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I Must Be Insane
Insanity has been described as doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. Well, I must be insane, because every morning, as I drive to the shop and unlock the doors, I’m expecting today to be different than it was the day before. I haven’t exactly had any professional evaluations as to whether or not I’ve actually lost my mind or not, but I’ve got proof I must be at least a few sockets short in the old tool box. At least I have an excuse for what I do. How else can I explain dealing with all this car stuff if I’m not just a bit touched in the head? I’ll try to explain it, or at least try to make some sense of this senseless occupation I’m in.
Unlike a lot of trades where you learn the needed skills through college or trade schools, and then spend your career refining those skills, in this field nothing ever is the same. Just as soon as you master a system it becomes obsolete with something newer. Even though in a lot of professions the tools of the trade are improved from time to time the basic “product” doesn’t change. Now, you might find some people who will disagree, but let’s face it, a brick is a brick, wood is wood, dirt is dirt, and a doctor still only has two models to deal with.
Even changing oil isn’t a simple task anymore. It’s enough to drive a first year lube tech nuts trying to remember how to reset the oil lights. There’s everything from stomping the gas pedal three times to running through an on-screen menu, while holding down two buttons, or using a scanner to clear them. I can’t think of one person out there who has memorized all the different ways to reset the various oil reminder lights on every car. But, if there is, I really feel sorry for ya, dude. You need to find a new hobby; you’re just a little touched in the head fella.
Aside from your basic open end wrench and a screwdriver, there’s all these new-fangled tools and scanners and testing equipment you’ve got to learn. That alone can make a person dislodge a few marbles just trying to keep up with that stuff. Then, there are the various situations and interactions with the parts store, the other mechanics, busted knuckles, and of course, let’s not forget about the customer. I think I’m overdue for my trip to the sanitarium.
If you put the time into this job, take advancement classes, and study the latest systems you might be referred to as “an expert”. But, even then, you’re going to run across somebody who will say to you, “I hear you’re pretty good.” Honestly, I never know how to answer that; is it an insult or a complement? Depends on their tone of voice I guess. Sometimes I feel like the old gun slinger at the bar in an old western movie, you know the scene were this young whippersnapper comes strolling in and asks the same question to the old gun slinger?
Seriously, after three decades of doing this, I’m either completely crazy, or I must be pretty good at this car repair stuff. How should I answer that question? I’ll try anyway. I keep my piece, (peace) and answer with, “Sure am. What can I do for ya?” Even though, what I’d like to say is what that old gun slinger says to the young whippersnapper, “Ya come to find out? High noon, outside, be there.”
It’s just nuts I tell you, every day there’s a new challenge to my sanity. Take used car salesmen, no really… take them. These guys can be a shop’s best customer or some of their worst. The last one was no exception to that rule. His first comment to me was, “My boss said I needed to take this car to a reputable shop.” (I’m experiencing a few uncontrollable ticks and odd eyebrow twinges right about now. I usually get them when the crazy is about to come out, and I’m going to say something stupid that I’ll regret later.) My first thought is they know of a “non-reputable” shop out there and that’s where they get their cars serviced? Makes me want to go buy a car off of their lot right now. I guess this particular problem couldn’t be solved with the “Let’s swap parts until it’s fixed” method, so they’ve resorted to actually getting it diagnosed. And, I’ll bet this repair is either going to be way out of their budget, or be so simple that no matter what I charge it’s going to be too much. (Those twitches are getting a little more noticeable now.) Get the straight jacket and the rubber room ready, I’ll be there in a bit.
It turned out to be nothing major, just a faulty charging system. The computer picked up about a zillion codes for loss of communication due to low voltage. A new alternator and a bit of reflashing took care of the entire problem. Now, I had to deal with the boss.
Time for the interrogation and badgering over everything I described about the repair. Now I have to listen to how this guy could have done the entire repair with a rubber band and a toothbrush. Ok, call me crazy; call me nuts, I must be, to listen to this balderdash. I’ve heard it all before. Seriously, trying to belittle me only makes you … be little. I’m already so close to certifiable that trying to make me feel even more nuts than I already am ain’t going to make a bit of difference.
I know I’m not alone here; the line to the funny farm after too many years under the hood is quite long. Take this story another shop owner told me, “This guy wanted me to find a leak in his car. I checked it over but I didn’t find one. I thought I was losing my mind, he said there was a leak! I had to call him and tell him I couldn’t find it.” The customer answered, “That’s what I expected you to find.” Really? Now, if somebody tells me they have a leak in their car and I look for one and I don’t find it, I’m going to look again…, and again…, and again. But when the customer tells me there was never a leak and the only reason for all this fuss was to see how honest a mechanic I am, well crazy may not completely cover this one. He’s lucky to have kept his cool and not gone postal after that one!
Whether it’s because of the different cars, the different tools, or the different people at the counter, my sanity is always questionable. So, until I get checked out by the shrink, I’m going to go with the insanity plea as to why I’ve stayed at this trade for so long. Now it’s your turn to fess up. So, what’s your excuse?
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Article: Smoke Signals - - - What The Customer Is Telling You, May Not Be What They Really Are Saying....By Gonzo
I've been to numerous lectures, classes, and seminars on advanced automotive training. These classes not only show a technician the ins and outs on the latest systems, but also the technical skills needed to properly diagnose and repair today’s cars. I consider it a must for any diagnostic or line mechanic to attend these events. You’ll learn so much from them. But there is one side of the business that doesn't get any class time, (at least none that I've found.) and that’s how to deal with the complexities of what’s behind the steering wheel… the driver. That, I'm afraid, is something that only comes with experience. A lot of times the owner can be harder to diagnose than the car. So I pay attention to anything that might be of potential help in diagnosing the car, or that will help me figure out what angle the owner is up to.
Any given day at the shop I can find instances where reading the signals is just as important as performing the repairs. I've had all kinds of crazy smoke blown in my face after running a repair shop for so long. From a guy who wanted me to back date his invoice for two years ago. (Puff, puff… the smoke is in the air.) That way he could avoid paying any penalties for not getting the car tagged. Ha! Nope! Ain't happenin’! To a lady who searched through the city business owners records at the court house, so she could find my home address and bring her car over to me at 2 o’clock in the morning…. Because it was making this strange sound, but she didn't want anyone to know she was driving such an old beater. Seems she was trying to keep up with high society, but wasn't doing such a good job of it. Going to the shop during business hours made her vulnerable to her rich friends’ prying eyes. Yes, there were some smoke signals to pay attention to… (Could be what she’s smoking ?)….and no, I don’t fix cars at 2 am especially at MY own house!
Another good example was this couple who came in with a 25 year old Cadillac that they had taken to several different independent shops and to the dealer as well. All I heard was how much they spent, how much things costs, and how it never got repaired. The more they told me, the more the smoke signals grew. They clearly didn't understand how their car works, or cared to learn how it works, or paid any attention to anyone with said knowledge of how it works. Their mind was made up as to what was wrong.
First thing they told me was how the dealer was too expensive, and how they had been given a laundry list of things that needed repaired. Instead of deciding which was the most important or the most critical to repair they stuck to their own homemade diagnoses; … Every problem with the car was related to one thing. But, they didn't know what the one thing was… that’s why they brought it to the dealer. (The smoke is getting pretty thick right about now.) They expected the dealership to wave their magic wand and all would be perfect again. (Didn't know the dealership had one of those... gotta get one for myself.) My guess is that these folks have been misled somewhere in the past, and now they aren’t buying any answers from anyone.
Some of the issues could be related to a no start condition, like... the bad battery, faulty starter, loose clamps, or even the factory security systems not working, while other problems were a result of age and poor maintenance. The car wasn't in pristine condition, as they led me to believe. I would say it was more like barely hanging together, and that’s only because the rest of the bolts haven’t fallen out yet.
From one shop to the next, on and on their story went. To make matters worse things like the alternator and the starter motor were of such low quality that their condition was always in question. Now I've got to explain to the owners not only the difference in the quality of parts, but how lumping all these problems from the squeaking driver’s door to the front end rattle are not related to each other, but are separate problems. (I’m seeing smoke far off in the distance… troubles comin’.)
By now the smoke signals are telling me, “You will see this car again... and they are NOT going to be happy customers.” A few weeks later, I was right, and an aggravated owner called to give me an earful, “It's doing the same thing.”
Once the car was back in the shop it was clear it wasn't doing the “same thing”, but was another one of those long lines of issues that needed attention. I've gotta admit, I did expect it though. Those smoke signals were very clear that I would have another clash with this couple. Eventually, after a rather lengthy Powwow the smoke did clear, and all is well now.
There’s no doubt these smoke signals come in all kinds of various ways. Sometimes it's an old customer that you've known for years. They saunter up to the service desk, and tell you they took their car to another shop, but after spending a ton of money the other shop couldn't fix it. Now they’re back to have you take a look at it.
I'll ask, “Why didn't you bring it here in the first place?”
Their answer, “I was trying to save some money on the car repair. Some guy (there's that some guy again) told me this other shop had pretty good luck fixing this sort of stuff, and they were cheap, too. But now I paid them for all these parts that they put on, and it still doesn't work.” (??? “LUCK” ??? Seriously, that’s this cheap shops niche? Luck? I guess analyzing, diagnosing, and correcting the problem isn't part of their business strategy. He’s lucky I don’t have smoke coming out of my ears!) There’s a huge billowing smoke signal in the air on this one. It’s saying, “I don’t have enough spare cash to fix my car correctly, so I was gambling on the results at the cheaper shop… and I lost.”
It does take a bit of effort to read between the smoke and haze sometimes. But, doing so, you might find yourself better prepared, or in a better frame of mind to deal with the next situation. Classes are great to teach a tech. how to do this job, but life itself can teach a lot more about the people around you. It’s when those smoke signals are saying … “There’s a Loose Nut Behind The Wheel” … you’ll be glad you paid attention to the signs.
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By Joe Marconi
As shop owners, we sometimes feel that we need to answer every question and handle every situation. While you need to be proficient as a business owner, you also need your employees to think for themselves.
Empower your people to solve problem. Ask them for their opinions and don’t be too quick to jump in on every situation. The more you jump in and solve their problems, the more they will rely on you. This is not to say you don’t have their back; but a team functions best when everyone takes ownership of their position and takes responsibility to take care of problems.
Will employees make mistakes? Yes. But there isn’t a shop owner on this planet that has a perfect record at making decisions. We all make mistakes.
As a shop owner; teach, mentor and coach. Include your employees in on decisions that relate to their job position. When employees feel you trust them, they will begin to solve their own problems. This will set you free to work on the things that will bring you greater success.
By Joe Marconi
I am writing this on my last day of vacation in California, spending time with family. It took me a few days to totally relax, but made it a point to not look at emails or call the office.
We all need downtime. I know there will be a ton of work to be done when I return, but I also know that the time away has recharged my batteries and I will be more productive.
Being away from business and spending time with family puts things into proper perspective. You realize that a lot of the things you stress over, are really not as important as you think.
Take time to enjoy life. We all know how quickly time passes us by. And remember, no one on their death bed ever said they wished they spent more time at work.
By Joe Marconi
I’ll never forget the day when Mrs. Obrien brought her car back for me to look at. She was furious. I stayed late the night before, well into the night, to finish her car so she could have it for work the next day. I even did a few little things on the house because I felt she may be a little inconvenienced picking the car up so late.
Why did she bring the car back? A comeback? Well, not in the conventional way. It was the greasy smudge on her seat that she was angry about.
But what about me staying late? Or giving away a few minor services? Doesn’t that count? She is upset about a grease smudge? Oh yes, and she has every right to be.
The fact is, you can do the best repair, using the best parts, performed by the best technician on the planet. But what the customer sees is not necessarily your hard work, it’s that little greasy smudge that you are judged by. Unfortunate and unfair? Yes. But it’s a reality.
Perform the best repairs and provide world-class customer service; and never forget; it’s the little things the customer sees. And that’s what important to them.
By Stevens Automotive Service
You are a entrepreneur and your business is Automotive Repair. Run your business like a business and become more profitable.
You have a tool box just like your techs in the shop do and the ones with the correct tools , good work ethics and knowledge are the best at what they do. So can you in the shop management area just use your TOOL BOX!
A few things to get cleared up. I have read a lot of post , forums etc, dealing with car count, advertising, us against the dealerships etc. WELL ! First you have to concentrate on your business not what someone else is doing, what works for you and makes you money should be what matters to you and your business.
1) Concentrate on what your doing right if it needs refined ..REFINE IT.. DIAL IT IN... GET THE PERCENTAGES CORRECT.
2) Do you have enough work flow and are you getting the max out of what you already have ?
3) IF you don't have a good even flow of car count, advertise, but do it in a way that it comes back to you to show what your business has to offer that the others don't.
4) REPUTATION, CUSTOMER SERVICE, FIXING THE CONCERN and BEING A SMART BUSINESS OWNER are the only steps to winning.
5) Last but not least .. PEOPLE BUY GOODS AND SERVICES FROM PEOPLE PERIOD !!
Look at it in this perspective for a moment. Your advisors are problem solvers, customer comes in with a problem or just for a service and they let them know what it will take to repair it or what the car may be in need of if not now then soon. They are solving problems if not right now then later, building trust and reputation for your business. I always say if you solve there problem the rest SELLS itself. And for those of you that think and have been programmed to think that getting new customers, keeping the good ones you have to spend crazy money to get them and keep them is just that "crazy".
I will be glad to speak with anyone that wants to have less stress and make there shop profitable. Send me a message, email, phone call and we will go over what you have and what you are wanting to achieve and the consultation is always free. IT COST NOTHING TO ASK BUT IT COULD COST A LOT IF YOU DON'T !!
"LOAD YOUR TOOL BOX WITH THE RIGHT TOOLS"
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When speaking to your employees, find ways to engage in conversation that has nothing to do with business. Find out about their interests, and what’s going on in their lives. Simply asking, “How was your weekend? Do anything special?” can work wonders to motivate people.
When speaking with employees, be more concerned about them, not you. This will send a message that you care about them as a person. In turn, they will care more about your business.