Giammalvo Files
Mark Giammalvo

Mark Giammalvo specializes in driveability diagnostics at his family business, Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales & Service, Inc. in New Bedford, MA.   

Mark, who has been with the business for over 20 years, is an ASE  Master Technician and Parts Specialist. He also holds the ASE L1 certification, and has an associates degree in business management.
Mark is also a writer for Motor Age Magazine and is the past secretary of the Alliance of Automotive Service Professionals, (AASP).

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  How Is Your Auto Insurance Company Treating You?

(Printed in the Journal of The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers, AASP) 

Automobile insurance rates are climbing higher and higher each year. You would think that with these added increases would come some added benefits. If you believe that, I've got some slightly wet land in Florida to sell you. Nowadays, the true litmus test of your insurance company is the end result of how they handle a glass claim. As many of you are aware, our dealership has on site windshield replacements. We work directly with your insurance company and agree to their replacement pricing. Most drivers in Massachusetts do not have a deductible on glass damage. As a result, the customer does not incur any charges for a glass replacement. Most glass losses in automotive occur as cracked or broken windshields. Typically, when you need a new windshield we ask that you report the loss to your insurance company or agent. At this point your insurance company opens a claim. Finally, we verify insurance coverage with your company and in a few hours, your windshield is replaced. Unfortunately, that simple procedure is now getting less and less common. We are finding that more insurance companies are trying to "steer" more customers to "their recommended installer." These insurance companies know that most customers are unaware of state laws protecting their "right to choose" their repair shop of choice. The topic of insurance "steering" is not a new one but it is getting more prevalent. "Steering" is a tactic that some insurance companies use to pressure or "steer" a customer to a certain replacement facility. Often they tell customers that using a company "other than whom they recommend" will result in the customer having to pay a portion of the repair. In another pressure tactic, they tell the customer that the insurance company will "not guarantee the non preferred" shops' work. These statements are outright fabrications, strategically stated to get the customer to use a cheaper national facility contacted by the insurance company. In addition, these facilities may be using inferior "blurred" glass and less stringent replacement procedures.

After being involved in many of these calls I can tell you that I have learned a lot about the insurance company's latest tactics. Its amazing what you can learn by being part of a three-way conference call. What would you say if I told you that the 800 number your insurance company lists for glass claims has nothing to do with your insurance company? Now, what would you say if I told you that the number you were calling was actually a national glass company? Yes, you read that correctly, a national glass company.

Case in point: Recently we had a customer that needed a windshield for her Lincoln Town Car. We gave the customer an appointment date and told her to call her insurance company to report the loss. Within fifteen minutes I received a call back from the customer stating that she would not be bringing the car to us. As usual, after questioning the customer, I learned that the customer had been steered to a national glass company. She was told that using our facility will result in her having to pay a difference and that they would not warranty our work. I told the customer that she had been steered and that we would replace her windshield correctly, using quality parts and would guarantee the work. Although this long time customer trusted us and wanted us to do the work, she had been literally frightened by what she was told. The problem was, she thought she was talking to her insurance company. Without realizing it, they had transferred her phone call to a national glass company looking to steal the job from us and book it with one of their chain stores. When the customer called her insurance company's 800 number, the recorded voice said to "push 2 for glass claims." At this point the call is intentionally transferred out of the insurance company's phone center and over to a national glass chain company. At one point they even told the customer that she would have to drive to Hyannis for the repair. I told the customer not to worry and that I would resolve the issue. I called the 800 number and pressed # 2 for glass claims. If you listen very carefully, they announce a quick message about being connected to a glass claims management center. When I finally got a live body, I gave the person the claim number. The woman at the glass center said that the customer would have to call back herself to change the shop of choice. You can bet I was not going to let her scare my customer with any more tall tales. I told the woman to briefly hold while I conferenced her with the customer. Now I was able to referee the call between the customer and the glass company. Keep in mind that the customer still thought she was talking to her insurance company. Then I listened as the woman warned my customer that she may have to pay a difference by using our shop. Funny, now that I was on the line she "may have to pay" a difference. When the customer called on her own, they told her she "would have to pay" a difference. I quickly interjected that there would be no charge to the customer for the job. Then she spun the yarn about not being able to guarantee our work. Again, I jumped in to say that we would fully warranty our work. I was really shocked when the woman told the customer that: "It would be nice if you had told me you wanted to use Giammalvo's on the initial call." Hello! My customer said that on the first call but was quickly and intentionally steered to your company. Finally, the woman advised me that they would only pay a certain amount for the glass and a certain amount for the labor. I agreed to the terms and we terminated the call.

In the end, the customer got to use us, a quality repair facility that she had trusted and known for years. Too bad it took such a great effort on both our parts.  I can't imagine how many windshield jobs I am losing due to customers that are frightened out of asking for their shop of choice. How much is she paying for that insurance?

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