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Joe Marconi

Answer a Question with a Question

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Are you bombarded throughout the day with an endless stream of questions? Well, it just might be your fault. The more you allow yourself to be the “go to” guy when a question arises, the more your employees will come to you for answers. This can zap your energy and decrease your effectiveness for the tasks you need to get done.

 

Try this, when Tom the Tech approaches you with a question, instead of giving Tom the answer, throw the question back at him and ask him how he thinks the issue should be handled. If Tom says, I tried everything and can’t find the problem, ask him to tell you exactly what he did and review all his diagnostic procedures. Continue to ask Tom a series of questions and then ask him what he thinks we should we do next? This process allows Tom to work out the problem in his own mind and will help him with future problems.

 

You should do the same with service writers and other office staff. If your service writer comes to you with a question on how to handle an unhappy customer, ask the service a series of questions to get at the root of the problem. Your questions to the service writer need to be put in such a way that the service writer actually comes up with a solution by himself.

 

There will be times when you as the owner will need to make the final decision on some matters, but the more your staff is thinking and making decisions on their own, the stronger your business becomes.

 

One more thing, if you are worried about them making mistakes…they will. It’s all part of the learning process. The reason why you as the boss can make quick and decisive decisions is because you have been making a lot of decisions over the years, but also made a lot of mistakes too. But, knowledge is gained through each mistake.

 

So remember, answer a question with a question.

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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.

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      So, What’s Wrong With Your Car?

      It’s the typical question asked at the service desk of automotive repair shops across the country. You’d think the answer would be simple, you know, just tell the service writer what ails the car, but no… that’s not the typical answer from the do it yourselfer.

      When asked, some people have a hard time keeping things simple. Their answer isn’t really an answer, it’s more of a statement of the things they’ve done to their car. Now why is that? How come when the service writer asks, “So, what’s wrong with the car?” the answer is, “I changed the battery, the alternator, and I rewired everything under the hood.” Which sounds more like what they did to the car, rather than what is wrong with the car.

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      There are those who finish their story with, “and, everything checks out good.” How’s that ever happen? If everything is “good” you wouldn’t be having a problem.

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      Apparently that’s where I find it hard to follow some of these DIY’r logics. They’ll come up with some goofy name for a part or symptom based on their background or something they’ve overheard. None of which have anything to do about automotive repair or cars in general. But, you’ve gotta listen to their story, no matter what they say.

      I’ve found over years of being behind the service counter, you should never ever interrupt or correct their explanation. Just let them get it all out, and then hopefully work back to “So what’s wrong”. I’ve been tempted more than once to stop them in the middle of their story, hold my hand up and say, “I didn’t ask you what you did. I asked you what’s wrong.” I’m not sure that would go over that well.

      While they are well on their way of their next novel and spilling their tool box of parts they’ve changed in verbal form, I’m trying to keep up with it all by writing as much of it down. Usually, I’m crossing off things as their explanation goes further into the story about how they don’t want you to check that part (because it’s new) or that particular part they just mentioned was changed years ago and hasn’t been a problem since, but for some reason (which they’re not sure of), it suddenly has become extremely important to inform me about it. By the end of the story I’ve gone through a blank invoice on both sides, a scratch pad, and ran out of ink in the pen.

      To top things off, a lot of these home garage repairmen insist on waiting, or in a lot of instances want to watch. This for the most part, can be just as frustrating for the mechanic as listening to their saga. Most shop insurance policies frown on having a customer in the shop area due to the numerous pieces of unusual and dangerous types of equipment, let alone getting in the way of the process of diagnosing the problem. If you want to watch, go find a You Tube video on the problem, the repair shop is not an educational outlet for the uniformed.

      Sometimes, the DIY’r is pretty sharp and might actually have a working knowledge of their car. It’s rare, but there are a few who really could tackle their problem without consecutively changing the alternator five times in a row. Let’s face it, car repair isn’t rocket science, but as the technology proceeds into even more data lines and computer systems it might as well be. Which to me, means an even wider gap between the DIY’r and the professional mechanic, and probably a whole lot more unbelievable stories at the service counter.

      Will the question at the service counter change? Will the answers from the DIY’r get to the point before the service writer has to break out a second scratch pad or a new pen? Probably not. There’s something about fixing your own car that brings out the mechanic in all of us. Whether it’s a pride issue or to save the cost of a professional mechanic, DIY’rs will still give it a try with little to no information. Just wing it and see what happens.

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      When stumped, they’ll find a pro to check their car out. And, I’m sure they’ll still tell the service writer their entire story about all the parts they’ve changed, all the books they’ve read, and how many You Tube videos they’ve watched, without ever getting to the “what’s wrong” until the very end. It’s just the way it is.

      But I already know what the service writer is thinking after they ask, “So, what’s wrong with the car?” and the answer turns into a long winded story. Yea, he’s got a pretty good idea what’s wrong with the car...you worked on it first.


      Click here to view the article
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      I am really paying attention to my numbers. Do you close out an invoice when the customer pays or when the job is complete? Some folks do not pick up for days making one day look great and the other no so good.
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