Significant investment in people and technology is paying off for Autoglass, says national sales manager Jeremy Rochfort
Less than three years ago, Autoglass implemented a major shift in company policy – it opted to increase its focus on the fleet and leasing sector.
This saw it invest significantly in people and technology, and the rewards soon followed.
In 2013, it increased its share of the FN50 by six percentage points to 28%, and now more than 500,000 fleet drivers depend on the company for their vehicle glass repair and replacement.
This year its achievements were recognised by the fleet industry when it was named fleet supplier of the year in the 2014 Fleet News Awards.
“From a personal point of view, it was incredible to pick up the award in March,” says Jeremy Rochfort, national sales manager at Autoglass.
“It capped a two to three year journey for the team, so we are really chuffed and proud of the win.
“It’s means a lot to us because the award is highly regarded within the industry and is a vote of confidence in everything we are doing.”
Fleet News: How important is the fleet and leasing sector to Autoglass?
Jeremy Rochfort: It is becoming increasingly important to us. We have always been very strong in the insurance sector and I think we were probably suppliers to nine out of ten insurers.
That sector has always been our core business, but we took the decision to start focusing on the fleet and leasing segment.
This has seen us grow market share over the past two years or so. In fact, 2013 was our best ever year in fleet.
FN: What steps have you taken to target fleets?
JR: One of the key reasons we have been able to grow our fleet business is because we understand the
I came into my role three years ago and I have now got four specialist business managers reporting to me, all brought in from relevant market sectors.
Andrew Scott covers Scotland and Northern Ireland; he’s been with us for 18 months and his background is Arval and Allstar, so he has plenty of fleet experience.
John Coombs covers the north region and has been with us for a year having worked for Europcar and Enterprise-Rent-A-Car.
Elizabeth Lynch covers the Midlands and is an internal promotion, while Simon Limbrick covers the south and west of the UK and has been with Belron (Autoglass’s parent company) for six or seven years.
You can see that we made a conscious decision to get business managers in place from relevant market sectors to give us the right capability and knowledge of the fleet industry.
FN: Have you introduced new technology too?
JR: The business is midway through a massive operational change programme, probably the largest in the 40 years since Autoglass was established.
We have invested significantly in quite a few systems aimed at increasing our efficiency.
An automated scheduling system now plans the technicians’ daily routes and replaced a process where the jobs were placed on a chart and moved around manually.
This has given us significant benefits, including increased productivity, and has allowed us to get out to customers more quickly.
We have also introduced a system to ensure our technicians carry the right glass so we don’t waste journeys by having the wrong product and can get the customer’s vehicle back on the road quickly.
This has become particularly important over recent years as windscreen requirements have become more specific than ever – for example, the BMW 3 Series range uses 20 to 25 different windscreens depending on the model and what technology it has fitted.
Also, all our technicians have a PDA which provides them with their route for the day. The PDAs are also able to give fitting instructions, so if a technician has to repair a vehicle they haven’t worked on before or if they need advice, then they have access to the relevant information, which is proving to be very helpful.
Technology like head-up displays mean windscreens are becoming more complex, so we also spend a lot of money on training.
FN: Is speed of response everything?
JR: It is very important but it is not always about repairing or replacing a windscreen within 24 or 48 hours.
We have carried out quite a lot of research and we know that delivering a good service is also about flexibility.
Sometimes a fleet customer will say ‘I can’t do tomorrow, but can you come next Saturday to my home address?’ and we will accommodate that.
FN: What is your repair-first philosophy?
JR: We always endeavour to repair a chip rather than replace the whole windscreen.
This is important as the cost of a repair is significantly less than a replacement windscreen and it reduces the time a vehicle is off the road; a repair takes 25-30 minutes whereas a replacement windscreen might take up to two hours to fit.
Education is important here as well. We can repair only a certain size of chip so we work closely with fleet and leasing partners to raise awareness of this among fleet operators and drivers.
If someone is driving around with a chip it will turn into a crack over time – this may be accelerated by extreme temperatures or driving over a pothole, so education is important to catch a chip while it can be repaired.
Repairs are also really good in terms of being environmentally friendly because you no longer have a windscreen to dispose of.
FN: How has the ‘Vanbrella’ helped fleet customers?
JR: Historically, if a customer didn’t have a place under cover and was not able to come to one of our branches, our technicians could not fit a windscreen in wet weather because the adhesives react with moisture.
This meant we would have to reschedule the job which is an inconvenience for the customer and not good for productivity and cost. We were able to develop a mobile canopy which comes out of the top of a van and gives cover so the vehicle underneath is dry.
That’s been rolled out to pretty much all our vans, and it’s had a massive impact as we are not having to reschedule jobs. This a real cost benefit and has reduced vehicle downtime for fleets as well.
One of Autoglass’s major projects for 2015 is the introduction of an improved integrated online booking platform.
“Currently, about 30% of bookings are made online, and that continues to grow,” says Rochfort. “It is an important part of the business.
“We are also looking to set up a dedicated fleet and leasing team in our call centre with advisors who understand customer requirements and work to specific service level agreements.”