State Farm, Lynx field questions at NWRA meeting

By Jenni Chase, Glass Magazine
November 10, 2008
AUTO : MEETINGS AND EVENTS

Bob Bischoff, national glass manager for State Farm Insurance Cos.; Chris Umble, vice president, strategic initiatives for Lynx Services; and Maura Crittenden, manager, glass claims services, for State Farm, sat down with about 20 attendees at the National Windshield Repair Association annual meeting in Las Vegas Nov. 7 to field questions about repair policies and other industry-related topics. A synopsis of the question-and-answer session follows:

Q: When a customer has [called] a shop that is not repair-friendly and that shop has already told the customer [to get a replacement when repair is an option], is there any type of gentle push back that you discuss with the customer?

Bischoff: First, I want to address a comment that State Farm is no longer in the repair business. Year-to-date, State Farm has paid for almost 100,000 claims that are repairs. On the replacement side of our business, we pay for replacement claims but we charge deductibles. We do the exact same thing on the repair side of it. We still are in the business of paying claims that are covered under our policies, we just expect that the policyholder pays the deductible under their policy.

[To answer your question], if you [as a customer] talk to someone that you perceive as an expert and they tell you that you need a replacement, it’s awfully tough to change that mindset.

Umble: We still try to inform them of the benefit of repair as long as that replacement hasn’t been done.

Q: Five or 10 years down the road, do you see repair and replacement becoming a maintenance item and not in your purview at all?

Bischoff: In my opinion, no. The auto policy at State Farm is not a maintenance policy; it’s not intended to cover wear-and-tear on the vehicle. The rust and corrosion that you deal with at times is clearly something that occurs over a period of time. I see windshields as being different. There’s an event that happens [to cause a loss]: a rock hits the windshield, etc.

Q: Is there any plan to require certification for technicians and/or shops, both from the repair side and the replacement side, to be able to participate in your programs?

Bischoff: Bottom line is our policyholders choose which glass shops they want to go to. We took a step back in 2005 and added language to the O&A [offer and acceptance] contract that said you must perform replacements in accordance with the AGRSS standard. We look to your industry, the glass side, to really drive acceptance of the standard. I very much want to see what the end result of that is going to be.

For example, they announced at the AGRSS meeting the Phase III validation program. If that does well in terms of identifying shops that do and don’t do well, that would be something we’d look at for non-choice work. That’s not an announcement by any means.

So, the answer is yes, we’d look at that. But I need to see that it’s going to provide an end result that says what the benefit is to our policyholder. … When somebody says I don’t know where to go, when we give those names out, I want to know that I’m giving the customers the names of shops that will do a good job.

Umble: We’re not in a position to require AGRSS registration. We’re very encouraged by the validation process that AGRSS is going to embark on. If State Farm were to say today ‘we’re going to give deference to shops that are AGRSS registered,’ every shop would register. But the point is there would be people who would register but not perform to the standard, and that would degrade the whole AGRSS effort. It would be great [if] the data says AGRSS-registered shops are predicted to have a better outcome. Then you’ll see insurance companies wanting to use AGRSS as a standard because it’s valid.

Q: In my market, I see a lot of bad repairs come in, and that is one of the reasons I’ve stuck by NWRA: to help establish minimum standards to get these people off the street corners. Right now, there is no quality control in the repair industry. I’m hoping ROLAGS [Repair of Laminated Automotive Glass Standard] will be the standard by which you can develop licensing and maybe a preferment for your referrals.

Bischoff: I think we’ve shown that commitment by supporting AGRSS on the replacement side. There will be openness to supporting ROLAGS on the repair side, but I haven’t seen consensus in the industry on the standard yet. Every time a question like this comes up, I ask how the State Farm policyholder will benefit. We want the same thing I believe, which is a quality job done at a fair price. Sometimes there is disagreement as to what that is though.