by Bob Beranek
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Last week we talked about the protection every technician should do to prolong his or her career and reduce the chances of pain and injury. This week let’s talk about protecting the vehicle from possible damage.

During my training courses for new entrepreneurs or technicians, I always say that vehicle damage is inevitable. Tools slip, blades break and mistakes happen. The only thing you can do is to try and make the damage superficial rather than serious and pay attention to what you are doing and the condition of your tools. However, our minds wander and attention can be diverted to the point where mistakes occur. We must do our best to protect from that eventuality.

Protecting the vehicle starts with a pre-inspection that recognizes possible weaknesses in the vehicle’s condition. For example, is there aftermarket paint that could peal when protective tape is removed? Or, are there cracks on the dashboard that will become bigger or more noticeable after the installation? Obviously, these must be discussed with the owner and precautions taken to eliminate the possibility of the damage being made worst.

We use protective coverings for the vehicle’s paint and for our bodies as well while we’re working on the vehicle, and that is something we should do automatically. However, pressure to get the job done as soon as possible sometimes leads us to forget or forego proper vehicle protection. We cannot do that. We must, for everyone’s best interest, protect the vehicle.

How you do that is primarily up to you and your employer’s policies. I recommend:

  • Drop cloths;
  • Fender covers;
  • Protective tape;
  • Buckle-less belts;
  • Aprons; and
  • Removing jewelry.

No matter what you do to protect the car the point is to do so.

If a mistake happens and damage occurs because of your actions, it is in your best interest to admit your mistake and offer to fix the problem immediately. Nine times out of ten, the customer will take less than you were willing to offer because of your honesty. If you try to hide the mistake or ignore the damage, they will make you pay everything they can get and then some. Human nature is to forgive when things go wrong and a person is repentant and honest. Be up front and honest. It will pay off.

Why give your profits away? Protect the vehicle. Acquire what is necessary and manage yourself and your employees to use those protections. It will pay you in the long run with added profits and loyal customers.

An important aspect of automotive glass installation that is overlooked at our peril is protection. Protection is a term that can be used in two different contexts. One, the protection against bodily injury and two, protecting the vehicle from possible damage during installation. Both are important steps for the well-being of the technician and the successful and profitable conclusion of the installation.

First, let’s talk about the protection of the technician. Done right, automotive glass installation should not be a particularly dangerous endeavor. Yes, we can cut ourselves and need a few stitches, strain our muscles or get slivers of glass in our fingers, but unlike our sister industry, glazing, we will not lose our lives by falling from tall buildings or sever a hand or arm due to glass fracturing. The most dangerous part of our job is driving from point A to point B. However, none of us want any kind of pain or injury if we can help it. We want to go on day after day and produce the work that gives us a pay check that allows us to enjoy life. To make that wish possible, we have to pay attention and do what we can to protect ourselves.

I have been putting in automotive glass for a long time. I have cut myself three times to the point of stitches being needed. For a glass technician, that is not too bad. How I managed to (mostly) save my own skin is through the use of personal protective equipment, as religiously as I can. The protective equipment includes:

  • Safety glasses;
  • Safety gloves;
  • Safety shoes;
  • Nitrile gloves; and
  • Forearm protectors.

Do I forget sometimes? Of course I do. How do you think I cut myself three times? However, when I catch myself not wearing the equipment, I stop and purposely make a point to correct the oversight. This is how good habits are developed and practiced.

Many times injuries are not noticed in the short term and can sneak up on you over time. This is usually caused by actions that are not “ergonomic.” Ergonomics is a science that deals with designing and arranging the items in a work environment so that people can use them easily and safely. Unfortunately, automotive glass technicians don’t usually get to design our environment. We must act on what is presented to us and choose the best course of action to successfully complete the job with the tools we have available to us.

In the past, there were not many options available. We used manual caulk guns that caused carpal tunnel syndrome. We used our heads to push out on the glass so we could cut the lower bead causing lower back pain. We contorted our bodies to set the glass in the opening causing muscle strain. We crawled up on large vehicles to access the windshield area causing slippage and possible injury. All of these issues have been addressed with new modern tools that can help alleviate these possible injuries. All we have to do is acquire the tools and use them.

Protection from injury starts with the technician. The owner can supply all the safety equipment and tools out there, but if the tech doesn’t use them, they will not help. Don’t shorten your career because of pain and discomfort. Use the tools and wear the protection.

Next week I’ll talk about protecting the vehicle.

I have heard from AGRR company owners that we can’t sell our services for a profit because we are always being beat on price. This is perfectly understandable because there will always be a new shop that offers everything for nothing. However, it pays to keep in mind the principles of retail marketing, no matter who your customer is so revenue can be enhanced.

Many of us feel that since all glass shops provide essentially the same products and services we must compete on price and only price. In fact, there are many ways to differentiate yourself from your competitors and get more for your services.

Giving your customer more choice in their automotive glass service decision leads the buyer to feeling heard and thus, greater satisfaction with your service.

What choices can you offer them? Here are a few:

  • OEM glass or aftermarket;
  • Fast-drive-away time or slower-drive-away time;
  • Mobile service or in shop;
  • Replacement of previously damaged parts or reuse of existing parts; and
  • Recalibration services or they can take it to a dealership.

There are features and benefits to all the choices listed above. It is better to use OEM glass because of fit and finish, but aftermarket glass costs less. The faster-curing urethane option gives the customer faster safe-drive-away times. However if the vehicle is going to be sitting all day, maybe the quicker curing urethane isn’t necessary. Perhaps a customer wants the convenience of mobile service, or he could opt for the controlled conditions of your shop. The idea is to get buyers talking about their options so they can make an informed choice.

Okay, now you’re going to tell me that all of your competitors are giving these services away for free. How can I offer these same services for a price? Are they really offering these things for free or saying they do? I recently heard about a national company that is charging the vehicle owner for mobile service and a glass disposal fee. Have you considered charging for these services? Your competitors may tell the customer that they are using fast-cure urethane. But are they really? The bestselling urethanes are the primerless long-curing kind, not fast curing type. They may tell the customer that they use OEM glass, but are they really? They may say that mobile installations are as good as shop installs but, in reality, they only have mobile service because they don’t have a shop.

You be the one who educates your customer on the reality of proper installation so your customer questions what they are told from competitors. Some customers will choose you because you made the effort and provided them with knowledge that your competitors never offered. Highlight the features and benefits of quality parts, service and experienced/certified technicians. The successful companies are those that take the time to talk to and educate their customers before the job is scheduled.

Some of you will say that the customer expects the insurance company to pay for everything, which means you can’t upsell. Really? Did you try or just assume it won’t work? Most insurance companies pay for “like and kind” repairs unless the policy is one that has a replacement clause that covers OEM products and parts. “Like and kind” means replacement at the lowest cost possible while still restoring the vehicle to a safe condition. This may mean the lowest-priced adhesives, used or aftermarket glass, salvaged mouldings and questionable installation techniques. The insurance company does not guarantee mobile service, fast-drive-away times or free corrosion repair. They put all the liability and responsibility on the glass shop and expect the glass to be installed in a safe manner. How the glass shop does that and the additional benefits each company offers to clients is up to the glass shop.

What is stopping a company from offering special services at an additional cost? For example, you can take the vehicle to the dealer and handle the inconvenience of recalibration for your customer. Do you have to do it for free? It takes time and effort. Why would you give that away? Why not offer alternatives for a nominal price and put that revenue directly to your bottom line?

Here are some items for which I charge on occasion:

  • Faster-safe-drive-away-time urethane;
  • OEM glass that fits and looks better;
  • Mobile service and a glass disposal fee;
  • The cost of recalibration or a negotiated recalibration price from your dealer and you charge full dealer list price.

Customers will pay extra for perceived value. You just need to show the value. Be creative and show the features and benefits. You will be surprised how many customers will choose you over your competitors and pay more when they are given the opportunity to choose value over question marks.