Knowledge is power

By Leo Cyr
July 1, 2007
AUTO : TRAINING

 

Leo CyrThe American business world seems determined to destroy public confidence in its commitment to any semblance of ethical management or responsibility to its customers. Look at the bankrupt Enron investors, million-dollar birthday parties for corporate wives and billion-dollar bonuses for mutual fund managers. Corporate megalomania rules everywhere.

When this article was written, the average American had the option of buying gasoline for $3.22 a gallon, or walking. In addition, oil company refinery profits reached a record $40 per barrel of crude. When asked why, an oil industry spokesman pompously blamed Americans for driving too much. He didn’t mention the oil industry’s obscene profits or the fact it has not invested in a new U.S. refinery in 25 years. Some nerve!

Careless disregard for the customer is now the order of the day, and until recently, consumers remained paralyzed by their own powerlessness.

That might be changing as more consumers seek information on the Internet in an effort to make informed buying decisions. Their reasons vary. In my house, it was dog food that prompted me to research my options. The recall of more than 100 brands of poisoned dog food this spring shocked me right out of my lethargy. Dog food and veterinary Web sites were useless. Finally, a national non-profit association Web site led me to a supplier that openly disclosed every ingredient in its dog food. Of course, the food cost me three times what I had been paying, but no matter. The dogs love it, and my masculine “protect” hormones are at peace.

The point is that dog food was just dog food to me until an irresponsible importer of foreign poison threatened my family’s pets. The average consumer thinks no more about auto glass than I thought about dog food before the recall.

A bridge of credibility
The auto glass replacement industry is a responsible industry. We want people to know the facts and make informed decisions.

We know some of the 11 million windshield replacements performed annually in the United States are done by people lacking the requisite skill and knowledge to do the job properly and safely. That fact is not a condemnation of our industry; it is an opportunity to do the right thing.

We also know that consumers ignore millions of dangerously damaged windshields simply because they are unaware of the risks involved. We cannot quantify the scope of the threat exactly. However, if we multiply the average eight-year life expectancy of a vehicle by 1 million or 2 million unrepaired windshields per year, we conclude there could easily be more than 20 million unsafe windshields on the road at any given time.

Francis Bacon said, “Knowledge is power.” The National Glass Association’s Coalition for Auto Glass Safety & Public Awareness is bringing that knowledge to consumers. CASPA promotes auto glass safety awareness. It does not sensationalize or predict dire consequences to those who choose to ignore the information.

CASPA’s first news release of 2007 was titled “Visibility Key to Winter Driving Safety.” The release was reproduced in a number of newspapers and Web sites serving 39 states, precisely because the information was of value and came from a national, unbiased source with a long record of integrity and reliability.

Many of you have done a magnificent job training and certifying your technicians, following industry best practices and building Web sites focused on consumer safety. Through no fault of your own, there is one thing you cannot be: a neutral, impartial source of information. You are a business.

CASPA is like a bridge of credibility between you and your customers. Thanks to the support from NGA and the generosity of some NGA members, CASPA is launching an improved Web site for consumers this year at www.myautoglass.org.

However, CASPA can only be as effective as you give it the resources to be. It needs your support. So, please remember CASPA the next time a customer asks about your professional competency instead of beginning and ending the call with “How much?”

 

The author is the National Glass Association’s vice president of auto glass and executive director of NGA’s Coalition for Auto Glass Safety & Public Awareness. Write him at lcyr@glass.org.