Thoughts on Automotive Glass Retailing

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.