Add Ons: Rock Chip Repair

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In 2005, Dow Jones (yes that’s his real name) started a carwash chain in Salt Lake City, Utah — FireHouse Carwash and Detail. The idea was simple, create a carwash experience that customers had never seen before and couldn’t live without. “It’s more than satisfaction, its customer delight,” was our company motto and just about everything we did was based around making sure the customer left delighted by focusing on speed, quality and customer interaction. I could go into more detail about the brand, mission, vision and victories, but we all know a company motto or slogan is only as good as the last service.

As we entered our second year of operation we acquired a carwash with an attached quick lube center. Suddenly, we were in the lube business and in a unique position to cross-promote and create value for our customers in new and disruptive ways.  

After our second location opened, nearly half a dozen windshield repair companies approached us offering to pay us monthly rent in exchange for permission to sell windshield repair to our customers. Immediately our reaction was, “No, you can’t rent my customers.”  We worked very hard to provide a positive experience for our customers; to have an outsider come in and mess that up was just too risky.

Windshield repair or rock chip repair has been around for nearly 40 years. We’ve all had a chip on our windshield, and we all cringe when a rock hits the glass. Bring peace-of-mind to your customers and offer them a service they need. 

The concept is simple, windshields have two panes or lites of glass held together by laminate film. When a rock impacts the windshield, it creates an air gap between the panes; a proper repair replaces the air with a UV cure resin that prevents further damage and expensive costs to the customer.

 The allure of additional profit was promising. We looked a little deeper into the windshield repair business and the opportunity was real:

·           Insurance companies pay on average $57 for a windshield repair. They are happy to waive the deductable because a repaired rock chip prevents the need for a windshield replacement. This also mitigates the risk of rust damage claim later because of a poor windshield replacement.

·           The repair takes 10 minutes and can be performed while other lube services are underway.

·           One in every seven cars on the road has windshield damage and 100 percent of chips will crack, whether it’s two hours or two years after impact.

·           It fits into the flow of lube centers and adds true value to the customer. It was great to hear a customer say, “Wait, you’re meaning to tell me you can fix that chip today without any extra time out of my day, it will save me time and money in the future and my insurance company covers the repair?” 

It didn’t take long for the buzz to get out that our quick lube center was in the glass business. We partnered with a local replacement company. We repaired the small chip damage onsite and sent the glass replacements to our partner, who paid us a 15-20 percent commission. Now, we could service all the glass needs of our clients and became a destination for potential lube customers looking for glass services. We wanted to see our customers as often as possible, and they loved using the shop they already trusted for all their needs.

We decided to hire a regional glass manager and integrated glass technicians for each location. The trick was to make sure each technician was integrated and perceived as part of the company. The customer had to see them as an asset and extension of the brand rather than a harvester for other services. When someone pulled up on site, our glass technicians were quick lube employees with special badges and the knowledge to answer all questions about the lube services before our service writers could advise them. After four years of integration and creative cross-promotions, our lube center’s glass department was responsible for yearly revenue of $90,000 with about a 60-percent profit margin in one location. We became a destination for auto glass repair and would have profitable glass repair days even when it was raining or snowing and the lube business was slow.

As an operator, you might be asking yourself, “Is windshield repair is right for me?” Maybe you’ve already decided rock chip repair isn’t a service you want to offer because you’ve tried in the past, had a bad experience, or a customer has told you how much they hated to be bugged by the glass guys at a competing facility. If you’re on the fence, here’s some insight into current trends, opportunities and business practices.

1. Decide whether windshield repair fits you and your customer

Average capture rate for windshield repair at a full-service lube center is about 15-25 percent. Using a daily car count of 50 cars and an average price of $50, that’s between $375-$500 extra a day or up to $12,500 a month. Even if you don’t focus on repairs and only repair one windshield per day, an extra $1500 is nice to have at the end of the month. How many air filters do you need to sell to make $1500? Are you spending too much time selling the wrong thing?

2. Purchase quality equipment with integrated training

Focus on your core competency at the lube center and give your glass techs all the tools they need to succeed. Just like other equipment, the price for systems can vary, as does quality and support, so be sure to team up with a windshield repair equipment company with all the tools you need to scale and recertify your technicians.

Most equipment providers will include information about insurance processing, but there are some recent advances in technology that allow technicians to capture signatures and bill the insurance company right from a phone, tablet or point-of-sale system, helping you avoid extra overhead and processing costs.

3. Commit

Whether you have a full-time technician or just a sign on the outside of the bay to text for a repair, commit to your customers through education, marketing, consistency or even a free RainX or Aquapel service with the repair. Who wouldn’t give up a dollar or two of chemical costs for a $50 dollar sale?

Commit to your staff through incentives, competitions and accountability. If you can help the sales force have a mindset of, “If I don’t offer chip repair service, I’m doing the customer a disservice, because all chips break,” it will be easier to help them search for chips and offer the service. Just like air filter sales, make rock chip repair part of your program.

Windshield repair worked for our lube center and can work in just about any service center environment with a little guidance and focus on helping the customer. Start looking for rock chips driving through your service center. Ask a few customers if they would like it if you offered the service. Picture a $50 bill on the windshield each time you see an unrepaired chip leave the bay. It’s not hard. We did it, and you can, too. Research your options. There are resources out there to help you build a stronger brand and add profit to your bottom line.

JOSHUA MCCOOEY is COO of Glass Mechanix Solutions. McCooey received his business degree from Westminster College while building the glass repair programs with his companies. He currently contributes to the automotive service industry through his involvement with a variety of reconditioning and restoration committees and through organizations committed to promoting perfect repairs. He can be reached at josh@glassmechanix.com

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