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Another bad day at my auto repair shop, but not a bad life


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Even after 35 years in business, I am still looking for that one day when things go smoothly. Yesterday, Friday, everything was going fine. We were finished up a few big jobs, the schedule was filling up for next week, the weather was absolutely beautiful and everyone (including myself), was in a good mood.

 

Then it happened; The Friday afternoon nightmare. Just as the clock hit 5 o’clock, things began to fall apart. A brake job, just completed, had to be redone due to defective brake rotors. A BMW which was supposed to have been checked out for safety concerns now has a brake warning light on that was not discovered earlier. And the customer was told that “Everything was ok.” There was still one more car that needed a wheel alignment. With most of my techs leaving for the day, I blew up. “Hey, this 5 o’clock drop your tools and run has to stop”, I said.

 

I was upset, but was I right to say what I said? What I am about to tell you is not an excuse, but it needs to be said. As a shop owner for 35 years and someone working in the auto repair industry for more than 40 years, I have been through more bad days than I care to remember. I do try to be positive. In fact, I preach this to others. But, sometimes, even the preacher sins.

 

This morning I am sitting here typing away thinking about my day. It’s Saturday and my wife and I are spending the day with my daughter and future son-in-law visiting wedding venues.

 

So, when I really think about, yesterday may have been a bad day at the shop. But today is a great day in my life.

Lesson: put things in perspective and judge your life by the good things in your life, not the bad stuff that’s part of running an auto repair business.

 

Let’s hope I can take my own advice.

why do techs have to stay over because writers promiss the world? That's what has to stop. Things happen like this all the time. 35 years in the business you should know. People will never be happy with everything you do anyways.

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Its not the techs fault the parts were defective. Its not the customers fault either. Nor is it the shop owners fault. Its really not the parts stores fault either. Can we blame the machinist? The warehouse staff? The global economy?

 

The happy customer ultimately signs everybody's paycheck, and who makes sure they are happy? Hddm3, You expect to be paid for your hours worked but when the job isn't finished where's the money going to come from?

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I have felt like that before. But I don't force techs to stay. I immediately let the customer know there is an unforseen delay. I've stayed later myself if necessary. HOWEVER, I do make note of who stuck In there and who DIDN'T! When paychecks come around, I Round up for the tech that stays. When someone wants to bring their own car in on a weekend to use the lift, I'm conveniently NOT available for the tech that bolted. When there's extra gravy work unattended, the stuck around tech gets first dibs. I won't penalize for leaving. But if you don't look out for ME then I won't do anything EXTRA to look out for you. You work for your pay check, I don't OWE you anything else...no extras. It's life.

Edited by davine4real
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This is why I don't promise any same day repairs, not even on an oil change!. Crap happens and auto repair is not a cut and dry process sometimes. If it's 5 and the job likely won't be done real soon then I will arrange a ride home for the customer and it's time to go.

 

I have enough signage telling customers that I don't operate as a drive thru (mcdonalds) repair shop that they don't blink when I say no guarantees on same day service. I tell them it will probably will be done but they better have plans for transportation to and from work and don't even think about holding my feet to the fire!

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  • 4 weeks later...

I know it wasn't supposed to be the focus of your post, Joe, but I thought some of the other posters might appreciate my thought on this...

 

We often speak to our staff about the level of service we give out customers, and I don't mean to imply it's a one-way street. My techs are reminding me about Mr. So& So, and the issues his car is having. They're quick to remind our service advisors that it's the PEOPLE we serve, not the cars. As a matter of fact, it's company practice to refer to the jobs for the day ONLY by the customer's name, not the vehicle or the type of service. (No one here will answer the rookie who asks who's working on the Ford Taurus, or who's going to get to put those spark plug in the PT Cruiser. In fact, the correct question is literally, "Who's taking care of Mr. Jones, today?")

 

My advice on the 5 o'clock bolt? We had a round table meeting with employees and suppliers alike, and here's what we agreed to as a team: The service advisors would respect the technicians' schedules, and assign work that could reasonablly be completed by 4:30pm, giving the tech a 30 minute window. Our whole team would honor the delivery schedules for the "last minute" parts emergencies, and not abuse the friendly nature of our relationship with suppliers by rushing them every other day at 4:30 for jobs that "had to go", and conversely, our technical staff agreed to staying as late as 5:30pm on ANY day, knowing they would of course, be paid, if it meant keeping a promise to our customer for delivery that day.

 

With each leg of the service triangle working together, and respecting one another...we're often out the door by 5 anyway, with most promises kept. In the instance that a tech needs a little more time, or the service advisor needs to keep a promise, etc....we talk to one another, and keep the peace.

 

Just one man's opinion.

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

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      It always amazes me when I hear about a technician who quits one repair shop to go work at another shop for less money. I know you have heard of this too, and you’ve probably asked yourself, “Can this be true? And Why?” The answer rests within the culture of the company. More specifically, the boss, manager, or a toxic work environment literally pushed the technician out the door.
      While money and benefits tend to attract people to a company, it won’t keep them there. When a technician begins to look over the fence for greener grass, that is usually a sign that something is wrong within the workplace. It also means that his or her heart is probably already gone. If the issue is not resolved, no amount of money will keep that technician for the long term. The heart is always the first to leave. The last thing that leaves is the technician’s toolbox.
      Shop owners: Focus more on employee retention than acquisition. This is not to say that you should not be constantly recruiting. You should. What it does means is that once you hire someone, your job isn’t over, that’s when it begins. Get to know your technicians. Build strong relationships. Have frequent one-on-ones. Engage in meaningful conversation. Find what truly motivates your technicians. You may be surprised that while money is a motivator, it’s usually not the prime motivator.
      One last thing; the cost of technician turnover can be financially devastating. It also affects shop morale. Do all you can to create a workplace where technicians feel they are respected, recognized, and know that their work contributes to the overall success of the company. This will lead to improved morale and team spirit. Remember, when you see a technician’s toolbox rolling out of the bay on its way to another shop, the heart was most likely gone long before that.
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