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RWI

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Hi all, I run a small shop and have a few points of frustration and I would like to see how others in my position handle them.

 

1. I seem to be getting a high number of intermittent problems lately, many that I simply cannot verify. So I spend a bunch of time writing the car up, road test, inspect in the shop, check symptoms in identifix, etc, and after all this many times I simply can find nothing, the problem does not happen for me at all. How do you charge for this???

 

2. Because of the type of work we do much of it is charged hourly. I have tried writing down my hours, time apps on my phone, but due to wearing many hats (answering the phone, paper work, ordering parts, etc. It simply seems to be impossible to keep things straight which I'm sure I wind up loosing lots of money on because I loose track of things and to me it never seems like it took very long but then my day is over and where did all the time go?

 

3. How are you charging for diagnostics? I charge 1 hour for scan module, research codes and determine the cause. Sometimes this works out well as I can find the problem rather quickly, however other times it can be quite complex, how do you handle the charge when things take longer?

 

 

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You and I are in the same boat!

We'll just call it a learning boat lol.

I've picked up somethings from here and magazines, we started marking book hour up 40%. We charge pretty much hourly for diagnostics, often my kindess gets the better of me and I knock it down, I'm doing much better about that now and charging more than I ever have before.

Time managment and organization are the weakest of my weakest links. A good managment software helps with this, I tried time cards but we're small and no one commited. If you find a solution that works please let me know. So far the best thing I've found is to SLOW DOWN. Theres only so much one individual can do in a given time frame. Only so many calls you can answer and information we can process, only so many cars can be fixed. Wearing all the hats, you can forget book hour. You'll never consistently hit book hour doing it all.

Another memeber here recommended a book called the E-myth. Its helped me realize the points above.

Slow down, take it a day at a time is the biggest thing I've learned.

 

 

Sent from my SCH-I605 using Tapatalk 2

 

 

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I'm assuming you are talking about mainly diag work? Now is your problem keeping track of how much time you have put into the job OR is it how much you can actually get away with charging your customer? If your customers are completely fine with the amount of time billed then your job really should be very easy. Either track your time on a Work Order Sheet or employ some sort of simple system in logging your time.

 

If you are having an organization problem its time to read some books and get a great shop management software and build routines so that you are always recording and keeping track of your business.

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Intermittent problems can be the biggest pain in the butt. Thus far the way I handle them is pre sell the hour diag and spend maybe 15 minutes doing research and trying to figure it out. If I can't zero anything in that time I push the car to the side and either let it run or drive it on my errands. If the issue never occurred I ship it without charging anything. And tell them to come back when it gets worse.

Its kind of an all or nothing scenario. You either totally devote yourself and spend way too much diag time trying to figure out an issue you may never figure out or you spend very little time which makes it easier to cut your losses. I do not charge when this happens because we did not provide them the service of figuring out what is wrong. I'm sure others will disagree with me on this but that is where we have landed.

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Let me add some more info, my shop is specialty oriented as we primarily repair limousines & buses. Because much of this work is custom it must be charged hourly. When your wearing as many hats as I do, it seems impossible to keep track of time as I am constantly going from one thing to the next, I simply cannot keep track as I either forget to write it down, forget to stop/start timers, etc. I do use a bluetooth headset, that is one of the best things I ever found. I have my phones through the cable company which have a feature for you cell phone and business phone to ring at the same time, which ever answers gets the call, works really well, but when you get 60 or more calls on a busy day it seems that you cannot really get much else done.

 

Due to the nature of my business it is very hard to find good help as most techs don't want to anything out of the ordinary and with our range of work really varies quite a bit. We can have a string of custom type work and then a string of straight mechanical work so it always seems that you have the wrong type employee. I wish I could afford to have a multitude of employees with different skill sets but that is just not feasible. I know I am far from the ordinary repair shop, but I have done this for a long time and really do enjoy it, I would just like to figure out a way to make it run a little smoother, maybe I need one of those takeover reality shows to come by and fix things up, lol

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Let me add some more info, my shop is specialty oriented as we primarily repair limousines & buses.  Because much of this work is custom it must be charged hourly.  When your wearing as many hats as I do, it seems impossible to keep track of time as I am constantly going from one thing to the next, I simply cannot keep track as I either forget to write it down, forget to stop/start timers, etc.  I do use a bluetooth headset, that is one of the best things I ever found.  I have my phones through the cable company which have a feature for you cell phone and business phone to ring at the same time, which ever answers gets the call, works really well, but when you get 60 or more calls on a busy day it seems that you cannot really get much else done.

 

Due to the nature of my business it is very hard to find good help as most techs don't want to anything out of the ordinary and with our range of work really varies quite a bit.  We can have a string of custom type work and then a string of straight mechanical work so it always seems that you have the wrong type employee.  I wish I could afford to have a multitude of employees with different skill sets but that is just not feasible.  I know I am far from the ordinary repair shop, but I have done this for a long time and really do enjoy it, I would just like to figure out a way to make it run a little smoother, maybe I need one of those takeover reality shows to come by and fix things up, lol

I've felt that way before! I need a self help show lol! We struggle in the same areas and I think these are pretty common areas for businesses to struggle! I can say that trying not to grow out of the infancy stage of business is more stressful than growing into a adolescent or mature business. The e myth book covers what I'm talking about very well. Ive tried for years to do all the work and and do all the paperwork and handle all the customers all because of some bad employee experiences. All i've gotten from it is is burnt out. If you take the management / entrepreneurs role and begin grow (ive just started trying) things will get easier.

 

Sent from my SCH-I605 using Tapatalk 2

 

 

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The way I handle these in the beginning is much like the most of you. Scan, inspect and research. After the first half hour if it isn't real apparent, I will call the customer with the things that I do know and give a few options. One of which is having the technician drive the car home for a few days with testing equipment. This works sometimes but, most of the time I explain how difficult it is to diagnose intermittent problems and that if they want us to continue they can open their wallets or just drive the car until the problem is worse. I also tell them that if they can pin down the sequence of events leading up to the fault so that we can duplicate the problem, great. I also give them the open door policy. Which means that if they are in the area and the symptoms are present, they do not need an appointment. Call me and drive the car over while the vehicle is acting up.

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The way I handle these in the beginning is much like the most of you. Scan, inspect and research. After the first half hour if it isn't real apparent, I will call the customer with the things that I do know and give a few options. One of which is having the technician drive the car home for a few days with testing equipment. This works sometimes but, most of the time I explain how difficult it is to diagnose intermittent problems and that if they want us to continue they can open their wallets or just drive the car until the problem is worse. I also tell them that if they can pin down the sequence of events leading up to the fault so that we can duplicate the problem, great. I also give them the open door policy. Which means that if they are in the area and the symptoms are present, they do not need an appointment. Call me and drive the car over while the vehicle is acting up.

The way I handle these in the beginning is much like the most of you. Scan, inspect and research. After the first half hour if it isn't real apparent, I will call the customer with the things that I do know and give a few options. One of which is having the technician drive the car home for a few days with testing equipment. This works sometimes but, most of the time I explain how difficult it is to diagnose intermittent problems and that if they want us to continue they can open their wallets or just drive the car until the problem is worse. I also tell them that if they can pin down the sequence of events leading up to the fault so that we can duplicate the problem, great. I also give them the open door policy. Which means that if they are in the area and the symptoms are present, they do not need an appointment. Call me and drive the car over while the vehicle is acting up.

 

 

Seems like driving the vehicle home to get a feel for the issue is a common thing?

 

I recently spoke about this with a friend of mine who was troubleshooting a hunting idle and he spent 2.5days changing/checking Coolant level/PCV/IACV/Spark Plugs/Spark Leads/blah blah blah and eventually he decided it wasn't possible. Turns out a string of shops had already seen the car and offered no answer like him... He charged for the plugs and basically added an hours' of work onto it.

 

Here I was thinking 2 x 1hr for it?

 

But I guess, they did come to you to have it resolved so they should be aware of the possible charges. On the other hand, this is a learning experience and useful for the future?

 

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

         3 comments
      Got your attention? Good. The truth is, there is no such thing as the perfect technician pay plan. There are countless ways to create any pay plan. I’ve heard all the claims and opinions, and to be honest, it’s getting a little frustrating. Claims that an hourly paid pay plan cannot motivate. That flat rate is the only way to truly get the most production from your technicians. And then there’s the hybrid performance-based pay plan that many claim is the best.
      At a recent industry event, a shop owner from the Midwest boasted about his flat-rate techs and insisted that this pay plan should be adopted by all shops across the country. When I informed him that in states like New York, you cannot pay flat-rate, he was shocked. “Then how do you motivate your techs” he asked me.
      I remember the day in 1986 when I hired the best technician who ever worked for me in my 41 years as an automotive shop owner. We’ll call him Hal. When Hal reviewed my pay plan for him, and the incentive bonus document, he stared at it for a minute, looked up, and said, “Joe, this looks good, but here’s what I want.” He then wrote on top of the document the weekly salary he wanted. It was a BIG number. He went on to say, “Joe, I need to take home a certain amount of money. I have a home, a wife, two kids, and my Harly Davidson. I will work hard and produce for you. I don’t need an incentive bonus to do my work.” And he did, for the next 30 years, until the day he retired.
      Everyone is entitled to their opinion. So, here’s mine. Money is a motivator, but not the only motivator, and not the best motivator either. We have all heard this scenario, “She quit ABC Auto Center, to get a job at XYZ Auto Repair, and she’s making less money now at XYZ!” We all know that people don’t leave companies, they leave the people they work for or work with.
      With all this said, I do believe that an incentive-based pay plan can work. However, I also believe that a technician must be paid a very good base wage that is commensurate with their ability, experience, and certifications. I also believe that in addition to money, there needs to be a great benefits package. But the icing on the cake in any pay plan is the culture, mission, and vision of the company, which takes strong leadership. And let’s not forget that motivation also comes from praise, recognition, respect, and when technicians know that their work matters.
      Rather than looking for that elusive perfect pay plan, sit down with your technician. Find out what motivates them. What their goals are. Why do they get out of bed in the morning? When you tie their goals with your goals, you will have one powerful pay plan.
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