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Service Writer Blues ----- The same old song and dance


Gonzo

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Service Writer Blues

 

Sing that blues song one more time.... yea you know the tune, the one you hear at the front counter.

 

 

The front door opens, a guy steps up to the service counter and says, "Man, I'm so glad I found you guys. Everyone I talked to recommend this place. I got to get this solved today; I need my car checked for a battery drain. Is there somebody here that can do that right now?"

 

Mandy (my service writer and my youngest daughter) greets him and says, "Hi, we sure do. I think he is waiting on parts on some of the other jobs in the shop, he could look at it right away."

 

"Does it cost anything?" he asked.

 

"Yes, there is a diagnostic fee," she answered with her usual big smile.

 

"Great, and I can get it figured out today, that would be fantastic," he said.

 

Mandy grabs a blank invoice and starts to fill out the invoice. Her pen was a flurry of activity with the man's name, telephone number, and type of car. After the preliminary information was on paper all that was needed was the keys.

 

"Ok, I just need the keys and I'll get it in the shop so it can be diagnosed," Mandy answered.

 

The keys didn't come sliding across the counter as expected. He stood there with them, tossing them from one hand to the other.

 

"I just want to find out what's wrong with it. I thought he could just look at it, instead of charging for a diagnosis… I don't need it diagnosed I already know it's battery drain," the now agitated customer barked back at her.

 

"Sir, I explained all that to you earlier, the diagnostic time is for the time it generally takes to solve and locate the problem… It's like going into the emergency room with a suspected broken arm, they take an x-ray to confirm it, and even if you don't have a broken arm you're still going to get a bill from the x-ray department, it's the same thing here. I've already filled out the invoice… so… do you still want to get it looked at today, or do you want to cancel the invoice."

 

"Well, I'm not sure he is going to be able to find the problem, when I couldn't find it. So I don't see why I should have to pay somebody else to try and figure out something I couldn't figure out,"

 

It's an age old problem. Some people feel they are capable of finding whatever is wrong with their personal car since they are the ones that drive it daily. Some of these people feel no one else is even capable of doing better than them. But as always, this usually starts soon after they find out they have to pay for it.

 

"Sir, if he can't figure it out, there is no charge, and he will recommend the appropriate repair facility for that type of work. But I would say more than likely his years of experience will out weigh any doubts you have of him finding your problem, besides, all those referrals you mentioned wouldn't have sent you here if they didn't think he was capable of finding the problem," Mandy said with a stern tone.

 

"So, you think he can find the problem, but, in order for me to find out what's wrong with my car… he's going to charge me for it?"

 

"That's pretty much sums it up sir. He's very good at this kind of thing, and it won't take him long to do it."

Now the back pedaling starts. First it was "get it done today" and now it's "get it done tomorrow".

 

"Well, I've got some errands to run; I'll bring the car back later… so just hold onto that invoice… I'll be back," He answered.

 

Mandy has seen these speed bump jumpers before, she lets the pen fall to the counter, then leans back in her chair, folds her arms across her chest and looks straight at this guy.

 

"You'll be here later, (with a little "flip" attitude in her voice) like when, later… what day, what time?"

 

"Oh, probably about the same time as today."

 

"Ok, so you don't want it done today now, when you first came in you wanted it done right now and "now" you want me to save this invoice until you come back in," Mandy said, still with her arms folded.

 

"Yea, that'll work," he said, as he put his keys back into his pocket.

 

He turns and walks towards the exit; before he is even out the front door she has the invoice already lined up with the paper shredders slot. As the lobby door closes the shredder is already busy doing its job.

Of course, tomorrow never comes.

 

You really want to believe them, but you know there isn't an ounce of truth in their "coming back tomorrow" story. Whatever the reason is, it just doesn't matter. With all the referrals he mentioned that still wasn't good enough to satisfy this guy. Then again, this hurry up life style that some people lead can get in the way of logical thinking.

 

You know some days I'd like to have a fast food drive-up window set up. Before somebody even gets a chance to get their car in the shop they have to place their order and prepay for the parts and labor. I can see it now… "Yes, sir that was a diagnostics, ah, 2 tie rod ends, front end alignment, and an oil change… next window please…"

 

Ah yes, the service writer's blues... a familiar song and a familiar situation at the service counter. Learning when enough effort has been taken with an individual who is only there to gain free information rather than pay for the services is something every counter person has to learn. It's a fine line, and in some cases I would consider it the toughest job of all.

 

 

Wouldn't be right if I didn't mention the efforts of the service writers. I'll bet we've all seen something like this before. Leave a comment if you can. Gonzo


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I totally agree with ya Joe... the answer is what can we do??? I think it will happen in the future, however people still have a lot of the old thinking in their midst. Eventually I believe it will all change because even the family fixer guy won't be able to take a stab at a repair without some prior testing.

 

AND... as if you haven't noticed.... in the so called "good old days" we had a lot of predictable repairs... these days there are fewer and fewer predictable repairs. Meaning, the cause or solution to each problem we see are not the same as the last time we made the same similar repair. Which leads to even more frustration from the customer as to what the answer is or how much time and money is spent on diagnostics.

 

Your comments are spot on. Let's see what the future holds.

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I agree with you Gonzo, it's just that we both know how hard the typical shop owner and technicians work. The amount of information we need to learn is mind boggling. Not to mention the physical challenge.

 

Things will change in the future, it has too. I just hope it's not with too many casualties.

In the future the vehicles drive or organize a tow to the dealership for service/repairs/recall's,tsb's while not in use or while the owner sleeps. B)

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When is "Look at it" and "Diagnostic charge" ever going to mean the same thing with these kinds of people. If all I was going to do was "look at it" I'd go to a car show. When somebody comes in and wants something for free I take that as an insult. I'm not here for free... I support my family with my efforts... and ..well, they ain't family... so pay up or get OUT!

 

Joe.... ya got any more of those BP meds?? You're making the old blood boil too early in the morning... ha ha...

 

 

Good point, the question is why DO they bring the car in? I also think it's a matter of priorities. Not too many people budget for car maintenance, or even for thier homes. So when something happens they are looking for the inexpensive way out. When we tell them about a diag charge, that can put them over the edge on a number of issues. One, they are not expecting the diag charge and two, they can't afford it in the first place.

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

         5 comments
      I recently spoke with a friend of mine who owns a large general repair shop in the Midwest. His father founded the business in 1975. He was telling me that although he’s busy, he’s also very frustrated. When I probed him more about his frustrations, he said that it’s hard to find qualified technicians. My friend employs four technicians and is looking to hire two more. I then asked him, “How long does a technician last working for you.” He looked puzzled and replied, “I never really thought about that, but I can tell that except for one tech, most technicians don’t last working for me longer than a few years.”
      Judging from personal experience as a shop owner and from what I know about the auto repair industry, I can tell you that other than a few exceptions, the turnover rate for technicians in our industry is too high. This makes me think, do we have a technician shortage or a retention problem? Have we done the best we can over the decades to provide great pay plans, benefits packages, great work environments, and the right culture to ensure that the techs we have stay with us?
      Finding and hiring qualified automotive technicians is not a new phenomenon. This problem has been around for as long as I can remember. While we do need to attract people to our industry and provide the necessary training and mentorship, we also need to focus on retention. Having a revolving door and needing to hire techs every few years or so costs your company money. Big money! And that revolving door may be a sign of an even bigger issue: poor leadership, and poor employee management skills.
      Here’s one more thing to consider, for the most part, technicians don’t leave one job to start a new career, they leave one shop as a technician to become a technician at another shop. The reasons why they leave can be debated, but there is one fact that we cannot deny, people don’t quit the company they work for, they usually leave because of the boss or manager they work for.
      Put yourselves in the shoes of your employees. Do you have a workplace that communicates, “We appreciate you and want you to stay!”
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