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I think we all know that diagnostics is the most costly service we provide in the automotive repair business today. In today's automotive repair environment, you need to be selling diagnostics, and getting paid for it. I'm looking for feedback on when things don't go exactly as planned. Let's say a car comes in and you sell some diagnostics, by the hour, or from a menu. After you complete that work, and you still don't have an answer, do you go back to the customer and sell some more? Do you continue at your expense? If you do go back to the customer, and you have nothing conclusive after that, then what? Do you keep going back and selling more diagnostic work until you solve the problem? If you continue to go back and sell more, how many times can you do that? We've all had that car that we've worked on for weeks to find some strange problem. I doubt many customers are willing to pay for the 40 hours you spent on the car. Now lets say after 5 hours of work that the customer agreed to, you are no closer to finding the issue than when the car came in. Do you charge them for the 5 hours and send them down the road even though you have not provided them with a diagnoses? Do you start spending your time trying to solve the issue because you have a hard time charging for 5 hours and are unable to provide any answers? I'm asking these questions as I am rethinking my business strategy on diagnostics a little. Our shop is known for its abilities to diagnose problems. We have other shops bringing cars to us on a regular basis because of these abilities. I actually get several calls and emails weekly from across the county for help diagnosing problems. There are times, a lot of times, when I think this is more of a curse, than a blessing. I know we are in the business of fixing cars, and we need to be able to find problems if customers are going to keep coming back. But after my lead tech and I spent a considerable amount of time over the last 15 days diagnosing the strangest intermittent no start issue on an Audi, and watching his frustration grow everyday, not because of the difficulty of the issue as we both love the challenge, but because it held him back from addressing the other work that was coming in the shop. So, as rewarding as it was to solve that mystery, I can't help but look back at what it cost me financially, and the frustration to the technician, and realize we have to come up with a way to try to avoid going down those rabbit holes. Right now my idea is to give it 1 hour. If after an hour, we are not relatively certain that we will find the issue, with another hour or two, then let the car go. Let the customer know that it's not that we can't fix the car, but that we cannot fix it efficiently. If I lose that customer, it would probably still be cheaper that working on his car for 2 weeks. Love to hear your thoughts. Scott
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Retail stores have known for a long time that adding or increasing the size of shopping carts also increases sales. Consumers may go to the store with a list, but as they pass through the aisles, having a cart makes it easy to add to that list. While your repair shop does not use shopping cart, the same strategy can used. Every customer that books an appointment as done so with some sort of list; an oil change service, a brake issue, tire rotation, etc. Through an effective multipoint inspection and looking at service schedules, you can make suggestions to your customers that can add to their cart; essentially increasing sales per vehicle. One last thing: Always make service and repair suggestions to the customer that is in their best interest and have value, and you can’t go wrong. It’s actually great customer service.
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This is an article I wrote several years ago for a trade magazine.... I think it's still true today... Love to hear your comments. Diagnostics fee or not This has been an issue since day one. Should we charge to diagnose the car or should the estimate be free. Let’s define an estimate first. What is an estimate? An estimate is a list of all the parts and labor involved in making a repair. With the possibilities of adding supplements to the original estimate if other work is deemed necessary after the initial work has started. Ok that’s an estimate, or is it…? Let’s try this again. What is an estimate? It’s a guess……. With the chance that I might get it right but more than likely the final bill will be different than what was original “estimated” at. Hmm, the two definitions are different but at the same time mean the same thing… What about the diagnostic side? Ok, how about that… that diagnostic thing. What is a diagnostic? It is the process in which a technician is able to determine the cause or failure of a piece of equipment, vehicle, or appliance. Did ya get that? … One more time … What is a diagnostic? It is the process used to determine the root cause of a given mechanical or electrical problem that has become an issue with a vehicle, appliance or piece of equipment. Sounds the same doesn’t it…. hmm, maybe we are getting to the real issue… MONEY The diagnostics may take some time, may even require a few sophisticated scanners, wiring diagrams, and tools. Time is money as we all know, of course, knowledge, expertise and experience is a commodity that should always be respected no matter what field you are in. A service charge for such “diagnostics” is essential in the continuing financial stability of a shop or for that matter… any service oriented business. Once the diagnostics has been completed an “estimate” can then be given to the customer for their approval. This should also be noted that if a “diagnostics” is preformed and the problem turns out to be “intermittent” or none exciting a fee still applies. The time has already been spent to figure out that there was nothing wrong. That brings up another touchy issue. For some reason the customer feels cheated if you charge for nothing found… now wait a minute, how was it determined that nothing was wrong… ah…the diagnostics lead to that result. Then the problem isn’t the problem anymore, it’s the time spent looking for the problem that is the problem. To ease the customer’s woes you could always give them a time table for future re-evaluations. (30 days is a good round number) Note; It wouldn’t be the first time I have diagnosed a car for a customer only to find out that their complaint is from lack of understanding of their vehicle or dare I say… their just another fruit basket behind the wheel. Now I’m not in favor of a free diagnostics (if you couldn’t tell already) and I’m not too fond of the free estimate. If there is any “man hours” that are part of any job a “man” wants paid. If that “man” is working on a commission basis, I can assure you that he is going to rush through the “estimate” in order to get to the real money end of the job. However a diagnostic is a totally different thing, I don’t think I could have made a living without charging for the time it takes to figure out some of the strange pr oblems I’ve encountered over the years. Some things were easy to diagnose, some took hours. But I believe it’s the standardization of a diagnostic charge that would make things a lot easier for the customers to understand the complexities of today’s problem evaluations. If a tech couldn’t figure out a problem in a reasonable length of time … say an hour… then it’s quite possible the shop is going to be losing money if they kept him on that job. The next best thing would be to move him off that job. Put another tech on who might be able to figure out the problem in a reasonable amount of time. Of course, the shop is already behind the 8 ball, since the first tech didn’t get the job done, but in the long run… it will get done, there will be an estimate for the customer explaining the repairs needed. I don’t know which is more of a problem, the shops out there not willing to charge for estimating… Oops I mean diagnostic time… or the customer who doesn’t feel that it’s a necessary part of the process. Then again, these are not yesterday’s cars. It’s about time there were some standards that everyone in the industry had to go by, be it from the independent side or the dealer side. Regulation or self imposed limits as to how much can be charged across the board for various levels of diagnostics. Not to say diagnosing a bad ball joint is easier than a battery drain, no, not at all. Each field in the industry would have to come up with a balanced set of standards that those involved could agree was a fair price for that type of service. If all the independent shops charge the same fees in a demographic area it would lead to a more even playing field for the customer. Maybe, we should think about using a different term rather than “independent”… we can be independent in ownership, style, quality, etc… but put the customer’s concerns up front. If I wasn’t in the business and didn’t know where to take my car I would really would like to know that I’m getting quality work done at a fair price at any shop I went to. If there was a way to put an end to the “I can get it done cheaper down the street” escapades… my drive home would be a whole lot more pleasant than in the past. . If that didn’t happen it then only comes down to a question of where to have the vehicle repaired at. Everyone has their favorite doctor, dentist, or restaurant. Which is probably based on location, atmosphere, or “ya just like that particular place”. Price is always an issue, and probably always will be. If you’re not getting the job done right at the shop of your choice… choose another one. How many times a day does your phone ring because you have some “price shopper” who is never coming to your shop because your price is higher than the last shop they called… even though they were referred by a friend to call you. Maybe we should focus on better instructional classes, more information, and true manufacturer level scanners available to the independent side of the business. Sometimes too much effort is put on the “Be nice to the customer”, or the preverbal “Customer is always right” routine. The old saying; “If the customer knew what was wrong they would have fixed it themselves” still holds true today. But I’m talking about telling them what’s wrong with the vehicle, not how to fix it. With the advent of the computer age upon us the car has become a rolling updateable, flash reprogramming software jungle of information. The cost of these specialized scanners puts them out of the range of most consumers, and a lot of small shops, which, in some ways, also places the shade tree mechanic on the endangered species list. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the same line from a customer’s after I have diagnosed a problem. “Well, I could have done that myself, I would have looked there for the problem if I had the time, and I don’t know why you’re charging me for something so simple. You should give a break on the price because it was so simple. “Hey, I’m a regular customer I should be getting a discount.” My usual answer is… “So if you knew what was wrong, why did you bring it to me to figure it out?” And, I’m not sure that other professional people you deal with such as a doctor, dentist, or the grocer…etc… is going to give you a discount just because you shop with them on a regular basis. Common sense, the largest lacking component in all of these situations… In my opinion, once common sense is removed from the conversation “stupid” takes its place. I wonder if I could estimate how many times this has happened… maybe so… but I better think about diagnosing it first…
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Auto Care Association Supports Supreme Court Decision Allowing States to Collect Online Sales Tax POSTED BY AUTO CARE NEWS ON JUNE 21, 2018 The Auto Care Association applauds today’s decision by the Supreme Court to permit states to collect sales tax on purchases of products made over the Internet. The 5-4 decision means that online sellers will now be on a level playing field with brick and mortar retailers regarding charging sales tax. The Auto Care Association had filed an amicus brief with other retail groups urging the Supreme Court to hear the case based on the price advantage that the current system provided on-line sellers. The decision overturns a previous Supreme Court decision that required companies to have a physical presence in the state where the purchaser resided in order to charge sales tax.
“This is an important decision for many of Auto Care’s retail members and we are pleased that the Supreme Court saw the unfairness in the current system and determined to make everyone play by the same rules,” said Aaron Lowe, senior vice president, regulatory and government affairs, Auto Care Association. “We hope that implementation of the sales tax will be done uniformly across state lines to ensure a fair and efficient system of tax collection.
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On June 20, the Automotive Service Association (ASA) hosted a webinar called “The Road to Great Technicians” with Chris Chesney, senior director of customer training for the CARQUEST Technical Institute. Written by Chasidy Rae Sisk * Attendees qualified for one credit from the Automotive Management Institute. After ASA Vice President Tony Molla introduced the webinar’s presenter, Chesney recounted his collaboration with the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF) to identify the Road to Great Technicians. They began in March 2016 when NASTF’s Spring General Meeting focused on the topic of building a road to great technicians. Chesney was asked to explain the current state of the aftermarket training industry. He defined the current state of aftermarket training as a lack of industry standards and a structured career path, unorganized training offerings, and disjointed efforts by industry organizations. However, he also identified many good building elements. Current problems in the industry include the inability to find new talent, graduates not performing to industry standards, an inability to afford techs and the amount of time is takes to replace a technician or advisor who leaves a company because companies do not build bench strength. Chesney stressed, “You have to invest in those new technicians, but many shops cannot find someone who can perform out of the gate, so we need to focus on growing our own and building our bench strength to overcome this problem. We have a need now for the next several years. Reports indicate that we need 80,000 technicians each year, but only 25,000 are being produced.” Chesney identified the aging workforce, oncoming tidal wave of technology and lack of a structured career path as reasons for the significant needs for technicians. Focusing on the influx of technology, he explored the unseemly amount of data that is transferred within modern vehicles. “It’s not the problem of education,” he said. “It’s our problem, and we’re going to look into that.” Chesney presented a picture of the Technician Life Cycle, which included the following seven steps: secondary shadowing, post-secondary intern, entry-level apprentice, technician, senior technician, master technician and specialist; however, he noted that this does not include possible “off ramps” on the Road to Great Technicians. Occurring after an industry professional becomes an entry-level technician, these “off ramps” include in-service continuing education and higher education, which can offer technicians a variety of paths to pursue in their careers, ranging from master technician to shop foreman to shop owner or even becoming an engineer for an OEM. In a January 2018 meeting, the education team at NASTF identified a subcommittee of industry experts tasked with creating a framework of education around the life cycle of a technician and other job roles within the industry. This framework is intended for curriculum providers to use in order to offer a career pathway that means something to the industry and is transferrable throughout the industry. The group began with the vision that they would prescribe degrees of competencies at every skill level, focused on the safety and reliability of the ground vehicle fleet. This Road to Great Technicians team consists of NASTF Chair Mark Saxonberg, Toyota’s Jill Saunders, WTI’s Rob Morrell, CTI’s Chris Chesney, NACAT’s Bill Haas, of Diag.net’s Scott Brown, WTI’s Mark Warren, NASTF’s Donny Seyfer, ASE’s Trish Serratore, S/P2’s Kyle Holt, DrewTech’s Bob Augustineand Cengage’s Erin Brennan. Exploring possible solutions to the industry’s problem, this group defined 13 solution elements, starting with new and enhanced communication with parents and influencers of peripheral students, early engagement with tactile students in middle and high school, support of STEM and development of a well-articulated career path with clear opportunities for advancement and growth that students and parents can see. The industry also needs to get involved with vocational education content to ensure these programs provide the right skills to students. Chesney explained, “They’re producing the wrong technicians because we aren’t involved. We have to be involved. We need to design a curriculum for schools and employers to ensure that, regardless of where technicians work, they are uniformly trained for the skill level. We have to provide people with the opportunity to grow throughout their careers.” The team also believes that the industry needs to provide internship experience, develop programs to help in-service technicians become mentors, and ensure that testing and certification programs are uniform and tiered to provide milestones for achievement. Employers also must find ways to provide wages and benefits that are competitive with other industries attracting the same individuals. “As technicians progress through their career, it is imperative to communicate career options to ensure they don’t leave the industry,” Chesney elaborated. “Vehicle technology has accelerated to unprecedented levels, necessitating faster and more thorough technician skill development to ensure public safety. To add further credibility and value to the process, NASTF is encouraging practical examinations similar to other safety-related skills as a means to verify requisite skill level attainment. Currently, this is not regulated and we cannot keep up with the advancing rates of technology, but we need a way to prove our skills and be prepared for what’s coming, not merely what is on the road right now.” The current state of industry education is outcome-based and not sufficient to serve today’s technology. The future of education must be competency-based with a focus on mastery of skill and validation of a technician’s mastery and development of skills that are recognized and transferable. A competency-based education offers a variable class structure and the ability to test out of the subject matter at different levels, enabling students to finish as they are able. The Road to Great Technicians team defined a new NASTF Technician Life Cycle that includes seven steps: apprentice technician, maintenance technician, service technician, repair technician, diagnostic technician, master technician, and specialist technician. According to Chesney, “Each step would require a variety of requirements as far as training and experience. They would also require mastery of competencies using curriculum provided by the industry, to include mentoring, demonstrated skills and self-paced curriculum. Finally, technicians seeking to advance would prove their skills through oral and hands-on exams.” Continuing the work they have started, the team plans to provide the industry with a white paper by the end of the year, but they encourage the industry to comment and opine. While the team will be limited in size in order to maximize effectiveness, they encourage industry professionals to join NASTF and the NASTF Education Team. The group’s vision for the future of automotive education culminates in the idea of the Automotive Institute of Science and Technology, which would include a pathway education in a project-based environment. In ninth and 10th grades, students would sample each pathway through projects designed to highlight the different aspects and career fields before choosing a specific pathway in 11th grade to focus on in their final two years of high school. Their choices would be automotive technology as a trade, business, or engineering. While obtaining their associates degree, students would enter the discipline of their choice, working in shops to gain practical experience while simultaneously acting as mentors to younger students. Chesney concluded the webinar with a question and answer session. Article Source: https://www.autobodynews.com/index.php/component/k2/item/15820-asa-hosts-road-to-great-technicians-webinar-with-carquest-s-chris-chesney.html
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