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Expectations - - - Hope for the Best, but expect the worst... it's the same thing I think about when working on a car.


Gonzo

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Expectations

 

Perceived or not, no matter what the situation, there are some expectations that are the norm. You may think of an expectation as a happy ending to a problem, but it can, and often does turn out the other way. It can even be a bit frustrating when things don't go according to plan. It's to be expected.

 

In the automotive repair business there's a lot of expectations associated with the job. Be it from the customer who wants their car repaired, or from myself to do the job correctly and as efficiently as possible. Although there are always those constant "curve balls" thrown around when dealing with every facet of life or running a business, but somehow, some way we all find a way to handle all of life's ups and downs.

 

Just the other day I was in the middle of printing out an invoice when the printer decided it was time to end its usefulness. No warning, no previous glitches…just a buzz from inside the printer and a bunch of blinking lights on the control panel. The customer was in a hurry, and expected a copy of the invoice that second. Wouldn't ya know it… it had to breakdown with a "Hurry up, get it done" type of person at the counter. (Should've expected that.)

 

"I'll have to hand write you an invoice because it looks like the printer just fried," I told him.

 

He wasn't all that happy about waiting for me to hand write the entire ticket out, but… what could I do? I expected the printer to do its job; I wasn't expecting a break down in the middle of a transaction. But, here we are, hey… things break, things fail… believe me, there was no expectation that it would last forever, no expectations that the customer would see the predicament I was in, or be understanding about the whole thing… nope ya just gotta do what ya gotta do … deal with it. I expected nothing less.

 

These expectations can even be heightened by a false sense of insurance brought on by a cheap sub-market component that is supposed to function just as well as the top shelf part. Many times I'll have a customer bring in the latest super-duper-double-chrome-plated-extra-deluxe-can't-live-without-it car accessory they saw on TV or in the back of some obscure magazine. It's something they just have to have even though the validity of the product's claims never match up to the actual results. It could be as simple as replacing the stock gas cap with a locking one. Sure,I'll install it, what harm can I get into? I should know better… there's always a few surprises. Should've expected something when the customer said…

 

"This shouldn't take you long to install. I'll wait on it," as he handed over this box of gaskets, screws, a few oddly shaped parts and some sort of instruction sheet wrote in hieroglyphics that even the Egyptian scholars haven't deciphered yet.

 

It's those famous last words from the customer that does it in. My expectations most certainly involve "Murphy's Law" sneaking around the next corner any second now. It's like the death wish of car repair. Tell me it shouldn't take long, and bring me some cheap knock off part, and I'll guarantee the expectations of a complete failure are mere moments away. Oh, don't worry, I'll install it, and sure,I'll warn them about how their results may vary from their perceived expectations … but do you think that does any good? Nope… never does.

 

All of which is supposed to fit perfectly… but never does quite fit like the drawings described (You know, those drawings and instructions in hieroglyphics? The ones you can't read? I can expect one thing for sure… a long drawn out repair slowed down by poor instructions and badly designed components… been there-done that…). Again, should've expected it from the beginning.

 

Whenever I get a call that starts out with, "Hi, I'm an attorney in town, and I have a client with car problems that I'd like to discuss with you." My expectations are somewhat jaded already. For the most part an education in law doesn't make you an expert in car repair, but arrogance has no boundaries when a shifty lawyer who sees dollar signs and an easy mark. The last lawyer call like this that I had, the guy not only told me he knew more than I did, but made it perfectly clear that he was more than capable of deciding (before the facts) the proper course of action and who he was going to go after.

 

As the story unfolded it turned out that the car was at a shop for an unrelated problem when something went wrong with the electrical system. His exact phrase to me was, "It went haywire and caused erratic expulsions from the air conditioner." (I really have no expectations of getting through this encounter without another migraine, or a few choice comments of my own.) Then, the car was taken to another shop where it was diagnosed and repaired. However,the repairs only lead to even more problems which the client wasn't willing to pay for and expected the first shop to cough up the bucks and admit it was their fault. (I kind of expected that.)

 

So here I am in my office, just a few minutes before closing time, listening to this local attorney explain to me in detail about the repairs that were made. The only thing I can think of is how I would rather not be his "puppet" expert witness or the next victim at the hands of this ambulance chaser. I very carefully, methodically, and in as many single syllable words as I could think of (Because I'm only a mechanic, you know.) informed him how to best handle this problem and not to get a third party involved at this time. I suggested they go back to the last shop and have them explain things in detail. As I told him, "You've paid to have this problem repaired. It appears to still be a problem, which means to me, either there's more to the story (always is) or someone's expectations of the results aren't in line with what has actually taken place." I haven't heard back from him … yet, but my expectations are high that he'll call again.

 

We all have our hopes and dreams, and we all have expectations each and every day. It's a good thing to have expectations, just don't let those expectations cloud your judgment. Keep an open mind, and keep looking forward. "Hope for the best and expect the worst" is one policy that will keep you looking over your shoulder. But, … I'll bet… … you expected me to tell you that.

 


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Interesting story. Been there with an attorney needing so call "expert testimony". When asked I give them my opinion. When they want it to match there opinion and they are not the same I kindly inform them they got the wrong guy... Funny how if that happens and I ask for the name of the other party they just want to get off the phone... wink.gif

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Interesting story. Been there with an attorney needing so call "expert testimony". When asked I give them my opinion. When they want it to match there opinion and they are not the same I kindly inform them they got the wrong guy... Funny how if that happens and I ask for the name of the other party they just want to get off the phone... wink.gif

You gotta love those lawyers

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For the past 14 years or so, I have been involved with helping local Police departments, State Troopers and insurance companies putting the pieces of an accident together to find out if the cause was human error or mechanical error. And there have been times where I was hired to testify as an expert, but usually to explain to the jury or a grand jury “how” a particular system works. I remember one case where the jury had a tough time understanding skid tire marks vs. yaw tire marks. So the D.A. office hired me to explain the difference. I brought in photos and charts, it was like a TV show. Real neat!

 

NOW, because of this, from time to time I get these liars….ah…lawyers, that bring up some ridiculous case about a consumer wanting to sue their mechanic. I see right through it and tell the lawyer, "I am not interested in burning a fellow shop owner for monetary gain which has no basis on truth or fact."

 

Great story, Gonzo!

yeah I've been asked to go to court to myself and I don't mind it. sometimes its a lot of fun.

But when they say they know more than I do I know I'm in trouble I very carefully in those single syllable words, graciously tell them I'm not interested.

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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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