Annoying Sales Call Assassination

Quote

 

 

 

Mancunian bloke: “Can I speak to the business owner?”

Certainly. What’s your call in connection with?

“My name’s Gary and I’m calling from The Business Consultants. It’s a quick business enquiry about…”

[I interrupt his introduction] I can help you with that; do you have a registration number?

“What for?”

Your car…

“What about my car?”

So it’s not your car?

“What car?”

For someone who said it was a quick business enquiry, you’re dragging your feet a bit. How about a model and year?

“You what, mate?”

The car. What model is it?

“Whose car?”

Do you even know, yourself?

“Know what?”

Whose car it is?

“Why are you asking me about a car?”

…because you’ve called a windscreen replacement business and I cannot help *you* unless you help *me* identify the vehicle.

[he hung up] Job done. Killed him.

Windscreen Claims: Know Who You’re Dealing With

 

 

 

 

When a windscreen repair or replacement company says they can direct bill insurance companies, or that they’re ‘insurance approved’, there’s something else you should know.

Insurance companies do not like dealing with multiple suppliers. It’s far easier to deal with one two or three nationwide repairers which in turn makes dealing with any claims a much more manageable task for them. Typically, those repairers will be Autoglass, Auto Windscreens and National Windscreens. None of these companies use subcontractors or a supplier network. They operate in their own individual ways using their own employed staff. The exception to this used to be AA Autowindshields (now acquired by and operated by the same parent company as Auto Windscreens) who, in an attempt to cover areas in which they did not have a presence, would appoint a local company as a sub contractor to act on their behalf. Contracts are designed on service delivery, coverage and price.

Autoglass parent company Belron also operates (among its other businesses) Glasscare which acts as a price mechanism designed to profit from those who use it, and also to act as a (price) comparator in the interests of their sister windscreen fitting concern. The Supplier Invoice Control Program ( “SICP” ) allows smaller companies (those who do not have direct billing arrangements with the insurers for whom Glasscare are acting as agents) to invoice insurance companies for windscreen (and glass) repair and replacement jobs. The SICP system is a price regulator, and will also take steps to ensure that the claim is genuine. Each user of the system is required to input details specific to each claim – or job – before a prescribed rate is given. The rates are often questionable, but remain subjective to purchase price (of parts) and each individual business in terms of their size and operation. As its name suggests, the control program is tailored around the arrangement Autoglass has with each respective insurer. It does not entitle anyone using the system (other than the nominated supplier, Autoglass) direct access to any of those insurers. By this, the claim of having to ‘direct bill’ insurance companies is not true. Another false claim is for anyone – other than the prevailing preferred repairer – to claim they are insurance approved. Whilst Glasscare will occasionally and periodically audit its users, no checks are carried out on the work itself.

National Windscreens also operates a similar system. Whilst the brand is essentially nationwide, the company is made up of smaller independent companies who operate under the National Windscreens banner. Another similar network of suppliers quite new to the industry is Nationwide Windscreen Services. This is a group independent companies covering designated and predetermined areas of the country. Whilst National Windscreens or Nationwide may be better qualified to an insurance approved claim, it still does little more than delegate tasks to sub contractors who remain as third parties throughout.

There are no exceptions to the direct billing and insurance approved claims. There are however, some companies who do have a direct billing, or nominated supplier arrangement with some insurance companies, such as Silver Shield Windscreens and Catlin Insurance and Nationwide Motorglass and Hastings Insurance.

Look Without Watching

 

Why watching your windscreen fitter may not be a good idea.

 

The moment you have been fearing has arrived. You’re about to have your windscreen replaced, and the thought of a stranger getting intimate with your car is making you feel uncomfortable. What do you do?

An immediate and infinite resource is the internet, and you can always tap into the experience of somebody else who has survived such an event; forewarned is forearmed. However, one commonly offered fragment of windscreen wisdom might just preempt the very thing you fear the most.

Windscreen Replacement in Progress

Windscreen Replacement in Progress

Popular advice to, “watch the fitter like a hawk” is understandable given the horror stories being recited by those who have had the misfortune of witnessing them. But what if your own actions are to blame? What if your own fear becomes the cause of the fitter fluffing it? Nothing says, ‘you cannot be trusted to do a good job without me watching you’ more than becoming the technician’s shadow during the process. This is not to say that you should not be around, or that you’re not welcome, but discussing your concerns could mean that you may not, after all, have to perch yourself upon the poor chap’s shoulder, ready to Kango through his skull, to peck out his brain the moment he slips up.

Hiding in Garage

Resist hiding in your garage

Relax. If you’ve been diligent in your research you might even have the right person turning up to do the job. In which case, greet him, exchange a few pleasantries and simply get on with your day (offer him a cup of tea as you would do with anyone when welcoming them to your abode). Breaking your new-windscreen-replacement virginity however may require a bit more courting before the fitter starts stripping down (the car, that is).  Do make yourself available, perhaps telling him where you’ll be should he need you for anything.This may also be a useful time to utilise, perhaps in the garage, garden or greenhouse for example.

Windscreen Replacement in Progress

The Stealth Watchman

Is it alright to watch the fitter from start to finish?

Ask him (or her) if they would mind you being nosey. Be honest about it (but without being obvious). Many tradesmen cannot perform if they’re being watched. It makes them nervous, or that they become too aware of the company which throws them off their routine. Replacing a windscreen is a methodology which requires concentration and alertness. An experienced windscreen technician – or automotive glazier – will follow a step-by-step procedure they have in their head, and this (usually) ensures everything gets done, and in the right order. In the circumstances it is probably best to leave him to his own devices; you’re just going to have to trust him, but do try and tap into your own instincts. Does he inspire confidence? Is he well presented? Is his van clean and tidy? How happy (or sad) is his demeanor? Remember, he’s not only working on your car; he’s also your guest and so you should make him feel as welcome as one. If the impression you get is not good, it might just be your cue to become a curtain twitcher.

Windscreen Voyeurism?

Peekaboo! Windscreen Voyeurism?

By all means look, but try not to watch. You could end up maneuvering your gaze into a voyeuristic trespass.

 

 

To See, or Not to See

 

 

Now You See It…

An illustration of Before and After stages of a typical windscreen repair. 

Have you recently had your windscreen repaired? Were you pleased with the results? Was there a discernible between the before and after appearances of the damage? Would you know a good repair if you saw one? A lot of repairers don’t, never mind how to achieve one.

Windscreen Repair c

Windscreen Repair

A recent thread on Pistonheads  highlighted a common, and proliferating issue in windscreen stonechip repair. There appears to be a perceived acceptance in what a repaired chip looks like, and judging by a lot of evidence, not many people actually know what an aesthetically, structurally and technically sound repair should look like.

Generally speaking, if there is no difference between the ‘before’ and ‘after’ states, it’s not a good repair. In fact, it is likely that the damage – technically speaking – has not been repaired. “It’s been sealed” was the closing line the TVR Wedge owner got on the Pistonheads thread after he questioned the repairer when he claimed to have finished the job. Looking at the end product of the attempted repair, it could be argued that the repairer had little or no grasp of what he (or she) was doing. Irrespective of what the repairer’s assessment of his or her work is, a botch should not be accepted, nor paid for. And as far as assessments go, the repairer – an experienced repairer – can usually anticipate what the likely outcome will be before attempting a repair. In the case of the TVR owner, the windscreen is now potentially ruined, and the car may even fail its next MOT.

What does a ‘good’ repair look like?

The answer is quite simple. If, by looking at the windscreen, you can easily see the damage you shouldn’t be able to see it without looking for it once it has been repaired. This, however, is subjective to a few important factors:

  1. size;
  2. position on the windscreen;
  3. type of damage;
  4. the age of the chip (or how long it has been exposed to water and contaminants).

Ambient temperature, lighting, equipment, quality of consumable products and the experience of the technician are vitally important aspects which the repairer relies on in order to give prominence to his or her skill. The following image shows a common stone chip on a windscreen.

Chipped Windscreen

Damaged Windscreen

The chip is showing an impact crater (in the middle of the arc shape) and two smaller chips above it. There is one visible crack emanating from the centre of the impact point and threatening to travel southwest; the arc shape is often referred to as a ‘half moon’ although it almost has bears a resemblance to a ‘beeswing’. Underneath the arc shape are two more cracks: one feint crack perpendicular to the southwest pointing crack, and one dissecting the two smaller upper impacts. Placing a mirror behind the break adds clarity:

Mirror Behind Stonechip

Mirror Behind Stonechip

Using a mirror allows the technician to see how the break is responding as various repair techniques are utilised. These are carefully honed skills which enable the break to be manipulated in order to allow the repair resin to penetrate fully into each crack.

Windscreen After Repair

Windscreen After Repair

With the repair complete, and the apparatus removed, the above image shows what the (now repaired) damage looks like with a mirror reflecting light back through the glass. In technical terms (or optics) the light propagating through a medium (in this example, glass) has a refractive index or index of refraction: a dimensionless number which determines how much light is bent, or refracted, when entering a material. With the mirror removed light no longer reflects back through the glass:

Repaired Stone Chip with Mirror Removed

Repaired Stone Chip with Mirror Removed

As good as a repair can look when finished, there is no miraculous vanishing trick. There will always be at least some trace of the damage. This is usually the outline of the impact crater and some visible evidence of the bonded cracks:

A Shadow of its Former Self

A Shadow of its Former Self

It should be noted that whilst there is a mirror present, there is no smoke to trick you into looking elsewhere. Given the nature and definition of glass (it’s transparent!) resolution and focus will always be difficult to replicate from shot to shot when capturing images. A camera will passively focus on an area detected by the autofocus – or AF – sensor(s). The camera in all images was on a standard iPhone 6 device, and by placing it on a predetermined, X, Y and Z axis. The AF was allowed to detect what was in front of it, and the same three manual overrides were used before each image was taken. In no way was it an accurate science. These images were capture in a very basic exercise in order to illustrate the before and after of a windscreen stone chip repair.

As with all posts, comments and feedback welcomed, and gratefully received.

It’s Only a Joint?

 

 

 

When butting up the PUR adhesive, most windscreen fitters are taught to run past the starting point and overlap the joint. This technique envelops the join, and is the easiest one to program the OEM robots with. Is this the best way? Why does it matter?

Wide

Overlapped PUR Joint

This joint measured about 50mm in width, more than double the industry average. So what’s the issue? It’s a joint, and other than the somewhat abstract appearance, it looks like it ‘did the job’, right? Here’s what it looked like on the other side after cutting through it with a sharp blade:

FullSizeRenderTunnel

Tunneling

As you can see on the left hand side, there was very little adhesion; about 4mm in fact. The shiny bit to the right of the image is cured PUR which was not making any contact with anything. If it’s not making contact, it’s useless; superfluous. A waste of product material, and potentially a catalyst for a defect in the windscreen, or glass performance.

 

 

 

 

Misconceptions About Windscreen Replacement

 

 

 

Myths and Misconceptions about Windscreen Replacement.

1. It’s windscreen (or windshield). It is not a window screen.

2. Mastic is not used to bond windscreens into a car. The correct product is a high performance, specific and automotive grade Polyurethane ( “PUR” ) adhesive system which can only be used in conjunction with its own activators and primers.

3. With rare exception, generally speaking, genuine OEM glass parts (marked with the car manufacturer’s emblem) are not the same as those without. Contrary to internet folklore, there is not a little man sat at the end of windscreen production lines ‘stamping’ logos on windscreens. If it does not bear the (car) manufacturer’s logo, it’s not as good as one that does.

4. Those black dots you see around the windscreen are not part of the radio antenna.

5. Acoustic (or acoustically insulated) windscreens do not feature a thicker Polyvinyl Butyral ( “PVB” ). It is in fact two additional layers (compared to one for standard windscreens). The three layered PVB comprises of an acoustic dampening layer which is sandwiched between two thin sheets of standard PVB.

6. All laminated windscreens are made from clear glass. It is the PVB layer which is tinted.

7. Despite what you may have been told, most windscreens can be removed from a vehicle without damaging it, or the vehicle. There are, of course, risks attached to the process but these are mostly related to human error somewhere along the line.

8. Black primer – or adhesion promoter – is not designed for painting over scratches. The emphasis – conversely – should to avoid scratching the paintwork leaving the black primer to be used for what it is intended for, and that is, on freshly painted surfaces, or bared metal (from cutting back the old PUR). Black primer is also not a rust inhibitor and anyone using it so is merely painting over a continuing, and worsening, corrosion issue.

Motor Insurance: Windscreen Cover

By law you must have motor insurance to drive your vehicle on roads in the United Kingdom. This requirement has created an industry which is currently thought to be worth an estimated £9.4 billion a year. In short, you need insurance, and the providers want your business, but who does this obligation really suit?

Consumers are always looking for value for money, and sellers are constantly looking at different ways to provide it, especially in a competitive industry; gaining that edge to attract more business can cause confusion in the marketplace. With so many benefits and bolt-ons to consider one area which is not so clear (until a claim is made) is windscreen – or glass damage – cover.

Documents

So much paperwork

To be fair to all prospective insurers, there’s a lot to discuss and they are required to follow a strict code of conduct as laid out by various regulatory bodies related to the various aspects of their industry. The aim of Insurance Conduct of Business Sourcebook (ICOBS) is to ensure that customers are treated fairly. One section in particular is one which some might feel is not being observed. ICOBS 6.1.5 states:

“A firm must take reasonable steps to ensure a customer is given appropriate information about a policy in good time and in a comprehensible form so that the customer can make an informed decision about the arrangements proposed”.

Before policy inception, the proposing insurer should make clear the relevant, and salient, points which would apply in the event of a claim. Did your insurance company (or broker) do that? Did you feel furnished with the facts? If you were comparing the market on a price comparison website (PCW) perhaps not. Or perhaps you just confirmed that you have “read and understood” the Terms & Conditions (a usually tedious read of strange words used in an unfamiliar format or convoluted syntax). Or may be you were swept along by the user-friendly wave, washing you up at the checkout before you knew it? In some cases, there will be some disclosure before a decision is finalised.

Vague

Ambiguity

In the example shown, it wasn’t clear where the additional details would be found as it wasn’t in the “Policy Summary”. There was no mention in the “Schedule” either, and just to add to the confusion, there was no “Policy Booklet”. A bit more reading and searching revealed a small box in a very generic-looking table of contents found on a ‘Key Facts’ document which had no reference to the vehicle, or proposed policy:

“Call the <insurer name> Glass line on <number> and your windscreen will be replaced subject to a £60 excess. There is no excess if the windscreen can be repaired rather than replaced. See section 8 of the policy book for full details.”

Including the covering letter, there were a total of 20 sheets of paper in this particular proposal, but no ‘policy book’. Furthermore there is nothing to indicate anything even close to resembling a booklet, or indeed anything replacing a booklet resembling a series of pages with at least eight sections amongst them. At this point it is worth remembering what ICOBS 6.1.5 states, “A firm must take reasonable steps to ensure a customer is given appropriate information about a policy in good time and in a comprehensible form so that the customer can make an informed decision about the arrangements proposed”. Meanwhile, all this is taking place during your lunch break as you rack up your inclusive minutes on your mobile phone as you remain engaged and locked into calling a non geographical telephone number.  Even asking the seemingly helpful telephone staff to clarify what exactly ‘unlimited cover’ means, and what would happen in the event of a claim, is futile, “It means the underwriter will pay for the cost of replacing the damaged glass.” Notwithstanding the glaringly obvious, but the word ‘unlimited’ in this context might appear irrelevant, or redundant. And herein lies the issue.

There is:

  1. a Renewal Notice covering letter;
  2. what appears to be a (somewhat presumptuous) thank you (for choosing to renew) letter;
  3. a Statement of Fact document;
  4. a Statement of Demands and Needs document with a summary of cover on the reverse;
  5. two pages of a Key Facts summary (which appears to echo the preceding documents!)
  6. a Direct Debit information document;
  7. a Terms of Business page consisting of lots of smallprint;
  8. a four-page copy of a ‘Motor Legal Expenses Insurance’ booklet;
  9. eight pages of the Terms & Conditions pertaining to breakdown cover.

There is not anything to explain the process of claiming for glass damage.

In failing to define the outcome of initiating a pending claim by not stating that they will steer you into using their nominated repairer, they are not presenting you with an important fact of a policy (of which you might be about to enter into a contractual agreement with the insurer over). Is it not a good time before the terms are accepted and agreed, and a transaction is completed to disclose that there is a preferred supplier restriction in place, and that the policyholder will only be indemnified for part of the loss should they choose their own repairer?

Smashed Windscreen

Windscreen Damage

At the time of discussing these finer details of the proposed renewal in this instance, there was no clarification available. It is not a training issue either. The insurer’s representative should be in a position to present the facts, yet all they could state was something quite vague and ambiguous. It’s is too easy for the insurer. There appears to be very little focus on what the consumer wants, or deserves, as the deal is weighted in favour of the insurer. Meanwhile, the insured walks away with a cheaper deal (which, when you consider the hidden – or non-disclosed – restrictions re repairers and claim limits perhaps explains why the deal was cheaper).

Expanding on the adage that ‘you get what you pay for’, it is time that consumers insisted on clarifying exactly what it is they are paying for before policy inception rather than after an incident which leads to a claim.

It’s time to be wise before the event.

DGC compounds

Windscreen bonding and sealing on vehicles has evolved at an accelerated pace. Although traditional rubber mounted gaskets and butyl products can still be found on some older vehicles, liquid adhesives, also known as direct glazing compounds (DGC) are now the method of choice for both the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and remains as the automotive glass replacement (AGR)  professional’s most important product.

DGC adhesives are usually single-component moisture-cure polyurethanes (PUR) which offer superior performance in torsional stiffness, cohesive strength, initial holding strength and sealing ability. These materials offer improved vehicle aesthetics and safety; have lowered manufacturing costs and facilitate a much more simplified assembly process for car builders. DGC products eliminate – or reduce – mechanical fastening methods; they reduce inventory requirements and costs; improve operator safety and enhance vehicle performance. But as car designs and manufacturing processes have changed over the years, product development and design engineers have demanded faster, safer, more consistent (and convenient) adhesive solutions.

Despite their many advantages for bonding windscreens, traditional polyurethane based DGC compounds have significant limitations which restrict their use in vehicle assembly processes. To ensure good adhesion to glass, plastic and paint, DGC adhesives rely upon solvent-based glass (and paint) primers which add steps to the assembly process; they also contain hazardous isocyanates, and thus, introduce health and safety issues for the handlers of those products. Since the adhesive itself requires ambient humidity to cure, curing times can vary greatly depending on temperature and humidity levels in the manufacturing environment, causing potential bottle necks in the overall vehicle assembly process.

Recent advances in primerless windscreen adhesive systems have minimised these limitations and helped vehicle manufactures increase line speeds, eliminate hazardous solvent-based primers from the workplace; climate control chambers are no longer essential enabling a more consistent and controlled assembly process. Whilst the basic elements of bonding glass units to motor vehicles remain the same, there are some differences between the vehicle manufacturer processes, and those used by the aftermarket glass replacement industry. For the OEM the emphasis is on reducing downtime, and increasing efficiency. The glass replacement industry is consumer driven and focuses on mostly on safe drive away times (SDAT).

Windscreen Bonding Evolution

Bonding a windscreen to a vehicle using direct glazing technology is much more complicated than attaching a windscreen on a car’s aperture using a gasket or adhesive tape. There is a critical scientific process involved in properly applying direct glazing adhesives. This, in turn, is a crucial component in the car’s structural integrity.

Typically, windscreens are made of either float, laminated or tempered glass (or a synthetic material like polycarbonate). In the bond line area, the windscreen will coated with an opaque black material (known as a frit) which is applied during manufacture. This frit – or silkprint – is usually a specific ceramic paint and provides a suitable substrate which improves adhesion, protects the adhesive from being damaged by UV radiation, and generally provides an aesthetically-pleasing finish.

The Windscreen Chip they Didn’t Repair

 

 

Could Not, Did Not, or Would Not Repair?

Shortly after this (pictured) windscreen was hit by a stone, the car owner called his insurance company to arrange for the damage to be repaired. His inbound call was subsequently diverted to his insurer’s nominated repairer via the automated switchboard. An appointment was agreed, and he was happy in the knowledge that, in the circumstances, he did all that he could to reduce the risk of any further damage which, could potentially have resulted in a new windscreen. After all, he was now in the hands of an ‘approved repairer’, and they know what they’re doing, right?

Before attempting a repair, a technician will carry out a visual inspection of the damage. There are a number of things he (or she) will be looking for, to ascertain if the damage falls within a repair criteria (based primarily on the type of damage; its size and often position on the windscreen).  The technician is making an assessment on behalf of the insurance company (or the customer, if it is not an insured loss). This appraisal places a responsibility on the repairer to make a fair judgment based on practicality of repair, safety implications (in terms of driver vision) as well as fiscal reasons (repairing a chip is a fraction of the cost of replacing). In this case, an assessment was made on this damage:

To repair, or not to repair...

Windscreen Stonechip Repairable Size

The diagnosis of this damage was a recommendation to replace the windscreen. In terms of permissible – or repairable – damage, this is where things got confusing (for the policyholder). According to his insurance company’s recommended repairer’s website, the upper (size) limit for repair is a £2 coin (28.4mm). This falls short (by comparison) of the 40mm limit set by the British Standards guidelines; the damage clearly falls well below both limits. A five pence piece measures 18mm diameter. When holding up a 5p coin next to it, the damage appears to be smaller, still.

According to British Standards, Zone C (the wiper swept area on the passenger side of the vehicle, and where the damage in this example was)  permits damage of up to 25mm to be repaired. Referring to the insurance approved repairer’s notes,  there is no minimum or maximum size specified for this particular area (only an indication that the damage must be contained within a 30mm perimeter (from the edge of the whole windscreen).

What was wrong with this stonechip, and why did they condemn the windscreen? The policyholder was told the damage could not be repaired due to ‘multi damage’. Closer inspection does show a second impact mark within close proximity of the initial damage. But the repairer offers no indication, no warning, no notes on “multi damage” to suggest a repair would not be possible before he got to them. The policyholder also commented that he felt a little pressured into agreeing to a new screen because of the advice he was given. Only his confusion at why such small damage would render his windscreen a write-off prevented him from authorising a huge expense being invoiced to his insurance company.

There is no ‘industry practice’ as such, which restricts or prohibits the repair of a stonechip which has a second impact mark. The guidelines are not clear; the emphasis (and urgency) appears to be placed on repairing chips. But there is no definitive reference point for what can, and cannot be repaired. Why? Because other than the (separate) BS and MOT guidelines for windscreen repair, there is no industry practice. There is usually no second opinion; the insurance company trusts (and accepts) the repairer’s claim assessment (or the paying customer usually trusts what the expert says). In this case, the policyholder doubted the repairer’s opinion and despite being told he would need a new windscreen (with some added pressure on what might happen if he didn’t replace post haste) he declined the advice (also because the repairer would not agree to fitting an OEM windscreen to which he was perfectly entitled to given the age and marque of the car).
It is upon this trust that insurers are paying out for, often needless, replacement windscreens. Windscreens which, whilst perfectly repairable, have been replaced after an assessment was made by somebody with whom they have placed trust and responsibility to make a fair, honest and professional judgment on their behalf. Insurance companies appear to be accustomed to settling claims for windscreens which have been condemned. The trend (according to one windscreen insurance claims handler) is that the price for one repair is the same for multiple repairs (on the same screen). If there are more repairs than ‘economically viable’ the recommendation is to replace. Whilst this may seem sensible for a windscreen costing less than £150.00 for example, the same rule – in terms of making that same assessment for the insurance company – when applied to a windscreen which costs considerably more (several hundred, or even thousands of pounds) is clearly ill-advised and frivolous.

This practice is clearly open to abuse. An abuse of trust. How many windscreens are being (or have already been) replaced when they could have been repaired economically, and to an acceptable standard? Why does this practice of scaring policyholders into booking a repair, and then subsequently condemn the windscreen because of some unwritten rules exist? Because they are not experienced or trained to deal with every type of repair? Because their equipment cannot cope with complex windscreen repair? Or is it because their core business is to supply and fit new windscreens? You decide.

Windscreen Rain (and Light) Sensors: Audi

 

 

This is how a properly installed rain sensor should look:

Audi Rain Sensor Correctly Fitted

Correctly fitted

 

If the sensor gel pad is missing, it will affect the sensitivity – or functioning – of the sensor. Many windscreens are being replaced, and the sensor pad is not renewed. The auto wiper function may still work, but it will not be as responsive, and sharp, as a sensor fitted with a gel pad.

 

Without Gel Pad

Incorrectly fitted

Active Lane Assist, or Lane Departure Warning cameras are fitted differently and will not require a gel pad.