Patricia Smiley, president of South Carolina-headquartered Quackt Glass, has seen her share of ups and downs throughout her career. While she thrives on providing solutions to patrons, she’s also learned that not every customer is a good customer and that it’s okay to “fire” them sometimes.
Smiley started as a customer service representative 20 years ago with Glasspro in South Carolina, and knows firsthand the opportunities in the AGRR industry. Initially, she took the job to help pay for her degree in business management, but fell in love with the auto glass industry and decided to stay, using the knowledge she learned through her degree to grow into higher and higher level positions.
“The degree has helped me push through the ranks, and I was afforded opportunities others weren’t as I worked my way from customer service representative to a branch customer service rep, then to the call center, then quality manager, then training manager,” Smiley says. “So it just helped me elevate levels of my career.”
She also remembers early in her career working in a “very affluent part of town.” When she met people she’d talked to on the phone, they would say that they “didn’t know she was colored.” Others would tell her that she’s “well-spoken”— a trait that comes with the customer-service territory and should have been no surprise to customers.
“So, it’s really just having the skills to be able to navigate that and come back in a way that is not nasty or rude but lets them know that it’s not okay to say that,” Smiley says. “Then communicate the appropriate way to introduce yourself or greet someone else.”
She’s also faced some customers whose behavior and attitude went to other extremes. Smiley recalls that early on in her career some customers would say they didn’t want a Black employee driving their vehicles.
“I’m from the mindset that sometimes it’s okay to fire your customers,” she says, noting the extra time that would come with trying to accommodate such a request. “Every customer is not a good customer; every dollar is not a good dollar. If I have to spend 95 cents to get that dollar, you can keep the remaining 5 cents.”
Overall, Smiley says such instances of prejudice aren’t as frequent as they were 20 years ago. Though, she notes that it may depend on location.
“It’s gotten better; it’s not as bad as it used to be,” she says. “But it’s not where it should be.”
Misty Bockelman, social media and marketing manager for PGW Auto Glass, says her company is no stranger to diversity and inclusion. In fact, she says utilization of the diversity and inclusion tools gives PGW a “major overall advantage” in the industry, as Bockelman says the marketing campaigns she creates are always designed to make “everyone feel valued.”
“As a woman who proudly identifies as Black American and is heavily involved in our online presence and narrative, I’m having an extremely rewarding auto glass industry experience,” Bockelman says.
From accounting and supply chain management to operations and more, Smiley believes opportunities abound in the AGRR industry. What’s more are the interesting challenges the profession provides, with Smiley referring to the ever-changing day-to-day as “organized chaos.” Pair that with the rewarding feeling of being the “solution finder” to a customer’s problem, and she “absolutely” recommends pursuing a career in auto glass repair and replacement.
But the question remains: how can the industry best communicate its offerings to not only Black professionals but job seekers at large?
“I think people need to know it exists,” she says of the industry. “We have to be mouthpieces, all of us who are here, regardless of our color, to let people know about auto glass and everything that’s available to us. There’s just a wave of opportunities in the AGRR industry.”