Q-and-A with Safelite's CEO
Whats wrong with this picture? Thats Safelite (now Belron US) CEO Dan Wilson behind the podium at the annual IGA Independents' Days Conference and Spring Auto Glass Show. . Wilson, who spoke at the conference (see related story above) also spent nearly 30 minutes answering questions about his company and its practices.
We wanted to get as many questions in as possible, said IGA director of operations Patrick Smith, and we knew emotions would be high, so we asked attendees to write down their questions in advance and we picked the most important ones to ask.
Wilson answered 31 minutes of questions asked by Deb Levy, publisher of AGRR magazine and glassbytes.com. (AGRRs parent company also has a separate association management division, for which Smith works, that manages the IGA.)
A synopsis of both the questions and answers appear below. Neither are exact quotes.
Q-Belron has stores that are open in the evening and on Sunday in Europe. Do you foresee that expanding into the United States?
Wilson said it may be something that is considered eventually, but its not the highest priority right now for Belron US.
Q--IGA members are concerned about illegal and unethical steering. Do you think steering exists?
Wilson said Belron US goes to great lengths to assure it operates its business ethically and in compliance with all laws and do not engage in illegal steering activities.
Q--If Safelite does not steer, then why does Safelite fight anti-steering legislation almost everywhere it's proposed?
Wilson stated that his company has supported quite a bit of anti-steering legislation and that Belron US and the IGA have been on the same side many times. For example, the company supported recent auto glass legislation in Washington.
We like the fact that the bill gives consumers the right to choose a glass shop of their choice. We go to great lengths to assure that customer preference is asked and honored by our associates. We already inform insureds calling who we are and we also inform them of our relationship with their insurer so there is nothing additional we need to do in our business to comply with Washingtons new law, he said.
Q--To get paid for dealer parts, some members are now being told they need to fax a copy of their invoice their costto Safelite and they will be paid 20 percent. How would you feel about having to provide your competitor your costs?
Look I understand the pain involved, but I can assure you that there is no one reading invoices and checking who paid what to whom. It doesnt happen, said Wilson. I wouldnt jeopardize our business relationships like that.
Q--If Safelite is such a big proponent of safety, then why isnt Safelite an AGRSS-registered company?
Wilson said the company takes safety very seriously and that is why it invests heavily in training its technicians to such high standards. He also stated that AGRSS registration is under review at this time.
Q--Another safety question. Safelite stresses safety, yet it seems any shops that agree to your pricing and have insurance can participate on your network. How do you know the shops on your network are doing installations properly?
Wilson said that, as a company, it has a mandatory pre-screening process that includes mandatory drug testing, a criminal background check and a motor vehicle record check for all associates. Additionally, all technicians must go through an internal certification process called Safe Tech Certification.
Q--Safelite is generally believed to hold around a 20-percent market share. Yet, in recent testimony before a South Carolina legislative committee, he testified that Safelite has an 80-percent share of Nationwides business. Now, if Safelites normal market share is 20 percent, please help us understand what, other than steering, could account for this great difference.
Though he hadnt heard the testimony and wouldnt comment on it specifically, he did say the figures cited in the question were wrong and implied the figures provided by Nationwide were at issue.
WORKING WITH INDEPENDENTS
Q--Why does Safelite always put glass shops on hold for long periods of time and yet agents say they can get right through?
Wilson stated that it is not company practice to put glass shops hold for long periods of time. In fact, he said that Safelite Solutions has the best telephone answering response time in the industry. He added that there are circumstances when the hold time is elongated such as during the recent winter storm activity. However, thats one of the reasons the company maintains such a high percentage of part time associates so it can adjust its staffing during high volume periods.
Q--What do glass shops need to do to ensure that Safelite does not give out false information about glass shops, i.e. you may be liable for the difference, etc., when shops have notified Safelite that they will not charge the difference?
Wilson stated that Safelite Solutions does not provide false information. It follows the scripts of its insurance carriers and that the insurance carriers determine the content of the script. Wilson went on to say that insurance carriers require this language since a large percentage of glass shop invoices include language telling the customer that they may be liable for any difference between what the glass shop charges and what the insurance carrier is willing to pay.
Q--Safelite and the Independents have had a very rocky past. Do you think that this rocky relationship has been exploited by the insurance carriers and others?
Wilson feels the rocky relationship between Belron US and the IGA hurts the industry as a whole, but said he could not comment on insurance carriers in particular.
Q--Is there anything else you would like to tell the group?
Wilson said he came in peace and hopes that his presence at the conference will lead to greater dialogue and problem-solving between the groups. Wilson also stated that the two groups have more in common than differences and that an open dialog between the two groups is more advantageous to the industry than a litigious and legislative course of action.
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