Channel | Meet the Executive

An Interview with Mike Melby

Agent Entrepreneur catches up with Mike Melby, vice president of strategy and business development for GWC Warranty.
An Interview with Mike Melby

Mike Melby wears his passion for the vehicle service contract segment on his sleeve. Read on to learn how Melby strives to fulfill his company’s mission to protect car buyers and be a true partner to agents and dealers.

Tell me a little bit about your company and its place in the industry.

Here at GWC, we view ourselves as the best-in-class vehicle service contract provider for used cars in the automotive industry. We’ve been in business for 20 years, paid over $350 million in claims and helped protect more than 1.5 million drivers during that time. We’re A+ rated by the BBB and all our products are backed by American Bankers Insurance Company, an Assurant Solutions company, which is rated A “Excellent” by AM Best.

I tell you all this because these numbers and accolades are the results of a simple mission to help dealers sell more cars by giving car shoppers the confidence to become car buyers. We firmly believe that, when a customer has a great experience with GWC, they improve the dealer’s CSI, generate strong referrals and become repeat buyers for dealers — all of which equates to added vehicle service contract business for agents. And while we do maintain an employee-based sales force, we remain respectful of the businesses our agents operate and have a history of safely and successfully coexisting in markets across the country.

How do we do it? Simply put, it’s the only thing we do. We’re not like some F&I product or warranty providers that dabble in several different industries with a wide array of products. At GWC, we specialize only in the service contract space and only on used vehicles. It’s a conscious decision to focus on this niche, and one that has benefited us and our dealer and agent partners greatly.

Specifically for our agents, it starts with personalized attention. I am hands-on with every one of our agents to make sure their needs are addressed in a timely and effective manner. It’s important to note, too, that we understand the needs of agents vary from business to business. We stay flexible to ensure we’re providing solutions tailored to each agent’s business.

Are there any recent or future developments within your company that you would like to tell us about?

In today’s marketplace, it’s all about service and technology. We’re constantly looking at ways to improve the way we work with agents, dealers and drivers to make sure we’re creating a best-in-class experience. In terms of service, we employ ASE-certified claims adjusters who have decades of experience in keeping drivers on the road.

When it comes to technology, the industry is quickly moving to more and more paperwork being done electronically. Because 60% of service contract business is now filed electronically, we are working with DMS providers all over the country to integrate our products onto their systems, and we’ve even created our own econtracting tool in the past year: the Dealer Portal.

We’ve been busy with even more technology offerings in 2015 too. We just introduced GWC Virtual Training — a free online, interactive training tool with content for every employee in a dealership — as well Covideo, which integrates video into a customized email template to help streamline walkarounds, lead conversion and post-sale follow-up. GWC is sharing the cost of Covideo with dealers and agents to offer an exclusive rate unavailable anywhere else.

How did you (personally) get started? What caused you to choose this career path?

I’ve known nothing but the auto industry throughout my entire career. I’ve spent almost 30 years in the automotive industry. I started at GMAC, working throughout the company in sales, credit and operations. After that, I moved on to AutoNation, where I was the director of F&I product development. Working for some of the biggest players in the automotive industry was the perfect way for me to blend my passion for business with what’s now a deeply rooted connection to the auto industry.

What are your outside interests / what do you like to do on your days off? What activities/sports are you passionate about?

I work a lot and travel often, but when I’m home, family is first. I try to spend as much time with my wife and kids as possible. Come wintertime, I enjoy lacing up the skates in a local ice hockey league. In the summer, I try to get on the golf course when I can fit in the time for 18 holes — which is far less often than when I lived in South Florida!

What are the biggest issues you see facing the industry today and in the future?

For VSC providers, it’s always a matter of protecting our reputation. Unfortunately, the VSC industry is an easy one to break into and a difficult one in which to sustain success. One thing we see contribute to this far too often is the mispricing of contracts. At GWC, we have 20 years of underwriting data to draw from so we know exactly how each make and model will perform, what will break down and when. This allows us to price the risk on each vehicle accordingly.

How does this benefit agents and their dealers? First of all, companies without such a history can sometimes charge prices that are insufficient to cover the required reserves. While unsustainably low prices may be appealing to a dealer in the short term, a series of much less pleasing events usually follow: First comes frequent and substantial price increases to correct an under-reserved portfolio, then comes stricter claims approvals. And once all these belt-tightening measures are exhausted, those companies that seemed like a good low-price alternative at the beginning exit the service contract space altogether.

With GWC, those fears don’t exist. Our rock-solid reputation is one that will help an agent or dealer maintain theirs. We have a long history of doing something simple: keeping our promises. It sounds basic, but we pay claims. Aside from that, we invest in talent, training and technology to make sure we’re delivering the best-in-class experience we commit to providing.

By maintaining these principles as a priority throughout our organization, it’s our hope to attract likeminded agents who are looking to join us.

What advice would you give to someone new to this industry?

Simply put, do things the right way. Sometimes we see companies and individuals in this industry looking to get rich overnight. But if you do things the right way and catch on with a company with strong leadership, you can be part of something special that helps consumers hit the road worry-free and businesses continually improve upon themselves.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

For me personally, I have such a strong passion for GWC Warranty. It’s what gets me out of bed each morning. I’m here each day to make this a great company. I would encourage agents and dealers to give us a look to see how this same passion is shared by every GWC employee. Everyone at GWC takes pride in helping our partners succeed, and it’s something that is clearly evident from your first conversation with us.

If I could give any advice to agents and dealers, I would tell them it’s imperative they do their due diligence before selecting a partner. Not all VSC providers are created equally. If you make a decision solely based on price, the consequences could be disastrous. Agents and dealers work too hard to put their reputations and customer satisfaction at risk by partnering with the wrong VSC provider.

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