies.” Cheaper products or logistics can be chosen, but the more oppressive option is if two employees can be made to do the work of three. Or the more commonplace option is the one man installation where two people is better. The bottom line may not suffer but quality often does. The term “installation sub-contractor” is sadly becoming more frequent, which does not add to the overall professionalism of AGR. Is “Uber-Glass” just around the corner?
Can the AGR industry regain the ability to be the master of our own domain?
The largest shift in AGR over the past 30 years is the loss of control we have over product and practices. Insurers dictate to us (through TPAs) what we should charge and install via an anachronistic pricing system that has no bearing or influence on our current purchasing ability. While there are far too many small operators that poison the marketplace with subsistent pricing models, they lack the foresight and vision to realize they aid and abet larger corporate bodies that actually can and do influence or control markets.
AGR almost rivals Wall Street when it comes to misleading and even lying to its clients. For many in this industry it is a commonplace practice. Clients calling in insurance claims are blissfully ignorant of who is actually handling the scheduling of their glass replacement. When do certain DOT numbers like 563 and 65 appear on an OEM windshield? Is the roll of generic moulding that is used on vehicles an exact match in shape, size and density that came on the car? How much education concerning safe-drive-away time (SDAT) do we spend with customers? It is my personal observation that in trying to make a caller a customer, truth or honesty tends to be the loser.
Hire More Veterans
The one thing this industry needs more of are folks who are responsible, mission-oriented people that possess esprit de corps. I can think of no one more suitable for the responsibilities, discipline and pride in craftsmanship for AGR than a returning veteran.
I appreciate the courage and optimism of anyone who wants to open up a business. I personally would like to be plastic surgeon but California, for some strange reason, actually wants me to have a medical degree, train for six more years and pass a competency test put out by that specialty. Personally, I believe my rights have been squashed by not being allowed to perform mobile augmentations. This industry cares very little about its professional reputation by not demanding entry standards that must be met before doing installs. Selling to anyone and everyone glass products dilutes the professional reputation of all in AGR.
Every week I see blogs on leadership. So why is our industry suffering so much from a lack of it? Are we owned by higher interests? Has AGR been divided so much by the giants and the little guys that nothing improves? Should NAGS be banished to the trash pile? Can the industry create a substitute that won’t be co-opted? Can entry and installation practices be created and enforced? By whom? Should TPAs be allowed to exist? If not, can they be “purified” of corporate glass ownership to end biased internal steering? These are real industry-wide issues that may have been acknowledged but absolutely no one has been able to make progress, much less even move the needle toward solving these troubling and stifling issues.
I’m sorry Santa if I’ve unloaded an impossible set of wishes on you. I presume you may make a return demand of baking enough cookies to feed the residents of both India and China five times over. If you can’t fulfill this list, who can? Should I contact Amazon? After all, they have a fulfillment center.
Merry Christmas and a “Fair and Reasonable” New Year to all.