Customer demand and a drive to improve customer service are behind the proposed closure of the majority of Autoglass’s branch network.
National newspaper reports suggested at the weekend that its entire network – some 100 branches – were facing the axe.
But, the glass repairer told Fleet News that following a review of the role of its network and customer service centres, it has earmarked 73 to close.
Operations will instead by managed by regional hubs and it will significantly increase its stock points from around 100 to 140.
Neil Atherton, sales and marketing director, said: “Around 95% of our customers want to be served at a place that is convenient to them as opposed to our branch network.
“We’ve historically brought vehicles into our network because it’s convenient to us. In today’s world, which is much more customer-centric, we recognise that we need to be carrying out that work at places that are convenient to our customers.”
The volume of work going through the network has been falling with the vast majority – around 90% of repairs – now carried out by mobile technicians.
However, Atherton said that certain branches will retain a fitting capability and that it will try and deploy as many of the 179 at-risk staff as possible.
Formal consultations with affected staff will begin in January and are expected to be completed by the end of February.
Atherton said that the company had spoken to all of its major fleet customers about the proposals and the reaction had been positive.
“They understand the rationale behind what we are doing and furthermore I think they are excited about the fact that this proposal will enable us to serve their customers more efficiently and effectively,” he said.
In the past couple of years, Autoglass has increased its focus on the fleet and leasing sector and now more than 500,000 fleet drivers depend on the company for their glass repair and replacement.
It has invested in people and technology to help it gain traction in the market, introducing an automated scheduling system and arming its technicians with PDAs. It also introduced the ‘Vanbrella’ – a mobile canopy enabling its technicians to fit windscreens in wet weather.
Atherton explained: “We have been putting in a significant amount of investment to make us more efficient and to enable us to serve our customers better.”
It helped the company become a double award winner at this year’s Fleet News Awards, winning Supplier of the Year and Cost Saving Initiative of the Year categories.
Atherton said that investment will continue, with all of its 1,100 van fleet being fitted with wet weather solution by the end of the year and it is currently looking to recruit a further 50 technicians. He also expects the fleet to grow next year.
He concluded: “We strive to offer value for money and the best possible service to our customers.”