Little investment, big reward

Growing your business through windshield repair
By Thomas Huff
November 4, 2008
AUTO : WINDSHIELD REPAIR

It’s the Monday morning after a long holiday weekend. Your schedule is overbooked, a technician is on vacation and the phone is ringing off the hook when Mrs. Smith walks through your door in an obvious hurry. “I was driving down the road when a stone came up and hit my windshield,” she says. “I’ve heard you can fix these rather than buying a new, expensive windshield. Is that right?” This is the moment of truth for your windshield repair business.

Ask yourself how you have responded to this type of inquiry in the past. What does it say about how you view windshield repair and customer service in your business? Was your response that repair is a:
• Profit generating transaction
• Break-even customer service activity
• Accommodation to insurance customers
• Low-reward hassle or inconvenience
• Lost opportunity for a windshield replacement
• Something you haven’t really thought about?

Regardless of how you view windshield repair, with a fresh approach you can turn it into a profitable transaction with opportunities for add-on or future sales. Repair can provide a low-cost, fast-turnaround, incremental sale that supplements your existing business.

The benefits
First, consider the attractive aspects of windshield repair, especially if you have already invested in repair equipment. Repairs require little material inventory, thus lowering your operating capital needs. The sales cycle for a repair is short; most walk-in customers can be in and out in 30 minutes. The cost of goods sold for a repair is typically less than one dollar, including resin and all other consumables. Most repairs can be woven into your existing schedule, adding an incremental sale without raising your labor costs. Most importantly, you can demonstrate a high level of customer service that will result in future referral sales for replacement and other services.

The preparation
To capitalize on a repair opportunity, your sales and customer service team has to know how to sell the service. How do your sales and customer service employees handle repair inquiries today? How much do they know about the repair process? Do they understand your distinct selling proposition for repair service? When a customer calls, can your sales team do the following?
• Set proper customer expectations that the repair saves the windshield but will leave a mark
• Briefly describe key aspects of the Repair of Laminated Automotive Glass Standard and its relevance in the repair process
• Communicate your policy on mobile vs. in-shop repairs
• Explain the benefits of windshield repair in terms of cost, factory seal and turnaround time
• Convey the “green” benefits of repair
• Understand the sales team’s incentive for selling windshield repair.

Windshield repair offers many compelling sales benefits, but as with any product or service, your team must understand these benefits and be motivated to sell.

Once you're confident your team can sell the service, execute consistent, high-quality repairs. Equipment and resin are critical to your program. Take an accurate inventory of your existing repair equipment and its condition, as well as your vendors. Regardless of your technicians’ skill level, you need up-to-date, quality equipment to do consistent, high-quality repairs. If your equipment is in poor condition, consider upgrading. Many excellent equipment vendors will work with you on selecting the right products.

Resin is another essential element of good repair. Some companies buy resin from their equipment vendors, and others mix and match. Whichever approach you choose, evaluate and experiment with resins from a variety of reputable manufacturers. (See Resources sidebar.)

Finally, invest in training your team. If you haven’t tried to do a repair yourself, I recommend it strongly. Repairs are not difficult, but the difference between average and exceptional repairs is training. Low-cost training is available through a wide variety of sources. The July/August 2008 edition of Glass Magazine, Page 110, featured an article about online training through MyGlassClass.com. The article is available online at http://www.glassmagazine.com/article/auto/training-cyberspace.

In addition, your repair equipment vendor should offer both theoretical and hands-on training options specific to its products. Take advantage of these opportunities to build your team’s skills. Remember, the quality of your repairs reflects on the quality of your replacements and the professionalism of your entire company.

The financials
Improving your sales, training and quality service is great, but what about the financials? Repair can have a big impact through incremental sales and productivity improvements. Ask yourself the following questions:
• How much do I charge for repair? Could I justify charging more per repair?
• What would the top line impact be on my business if I modified my pricing?
• Would my technician productivity improve if they did one additional repair per day or five per week?
• What other products and services can I offer repair customers? What impact will that have on my sales?
• How much potential business am I losing because I do not offer or promote windshield repair?

For most businesses, one or two additional sales per day can have a significant impact on profitability and employee productivity.

The promotion
Once your improved repair program is in place, consider ways to promote windshield repair to a wider audience. You can educate your community about the benefits of repair in many creative ways. Hosting free chip-repair days can draw people into your business at slow times of the year and give you an opportunity to introduce your company to new customers. Distributing windshield repair fact brochures with damage dots to community groups and businesses can help you attract new customers. These brochures are available from the National Glass Association, www.glass.org.

The impact
Regardless of your approach, ultimately you will have to determine how to evaluate, measure and re-evaluate the impact your improved repair program has on your business. Have the number of repairs increased? Has the average selling price for a repair increased? Have your replacement sales increased? How has technician productivity changed? What about customer feedback?

Now that you have a plan, let’s continue our conversation with Mrs. Smith.

“Yes, Mrs. Smith. Your windshield can be repaired according to the Repair of Laminated Automotive Glass Standard. The repair should prevent your windshield from cracking, but it will leave a visible mark. It will preserve the factory seal on your windshield and save us from having to dispose of the glass in a landfill. Our technician can get started now, and it will take approximately 30 minutes. You are welcome to have a seat in our waiting room.”

Your technician completes the repair and Mrs. Smith is happy with the results, the cost savings and the service. Two days later, Mr. Smith calls with a broken back glass. You took such great care of his wife, he did not bother to call another glass company. Two weeks later, Mr. Smith’s brother calls to ask if you handle glass for fleets; his business has 20 vehicles and is unhappy with their current auto glass provider. Now, aren’t you glad you took care of Mrs. Smith’s repair?

 

 

 

 

Thomas Huff is manager, Delaware operations, for Mr. Go-Glass in Dover. He is also a member of the National Glass Association’s National Windshield Repair Committee, www.windshieldrepair.org. Write him at thuff@go-glass.com.