Education is Key
By Travis Rains
With the increased prevalence of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) in today’s vehicles, you might think that your customers know about the recalibration necessary after a windshield has been replaced. Even though consumers are more educated on the matter than in years prior, a large percentage of motorists are still in the dark about the new features on their rides.
That lack of education can pose problems for glass shops and calibration businesses, as customers don’t understand why windshield costs are so high. Motorists often have complicated feelings when it comes to their vehicles and the businesses that work on them, with concerns surrounding trust and potential price gouging.
Training Customer Service Representatives
“It was a different world, that’s for sure. What is now a conversation of about 5 to 10 minutes could have been 20, 30 sometimes even 40 minutes of explaining what’s going on with that customer’s vehicle,” says Jacques Navant of Don’s Mobile Glass and frogitout in California. “It used to be a lot tougher than it is now; it was almost like explaining to somebody that they had to buy a new car.”
While consumer education has improved, a significant number of people are caught off guard by the calibration discussion. So what can businesses to do communicate to customers that calibration work is necessary and not just a way to generate additional income?
“I think it’s slowly getting better, but yeah, it’s a safe bet it’s pretty new for about 40% of our customers. It’s pretty new to them even if they’ve had the vehicle for a couple of years,” Navant says. “You still have to briefly explain what those systems do and why we have to do what we’re asking them to do.”
For Navant, educating consumers is the second step in the process. First is educating the team. While the technicians understand how calibration needs to be performed and why, Navant says customer service representatives (CSRs) are often the first line of explanation for customers. The more knowledgeable the CSR, the more confident the consumer is in the services being discussed and eventually provided.
“Training is most important,” he says. “At our company, we put together a training program for all of our CSRs. If you invest in your people, the benefits are endless.”
It’s all about providing the team with the skillsets and knowledge needed to talk with customers about the new ADAS features “confidently and competently,” Navant says. Through that training, CSRs learn what questions to ask the customer and the associated explanations that come with the answer. Navant also recommends that training include role-playing so CSRs get used to having real conversations with real people as opposed to reading off a script.
Once training is complete, the CSR is ready to ask appropriate questions concerning vehicle make and model, the issue for which the vehicle is entering the shop and which parts need replacing.
“’And, by the way, did you know your vehicle has ADAS features?’” he says. “Then, we tell them what needs to happen and why, and we walk them through it,” Navant says. “If they have more questions, we connect them with the technical department for a more in-depth explanation.”
Navant likens CSR training to a trip to a restaurant. If the server lacks knowledge of the menu, or worse, is rude, then the customer may have doubts about how the food will taste. But if that staff member offers recommendations and reasons for those recommendations, the patron is likely to be more confident in the entire dining process. That’s especially true if you’re dining at a nice restaurant that comes with a heftier bill, much like the increased costs of windshield replacement thanks to ADAS considerations.
“Everybody is always going to be concerned about price, especially the way things are now,” Navant says. “But if your customer service representative carries themselves in a confident fashion, then I think that softens the blow of any additional cost they weren’t thinking of. I think knowledge is the key to that. If they do have sticker shock, our team
has the skillset and knowledge to walk them through what we’re going to have to do. I think it’s just being knowledgeable about product lines and highlighting what the value in that is.”
How Do Customers Feel About This New Technology?
“The more detail the better,” says Navant. Jennifer Curbow of Novus Glass in Kennewick, Wash., agrees. Both tell of customers calling back into the shop after the work is finished alluding to their haunted vehicle. They say that all of a sudden, new technology is appearing on their vehicle. Of course, the technology isn’t new per the work performed at the shop, it’s just that a system that was previously turned off had been activated per industry standards.
“A lot of people have no idea they even have those options and sometimes drive off the lot with those systems turned off,” Curbow says. “When you do it properly, everything should be turned on when they leave and then they can choose to turn it off.”
And there are, in fact, some features motorists may be inclined to go without, according to Consumer Reports (CR).
“Drivers say they love features that automatically steer, brake and accelerate in certain situations, such as in traffic jams and on long highway slogs,” says Keith Barry, a CR writer and editor. “But they don’t like systems that second-guess their actions, such as lane departure warning (LDW) and lane keeping assistance (LKA), which beep or take control of steering even when you’re swerving out of a lane to give cyclists a wide berth or to avoid an obstacle in your lane.”
“The best systems help drivers stay safer and more relaxed behind the wheel,” adds CR program manager for vehicle technologies Kelly Funkhouser, an ADAS expert. “The worst systems take a driver’s attention away from the road.”
Curbow recently won the title of World’s Best Customer Service (CSR) Competition at the competition at Auto Glass Week™ 2022 (see related article on page 28). She knows a thing or two about the benefits of educating customers.
“The majority of customers don’t know it’s even in the windshield,” she says. “The appointment takes longer and the price is significantly higher; it’s a lot different. So we have to explain to them the process and why it’s important to recalibrate so their system is functioning properly. It’s pretty important for them to understand that the automatic braking, the lane departure, it’s coming from the windshield in combination with the
radar. We let them know, so that way they know what’s going on.”
For Curbow and Novus Glass, the process begins with finding out who manufactured the windshield, followed by a discussion and messages explaining the process. Those messages include information relating to the importance of ensuring the gas tank is full and vehicle empty when brought in so it’s at factory weight.
“We do follow-ups and reminders, then pre-scans when they’re here so that way we’ve covered all of our bases and they understand what’s going on, why it takes so long and how their system should be functioning when we’re done. We over-explain everything from beginning to end.”
But there’s always more that businesses can do to advance the education of their customers. For example, Don’s has created a “flip book of calibration” that sits in the waiting area. That booklet explains different types of calibration, and even includes colored pictures and cartoons showing sensor locations with brief descriptions of their functions.
“One of the things we want to do is an open house so that customers can see what we’re doing in the back and they can see the target boards we work with,” Curbow says. “Just familiarize them with the process so they understand what we’re doing and why it takes so long.”
Furthermore, Curbow says the time has come for the insurance side of the industry to become more informed on calibration since so many people depend on their agents for information. To that end, she suggests hosting seminars to educate the insurance agents themselves.
In addition to other methods of educating customers, Navant is cemented in the belief that of training is vital, as education breeds education.
“The way systems are evolving and moving forward. I feel like it’s going to be a recurring theme of constantly investing in our people,” Navant says. “The benefits greatly outweigh the cost and time that’s involved in providing the training.”
The Auto Glass Safety Council (AGSC) has numerous resources available for those in the calibration field. From access to training and certification programs to educational resources, the AGSC offers no shortage of educational tools. Back in 2021, the AGSC released an ADAS Calibration Checklist that includes considerations including pre-replacement and post-replacement procedures covering static, dynamic and combination systems. Members can obtain a copy of the checklist through the AGSC portal.
Travis Rains is the assistant editor for AGRR magazine. Connect with him on Linked In.
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