When your techs come to you to tell you they’re stumped, and you give them a recommendation, you’ll lose regardless of the outcome. If you solve the problem, you’ve sent a message to the tech that you’re more knowledgeable than they are, which is not going to build their confidence. But then it gets worse; you’ve also taught them to come to you when they're up against a wall. This is a lose-lose situation, in that if your recommendation doesn’t solve the problem, the tech will come back to you looking for your next recommendation, because you’ve now assumed ownership of the problem.
As a business owner, you need to invest your time working on the business, not working on cars or solving problems for your techs. The answer is a lot easier than you may think. The first thing you need to do is create a system for solving technical problems in your shop. Once you have the system outlined, you’ll need to meet with all your techs and tell them something like this:
“Guys, I realize you all know we each have a job here at Elite Auto Service. Mine is to set the goals of the company, hire remarkable people like you, and to provide you with a lot of opportunities. Your job is to accurately diagnose the vehicles, and then get our customers back on the road just as soon as possible. Unfortunately, I’ve been spending way too much time helping you do your job, which means that I don’t have the time needed to do my job to the best of my ability.”
“So what I’ve done is put together a system that you guys can use to solve technical problems without my help. Here’s how it’s going to work: If you get stumped with any diagnosis or repair, the first thing you’ll need to do is ask one another for any ideas. If no one in the shop has a quick answer, I want you to go to the second step, which is checking our Mitchell Repair service. If you can’t find the answer there, I want you to go to the third step, which is to call our technical support line. Now, if for whatever reason, you still can’t come up with the answer, it’s time to go to step number four, which is to post online. If you still can’t find the answer, then it’s time for step five: Partner up with another one of our techs and commit to resolving the issue together, because you know as well as I do, there’s a good chance the answer is right under your nose, and sometimes all we need is a second set of eyes. At this point you’ll need to hit the reset button, and start at the very beginning by re-confirming the customer’s complaint, and then going through this entire problem solving system one more time.”
“Now if for whatever reason you still can’t solve the problem, then you’re more than welcome to come see me to ask if I can help. But if you do, bear in mind that I’m going to ask you what you have done to solve the problem so far, and I’m going to have an expectation that you’re going to tell me you’ve followed each and every one of these steps.”
“So here’s what I’m going to do next: I’m going to put each of these steps down on a piece of paper, and pass out copies to each of you. Then we’re going to have another meeting so I can learn what you think we need to add, subtract or change on our list. As soon as it’s finalized, I’m going to give each of you a copy, and I’ll have an expectation that you’ll use it. If you do, I am confident you’ll be able to solve problems a lot more quickly, you’ll flag more hours, and I’ll be able to do what I need to do: Invest my time in finding ways to provide you with all of the opportunities you’ll need.”
In closing, I know there is no one single problem solving system that will work for every shop, but hopefully this information will give you the start you need to solve the age-old problem of your techs relying on you, when all they need is a simple system they can follow.
Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.