By JIM PARKERThe Post and Courier

When the people who choose Safelite for glass repair dole out superlatives, they’ve been very generous lately toward the 7425 Cross County Road outlet.

As evidence, Safelite AutoGlass presented its 2011 “Excellence in Service Award” — which is based on customer responses — to North Charleston shop repairman Barry Johnson. At the same time, a colleague placed fourth and two more tied each other for eighth in the national company’s recognition program.

That’s pretty good, considering that Safelite bills itself as the nation’s largest vehicle glass repair and replacement company with more than 4,000 technicians. The North Charleston outlet’s feat would be like an athletic conference placing four teams in the top 10 including No. 1 after outdueling 3,990 other squads nationwide.

“For us, I think the top award is awareness that customer service is the top priority,” said Harry Rowland, general manager of the local outlet.

Johnson, a windshield specialist, received more customer compliments in 2011 than any other technician representing Safelite AutoGlass.

“It kind of makes you feel good in a way,” said Johnson, who has worked for the company since 1998 after a career as a nuclear product planner. “To be completely honest, I can’t believe I get paid to do the job I do.”

Jason Linville, a repair specialist in North Charleston, finished fourth. “Every time I get (compliments), I’m re-energized,” said Linville, who started in the business after he attended college.

Deadlocking in eighth were technicians Jonathan Cox Jr., who has since moved to a Virginia shop, and Robbie Sigmon. “It shows somebody cares about you,” said Sigmon, who has a side job as a disc jockey on weekends.

Johnson said customers are truly what makes his job enjoyable. He added that sincerity is key to great customer service. “I think if you are just being nice because you have to be, the customer sees through that,” he said.“I’m so proud of it because it means I really do make an impression on people.”

Other top 10 repair specialists and technicians were from Boise, Idaho; Raleigh; Sherman Oaks, Calif.; Capitol Heights, Md.; Farmington, N.M.; and Palm Springs, Calif.

The honors are part of Safelite’s Excellence in Service program, formed to recognize employees for delighting customers.

When employees receive compliments that show they’re “going above and beyond their normal duties, turning a bad experience around, or doing something the customer did not expect or ever experienced before,” they earn points to purchase gifts online, said Tom Feeney, Safelite’s president and chief executive officer. They also receive a certificate. As they accumulate recognitions, they move up levels.

At level 5 or above, employees are included in a special program where they take home a glass trophy and plaque. The top 10 each year are featured in a wall display in the main lobby of Safelite’s headquarters in Columbus, Ohio. Johnson, who finished the year on level 18, said he learned he had won when the CEO called him on a Saturday afternoon.

“When you get people like that (reaching out), to me, that means a lot. You want to do the best for the company,” he said.

Founded in 1947, Safelite AutoGlass specializes in mobile service, whereby technicians visit a customer’s home or place of business to make repairs or replace glass. The company said it served 4.4 million customers last year.

“We are on the road,” Johnson said. The coverage area, according to Rowland, stretches from Port Royal to the south to Myrtle Beach to the north. The center has a fleet of 30 vans that technicians and repair specialists drive to jobs.

While much of the work is in the field, there are special jobs and meetings at the office. Rowland, who began with Safelite in 1992 as a technician, said the venture has outgrown its current operation and is building a new facility set to open this month on Palmetto Commerce Parkway. At 30,000 square feet, it’s more than twice as large as the existing one.

“It’s a beautiful building,” Rowland said. “We keep growing,” he said, “because of customer service.”

For more information, visit www.safelite.com.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.