The Second Hardest-Working Man

Originally appeared in Warranty Experts

And then the second-hardest-working man in the warranty business next month will be Michael Bailey, the president of Superior Warranty Services Inc., who first delivers a presentation about extended warranty sales training in the session right after lunch on Wednesday afternoon, followed later that same day by an appearance on a panel discussion about international extended warranty markets. Then on Thursday morning, he chairs a panel discussion that compares online retailers to those using physical storefronts, and how each are selling extended warranties.

Bailey’s first assignment on Wednesday is the 1:30-to-3:15pm session on “Extended Service & Buy Back Programs in the Retail Industry.” Patrick Kelley, the senior legal counsel at Best Buy, leads the session off with a presentation entitled, “Regulatory Compliance of Service Contract & Buy Back Programs.”

The second speaking slot goes to John Watson, the vice president of sales at Global Warranty Group LLC, who will speak about “Developing and Implementing an Effective Retail Extended Warranty Program.” Then it’s Bailey’s turn to deliver a presentation titled, “Extended Service Contract Sales Training.”

“Each of us is talking about different elements in extended warranties,” Bailey said. Watson will talk about designing and building an extended service program. Kelley will talk about keeping it legal. And Bailey will talk about training the actual sellers, using multiple examples from his experiences in the automotive, appliance, and consumer electronics industries.

“I’ve been training since 1988 on extended service contracts,” Bailey said. “I did that for the first 10 years of my career for third-party administrators and insurance companies, and since 1997 I’ve been doing it on a contract basis. And one of the things I’ve noticed is that there’s less and less training going on.”

That goes not only for training by the TPAs and underwriters of the retail staff, but also by the product manufacturers, he said. “You used to have a lot more [manufacturer's] reps on the road, and there was a lot more in-depth training for the people on the floor,” he said. “It was more than just product knowledge and feature dumping. It was really an examination of our product versus a competitor’s products, or specific problems in regions.

“A lot of that nuance has unfortunately gone away,” Bailey added. “And while we’re pretty quick to say salespeople aren’t what they used to be, they don’t get the support they used to get either.”

Online training and webinar tools can help fill the void, Bailey said, but the best options for training salespeople to sell service contracts in person will always be person-to-person. Still, he said some of the latest tools are getting pretty good, broken into modules with little tests at the end and with reporting features that help a supervisor see who’s completed what.

Bailey said he will include suggestions for both helping the underperformers get up to speed and helping the top performers to keep abreast of the new products and programs. And, for those who use resellers, he will include suggestions for how to train salespeople that are technically not working for your company.

International Service Contracts

Bailey’s second assignment is to represent Canada on an internationally-focused panel discussion entitled, “Challenges Facing Global Extended Warranty Providers.” That event, scheduled as one of five sessions closing out the Wednesday agenda from 3:45 to 5:30pm, will be moderated by Tom Marsh, the head of global warranty at Chartis Insurance.

Todd Nickell of Best Buy Canada Ltd. will talk about China. Marsh will detail market conditions in a dozen other markets in Asia and the Pacific Rim. David Azzarito, the assistant vice president of Chartis’ Latin America Division, will represent our neighbors to the south. And Toby Carnduff, the managing director of Willis Group Holdings Ltd., will talk about the UK, the rest of Europe, and also the Middle East and Africa.

Bailey said one of his main topics will be Qu├ębec’s Bill 60, an amendment to the province’s Consumer Protection Act that set out new regulations for the sale of extended warranties, prepaid gift cards, and mobile phone contracts. That could easily swallow up most of the allotted time, given all the controversy the amendments created. “But we’re doing just a few minutes each, and then opening it up to general conversation,” he said.

The law, Bailey said, requires retailers in the province to detail a product’s manufacturer’s warranty and any relevant implied warranties before they can even attempt to sell an extended warranty. The new law was designed to reduce extended warranty sales by making it mandatory to inform consumers of the free alternatives bundled into their purchase.

But ironically, it’s had the opposite effect, because now 100% of consumers are theoretically getting the sales pitch, and so the attach rate has gone up at a few retailers. “The ones that have trained it out properly,” he noted, “the ones who have scripted their salespeople, and the ones who have said ‘We aren’t going to be in violation of this law. We want every customer to make an informed decision. We want every customer to receive the information.’”

Bailey said this panel discussion is aimed at anybody who might be thinking about selling extended warranties outside of the 50 states. But it might also help people whose businesses are wholly domestic, because when the panel members point out the subtle differences in the law between provinces or among countries, it might also help people in the audience scope out the difficulty of remaining in compliance with just the 50 sets of U.S. laws.

Online vs. Storefront

Bailey’s third assignment is to moderate a panel on Thursday morning entitled, “Selling Extended Warranties & Service Contracts: Bricks & Mortar vs. Online.” Panelists include James Mostofi, president of Chartis Warranty; Katrina Means, the director of service contracts at Sears Holdings Corp.; Dave Crawford, president and chief operating officer of American Home Shield; and Ed Stockwell, the manager of the customer care center at Crutchfield Corp.

Again, he said the introductory comments will be brief, leaving plenty of time for discussion. But if we could add a bit of background, this panel is absolutely loaded with potential.