Whether or not we realize it, each shop has a similar workflow process. Like many areas of life, we think that we are all unique in our business strategy. However, reality is we are all very similar, our differences lie in management styles. Our attitude and approach, from employees and customers, defines how we achieve success.
Check In Inspection Estimate Building Customer Authorization Work In Progress Completion Follow Up The process, is often hijacked by two elements. The first element is service center employee(s) and their attitude(s) and the second element is the software your business uses.
Your employees are your team, and that’s exactly the best way to approach your business. When you look at employees as team members and not as just “the new guy/girl” or “Jack the mechanic who never combs his hair”... everyone’s attitude begins to change.
Being a part of a team is a mindset that everyone ‘shares in the responsibility’, everyone is accountable for their role and if one person fails… everyone has failed. This mindset is used to build all types of companies, some of which end up being valued into the billions of dollars. Teams help each other pick up the slack and work with one another to get through personal and professional barriers.
The most important thing to remember about the team, is that everyone can have a bad day, week, month or even months. We are all human and too often we forget everyone is going through something. The team element opens the door to communication among the facility and if people are comfortable enough to communicate, they are open to moving past whatever ails them. We are all too quick to give up on someone we have invested an immense amount of time and energy training to our standards. With the right team, dedication is matched on all ends, resulting in happy customers that not only return... they refer. Which lowers acquisition costs and keeps business growth healthy.
You can read more about team building here and we also encourage you to search for ideas on team building and how to achieve the optimal team at your auto repair facility.
This article originally published in CAR's News Section
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Article: Battin a Thousand - - Mechanics have to step up to bat and hit it out of the park every timeBy Gonzo
Battin' a Thousand The batter steps up to the plate, takes a hand full of dirt and rubs his hands and the bat. He takes a few scrapes with his feet from the batter’s box while digging in with his cleats. He then gives the pitcher the evil eye and sets his bat ready to take whatever the pitcher is going to throw at him. The catcher gives the signs, the pitcher nods his head. He takes a quick look to first base makes his wind up and then lets the ball fly to home plate. The batter takes a swing... “Pop” the ball is in the catcher’s glove. “Steee---rike!!!” yells the umpire. Somewhere there is an announcer telling the crowd the count while a statistician is writing down the results of the pitch, and calculating the batter's average. With baseball if you can manage to get a hit 5 out of 10 times you’re up to bat… you’re doing outstanding. Achieving a perfect hitting record on the other hand, may never happen in baseball, but in the auto repair business (and most every other field of play) batting a thousand is not a goal it's a requirement. Every job that comes into the service bay is another attempt at keeping that perfect score. Come-backs, bad diagnosis, faulty parts and the like are not what any service person wants to deal with. To keep that perfect score going you have to overcome those obstacles and get the job done right before sending the customer’s car around the bases. Unlike the highly paid professional ball player who is never going to achieve that perfect score the highly trained mechanic has to knock it out of the park each and every time. There's a lot of talk in the industry about how some service advisers/writers and shop owners want a quick “off the cuff” diagnosis and repair rather than waiting for the results of a lengthy-time consuming diagnostic procedure. A mechanic may have a general idea of what is wrong but it still takes proper testing to determine the correct course of action to make the repair. I don't know where this idea came from that every mechanic has the correct answer to ever problem simply by listening to the description given to them by the customer or service writer. It's not like we (mechanics) know what kind of pitch is being hurled at us each and every time. I'm sure the pro ball player could “up” his stats if he knew exactly what kind of pitch was coming across the plate. As it is, he has to make a quick decision, make the right swing, and make contact. In the repair world, analyzing the pitch is the key to a successful outcome. Diagnostics is what makes the difference. Especially on today's vehicles with their interconnected systems, multi-layered computer controls, and the occasional “oops” from a previous botched repair, these all have to be sorted out before the repair is made. This takes time, diagnostics takes time, and time is money. When I hear that a shop isn't charging for diagnostic time it tells me they are either under estimating the value of proper diagnostics or believe they are good enough to read the catcher’s signals and in some way already know what pitch is being thrown. Taking a couple of swings at a repair and not diagnosing anything is like standing in the batter’s box blindfolded. I'd call that a foul ball waiting to happen for sure. It’s important to examine a problem, diagnose as needed and not swing at every pitch that you’re given. In the long run, from the consumers standpoint, a shop that takes the time to diagnose a vehicle correctly may sound more expensive at first when you walk up to the service counter, but chances are you won’t be picked off at 2nd base because you have to spend more cash, buy even more parts that you probably didn’t need, while trying to solve the problem at those shops that don’t see a need in proper diagnostic time. A new player entered the field; it was a job from one of the body shops I do business with. This 2013 Ford Escape was almost ready to go home, however the air bag light wouldn't go off. That's when I was called to plate. “We can sell this job today if you can get this taken care of. We’ve struck out so far,” the owner of the body shop told me. “I’ll see what I can do,” I told him. The first thing I did was check out what codes were in the system. There was only one code. B0095-11 (Right front impact sensor fault – sub code “shorted to ground”). Since it was in a front collision I took my first swing up to bat by checking to see if the wires were smashed or cut. Strike one... the wires are fine, wrong colors though, need to check that a little further. OK, let's try something else... is the connector damaged or the sensor itself in anyway a problem. Strike two... now this is getting serious. Did the module fail? Is there more to this story? Where's the next pitch coming from? A little more snooping around and a bit more in-depth studying of the wiring diagram I think I've got the answer. Very close to the impact sensor is another sensor with the exact same type of connector. The real tell-tale was the wire colors. It looks like when they put the car back together they inadvertently switched the two connectors. (Pretty dumb to have the same type of connectors so close together under the hood... but it ain't the first time I've seen a curve ball like this.) I switched the leads and then went back into the system to clear the code. (With most of these newer systems you not only have to clear the code but you also have to “reboot” the computer by turning the key off before attempting the next “at-bat”.) Well, this batter is ready, the catcher has thrown down the sign, the computers and connections on the playing field are ready to go. All that's left is the pitch. I turned the key and the pitch is on its way. The warning lights come on, the air bag light stayed on for its required amount of time and then.... went off. No codes present and the rest of the systems checked out fine. Yep, I took my swing, and it’s a long, long high flyer… it looks like…yes… yes it is… it’s a “HOME RUN!” Here's a perfect example of the diagnostics taking longer than the actual repair. The way I see it, diagnostic is the mechanics swing at bat, and it's just as important as the actual repair. After spending the time to research a problem only to find out that it was a simple connector doesn’t diminish the time already spent to find out it was just a connector. Mechanics get paid to fix a car, that’s what we do, diagnosing a problem is part of it, and good diagnostic work will keep ya battin’ a thousand.
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Nothing Beats a Full House
There’s days, even weeks (depending on the time of year) when a pair is pretty good. Then there are days when three of a kind ain’t bad. But in my book nothing beats a full house. I’ll bet you thought I was talking about poker, didn’t ya? Nope, I’m talking about the automotive repair business. When the shop is humming, and the jobs are flowing, and business is brisk, that’s when I know I’ve been dealt a winning hand. It might mean coming into work really early or staying late, but at the end of the week it’s a pretty good feeling to know you’ve played your cards right.
There’s been many a day that closing down the shop early is better than being dealt jokers or cards that won’t play. The phone isn’t ringing, the shop is empty, all the tools and service bays have been cleaned, and all the shelves are stocked, but not a single car in the service bays. Those are the days that even a pair sounds good. I’d even settle for pulling one decent card out of the deck on those days.
“It’s feast or famine,” a good friend of mine told me. He’s a realtor, and his business is the same way. One day everybody is calling, and the next day you have to pick up the phone just to see if there’s still a dial tone. (Boy, do I know it, I certainly can relate to that.) There is a pattern to all of this chaos though. It took me years of running a shop to figure it out, and I’m sure the same thing happens in every part of the country, just like it does here in the southern part where I live.
Take the holidays… no, seriously… take them. There a joyous time to be with family and friends, but it’s not that great if you’re making a living servicing cars. It never fails when a holiday is on the calendar you can bet it’s slow. But, the day or so before a long weekend holiday you can guarantee it’s going to be packed at the repair shop. Seems everybody waits to the last minute to get the car ready for a trip and everybody wants their car done… RIGHT NOW! I pretty much know those are the days I’m coming in early and staying late.
Then there’s when school starts… listen close…can ya hear the crickets out in the shop? I know I can. Usually the week or two before school starts everything slows to a crawl. Oh you might get a couple of pair, maybe three of a kind but it’s doubtful you’ll get a full house. As soon as school is in session the cards start to fall in the right place again. It’s a sure bet the shop is going to be full for the next couple of weeks.
Of course there’s Fair week. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Fair, I think it’s pretty cool, but not from a business stand point that’s for sure… it’s the week to fold your hand. Nothing ever happens Fair week. In my early years there was one Fair week that I’ll never forget. I had one car for the whole entire week… yes… one and only one car. However, it was a super huge job that nearly took the whole week to finish. (Funny how things work out that way.)
Temperature and the weather have a lot to do with what cards you’re dealt in this crazy world of auto repair. Heavy snow or monsoon rain means… stay home, fold em’. Now a light rain, one of those steady down pours that doesn’t seem to end has a different affect. The shop slows, but the phone rings constantly. The usual caller will tell me something like this; “Yes, I’m having a problem with my wipers can you fix them?”
I’ll answer, “Why yes, we could get you in right now.”
“Oh it’s raining, but as soon as it lets up I’ll bring it in.”
I know better than to assume they’ll be in on the next sunny day. As soon as the sun comes out they forget all about their wiper troubles. I guess it’s one of those “out of sight, out of mind” things. Although, I’ve learned to get their phone number, and call them the next day and remind them of their previous call and set an appointment to get it in the shop. Surprisingly enough, it works.
Now the temperature, that’s a real fickle issue. Too hot or too cold does some strange things to cars. Usually means it’s going to be busy. Then again if it’s a “room temperature” sort of day… it’s probably not going to be that busy. There are the calls of course, there’s the “stop by the shop and chat about it” kind, and then there are the ones that just want to pick your brain and price check everything.
When it comes to creature comforts in the car, it’s a safe bet on those high or low temperature days those systems are on the top of the repair priority list. Wouldn’t be the first time someone has come in the shop with their brakes metal to metal, but they’re not worried about that… that A/C is a must. Now in the winter months it’s the heater, or the defroster, or the wiper blades that froze to the windshield the night before and they didn’t bother to clean them off… they just turned them on, and now... oops… they don’t work at all.
The one ace in the hole that does take the edge off of the ups and downs of the seasonal changes is to have a back burner job sitting in the corner of the shop. Maybe a restoration project or some personal toy you can pull out of moth balls for the guys to fiddle around with when it’s slow.
All in all, doing this job is a great reward; it’s a great career choice. You meet some really interesting people from all walks of life in this business. A lot of them become regulars, and stop by no matter what the temperature is or whether or not the Fair is in town. Ya just got to play your cards right, know when to fold them and know when to hold them.
When it’s slow you might tend to dwell on things and think you’ve done something wrong, but then things pick back up and you forget all about those thoughts. You’re taking a gamble in just about any career choice you make, automotive repair is no different, and when someone asks, “How’s it going?” I always answer with, “It’s slowly getting busy or busy getting slow.” A couple of cars in the morning, maybe three of a kind later that afternoon, whatever there is that’s the hand you’ve been dealt for the day. But, in this game of auto repair… nothing beats a full house.
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Technically, a full moon is when the earth, moon, and sun are in approximate alignment, unlike the new moon when it is on the opposite side of the earth. The full moon has the entire sunlit part facing us, while the shadowed portion is entirely hidden from view. (A new moon has the entire shadowed side towards us.) When the moon is full the tides can be higher, also some say that animals can act differently, and there's talk that some people will act a little weird too. Is this weirdness caused by this alignment of the planets or is there something else to this moon phase thing? I'm no scientist or astrophysics major, I'm just a mechanic… and from what I've seen even the repair shop isn't immune to its' affects either.
It's not just the type of problems that show up, it's the way they are explained at the front counter. If ever there was a reason to second guess what someone was trying to tell me, it would certainly be during a full moon. I don't want to sound superstitious, but somebody is going to have to explain to me what else it could be if it's not due to a full moon. I know it's sometimes hard to separate the facts from fiction when I'm dealing with a problem in a car, or when I'm trying to decipher the customer's explanation. It just seems worse the closer it gets to that time of the month. The number of strange customers, bad parts, or weird unexplainable problems always goes up right about then.
Now, I don't sit around and calculate the time and date of the next full moon, but I can't help thinking about it after spending a day at the office with a bunch of wacky repairs and even odder customer complaints. Its kind a funny too; most of these odd problems seem to clear up within a few days, just about the same time the moon passes into its next phase.
Take this weird situation that arrived at the door one day. A lady I've never met before, or even talked to comes into the shop. She walks up to the counter, and says in a quiet voice while looking around as if someone was following her and says,
"I can't leave my car right now. I'm waiting for the aliens to arrive. I'll be back as soon as it's safe for me to drop the car off."
She turned and walked out the door never to be seen or heard from again. I guess the aliens got her, or it could be the aliens fixed her car. I'll never know…
Here's some of the myths the full moon has been linked to: increased homicide rate, traffic accidents, crisis calls to police or fire stations, domestic violence, births of babies, suicides, major disasters, casino payout rates, aggression by professional hockey players, violence in prisons, psychiatric admissions, agitated behavior by nursing home residents, assaults, emergency room admissions, behavioral outbursts of psychologically challenged rural adults, delusional beliefs that one has turned into an animal, sleep walking, and several other ailments.
But in all these studies no one ever mentioned the effects of this lunar phenomenon on the lonely mechanic. Maybe it's time we make it known to these psychiatrists and other professional people who study things like this that they need to add automotive repair shops as another full moon dilemma. I should have had a psychiatrist at the shop the day this guy brought his cat with him to the front office. The guy tells me the cat knew where the electrical short was in his truck. The guy was very insistent so I played along with this cat diagnostics just for the laugh. We walked out to the truck with cat in hand, he gives the cat a little nudge towards the truck and says, "Find the short kitty" The little feline sniffed and purred around the truck for several minutes then rubbed up against the tires, jumped on the hood and then into the bed of the truck. This little diagnostic wonder ended its diagnostic journey curled up next to the rear bumper.
Was the problem there? Ah, no… it was under the dash… I think the cat was just tired of walking around the truck. The owner told me I must have confused the cat's ability to locate the cause because I wasn't putting out the right "vibes" while the cat was searching for the problem. As the owner stated, "The cat has never been wrong before." Ok, sure… whatever ya say there fella. There's a chance there is a lunatic somewhere close… I know it ain't me and I don't think it's the cat.
It's not often that big ball of cheese up there gets me to thinking the entire world has just gone nuts, but on those occasions that someone comes into the shop and tells me their car is possessed, or claims some mail order device is going to save them hundreds of bucks in fuel costs. I start to wonder about this moon thing. I, for one, don't believe in any of this stuff. I'd like to believe that I'm not affected by some mystic force when the moon is full, but since it seems to give everyone an excuse to go a little crazy once a month, I guess I'll just play along with the rest of the nutty world.
There's something magical about heading out for a scenic drive late at night with that glowing orb hanging low in the sky. Get out into the open country away from the city lights and you can really appreciate the magical glow of the moon. Will it affect the car, I don't think so. Will it affect the person behind the wheel, well… maybe… just do the neighborhood a favor while you're looking at the glowing space ball… try to keep the howling down to a minimum.
Just another day at the shop, just another situation to deal with. If you've read some of my previous stories you might have noticed I reused the alien lady part again... to funny to only mention one time in one story. LOL
Hope you enjoy the stories, leave a comment if you can. Thanx again Gonzo
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