October 9, 2012

I Just Bought Some Glass—For The First Time in 36 years!

By Paul Bieber

Yep, it has been 36 years since I bought any type of glass. Please, let me explain. In 1976 I started working for CR Laurence Company where I made a lot of friends in the glass business. When needing something in glass, I never got the opportunity to pay for it. In 1985 I joined Floral Glass & Mirror, in New York, a large fabricator of glass, and again, never had to pay for any glass needed.

So, let’s go to last Sunday morning. Jonathan, who helps me with our lawn, was trimming the grass edges and kicked up a pebble, which went like a guided missle directly to the rear-side window of my Ford Escape.  Ka-boom!  Jonathan was visibly upset, apologizing over and over again.  I wasn’t upset at all.  Life happens, and my insurance package includes a $0 deductible on glass.  This might be a very slight invonencie for me, but that is all. 

An hour after the missle attack I was at my computer, typed in “auto glass in Keene, NH”, and got a couple of results.  One of the national chains had a 24/7 phone number and a link to their on-line appointment service.  I clicked it, typed in my location, insurance policy number, type of car, etc., and in one minute I had a confirmed appointment to replace the side lite, at no cost to me.  I went to their office the next morning, and 35 minutes later, drove out with a new side glass, a vacuumed and cleaned car, and a ton of smiles and good feelings.   Two days later I received a follow-up survey asking to grade their service level, to help with their ongoing program of continuous improvement.

OK, enough of the auto glass story.  What does this mean to the flat glass community?  It is all about servicing the customer, promptly, on-time, with the right product(s) and with a smile.

We don’t have national companies buying flat glass shops because we don’t work with a finite number of parts, and our labor is only predictable after a job site has been seen.  But the flat glass industry can learn a lot from the auto glass chains.

  • Have a web presence, even a simple one is better than none.
  • Check your answering machine often, including weekends.  Don’t wait until Monday morning to call back.  Just a quick call, saying you will follow up from the office on Monday, or tomorrow morning will work.
  • During business hours, answer your phone promptly, with a smile on your face.  If you are upset over something, don’t let potential customers hear that in your voice—they will go somewhere else.
  • In your yellow pages ad and any other advertising, promote service over price.  You won’t stay in business long if you are the lowest-priced company all the time.
  • Always leave a job-site cleaner than you found it.  No exceptions.  Clean the glass you installed. No exceptions.
  • Remember, customers always have a choice—whether to use your shop or not, or whether to do the job or not.  Help the customer to make the decision that benefits them and you.

Make sure your employees look neat and clean; make sure your trucks are washed and well painted; follow up on every single job you do and learn from each customer your service.  These all work for our cousins in the auto glass world, they will work for us too.