Fleet News

Award winner's profile: Autoglass

WINNING an award can be a highlight of the year for any business, as it recognises and rewards the hard work of the team behind a brand or company.

But when the award is one of the most prestigious in the motoring industry and brings immediate extra business, then the benefit is even greater.

For Autoglass, executives had new business on the table before they had even left the celebrations at the Fleet News Awards, the industry Oscars, held in the Grosvenor House Hotel in London's Park Lane in March.

Having won the Best Glass Repair/Replacement Company award, the firm was approached by potential clients ready to do business that night, highlighting the strength of the awards as a celebration and a vital industry networking event.

Nigel Doggett, manager director of Autoglass in UK and Ireland, said: 'The response to our win has been positive. A couple of companies came away from the evening saying “this is a company we need”.

'A couple of people who were there on the evening moved their business to us as a result of the award.'

The commendations from the judges give a clear indication of why Autoglass was an award winner, having picked up the trophy for the second year running.

The judges said: 'For most fleet drivers, a glass repair technician is the last person they want to see as it means disruption to a busy day because of a broken or chipped screen. But with a 'right first time' resource policy, large mobile and branch network and very high customer service standards, Autoglass makes sure it is only the broken windscreen that causes customers a problem.

'With very high customer satisfaction levels and a focus on investment in new technology to improve speed and efficiency, Autoglass ensures a distress purchase is as pleasant as possible.

'It also focuses on the wider issues customers need to consider, particularly how to tackle car crime that results in the majority of all side window replacement call-outs.'

Autoglass is part of a Europe-wide network, offering more than 130 branches and about 1,200 mobile units in the UK.

The Autoglass European service is provided by Carglass and is available in most European countries.

Services range from windscreen replacement to repairs, including some bodywork repairs where necessary under a new service. Work can be booked through a freephone line or via the firm's website, www.autoglass.co.uk.

Doggett said: 'Whatever size fleets are, they want the vehicle back quickly and fixed properly and expertly. The whole aspect of service is critical.

'We have been doing a lot more market research with fleet customers covering all fleets and reporting back on the issues, and this puts us in a strong position against our competitors.'

Faster response times and quicker service have also been an area the company has concentrated on.

He added: 'Historically the industry has had trouble in this area, but we are now providing significant improvement.

'We use independent researchers to give us feedback on the customer experience, with 300 to 400 calls made per week. This is sufficient to give us a flavour of what is going on. We are focusing extremely heavily on that.

'Clearly, price must not be ignored, but speed of service is important as well.' The Autoglass Fleet Services team is dedicated to looking after the needs of fleets.

Among the team's objectives is to ensure fleets are able to make use of windscreen repair to reduce costs by avoiding replacement when it isn't necessary.

The team arranges regular free inspections to make sure fleet managers have an opportunity to spot repairable damage before a replacement becomes necessary.

Doggett took on the role of managing director last year following four years as the group's operations director, and is keen to ensure fleets view glass repair and replacement as part of an overall risk management strategy and ensure the standard of work is high enough.

He said: 'Risk management is a big issue and fleets are having to make sure they meet their duty of care to drivers and this includes the standard of windscreen repair or replacement. That is why we have invested in things such as our skills centre.'

The Autoglass National Skills Centre was set up to provide structured training programmes for new and experienced technicians.

There are eight cars permanently on site to allow demonstration and practice of key skills. The vehicles are changed on a regular basis and selected to represent the most typical jobs carried out by Autoglass.

Autoglass is keen to expand further in the fleet sector, with partnerships ranging from small businesses to large company fleets.

Doggett said: 'We have taken on 100 more technicians, giving us 1,200, each of them with a van. Close to 90% of our work is now mobile, although we also have 135 centres.

'Each of our technicians is trained at our skill centre, which has been Thatcham accredited, because replacing or repairing glass is a very skilled job nowadays.

'The sales team is also undergoing a restructuring to provide more focus on fleets.'

A key innovation recently introduced is a one-person lifting device, which allows a single employee to carry out most glass repair jobs alone.

He added: 'As glass gets more complex, it is also getting bigger.

'It puts pressure on our industry and this device (there are 100 in the UK) means that one person can do a job rather than two, which keeps costs down and makes us more efficient.'

The growing complexity of the work carried out by technicians also means new employees undergo an intensive training course under the Startline programme, a two-week course which leads to months of intensive on-the-job training.

This is vital when research shows that properly fitted windscreens are vital for maintaining the structural rigidity of a car in a crash. In fact, more than 30% of a car's strength can come from the windscreen in a rollover.

Following a windscreen replacement, Autoglass insists on putting a warning in the car telling the driver they cannot drive away for a set time, to allow the windscreen to bond to the vehicle. Looking to the future, Doggett sees mainland Europe as an area for continued expansion, through its Carglass sister brand.

'EU Expansion is an opportunity,' said Doggett. 'And we typically use franchises to test areas before moving in. The pan-European network that we have is a major advantage with the biggest fleets.'

For now, though, the company in maintaining its focus on service and putting into effect the results of research carried out with fleet customers during 2003.

Long-running campaign aims to cut crime

AUTOGLASS doesn't just repair glass, it also campaigns to make sure drivers don't need new screens in the first place.

For more than 10 years, Autoglass has published a 'Cracking Car Crime' report, a survey of car crime in the UK.

Its research has shown that fleet drivers are at the highest risk of car crime, with on average, the cost of repairing damage and replacing stolen goods from a company car hitting £502, 49% higher than the national average.

Autoglass works in partnership with fleet managers on the importance of car security, including distributing a Cracking Car Crime pack to all fleet customers. The pack includes copies of leaflets and posters which have been developed for fleet managers to hand out to their drivers, and highlights easy steps motorists can take to combat crime.

The campaign has also received Government support.

In addition, Autoglass is involved in general safety campaigns that are now part of the Government's 'Think Road Safety' initiative.

Autoglass research has aimed to pinpoint why fleet drivers are involved in so many accidents compared to private drivers and provide advice on how to reduce risk.

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