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We have a good workflow management system, very efficient, but sometimes the world just doesn't want to play nice. Today I have a real problem. Six lifts, six cars taken apart in a major fashion waiting for parts. Parts that are 2-3 days out. The special order parts looked right when we started the jobs. Something as simple as a hub bearing, press the old one out, go to press the new one in and the hub is trashed. Oops. Ready. Set. Stop.
Maybe I should know better to have more than one Suzuki and 15 year old Benz in the shop at the same time. Its going to be an interesting week. I haven't had a shop completely full of immobilized oddballs in a while.
I just opened my shop six weeks ago. Six bays, busy street. We were progressively doing more and more business every week and we even broke even last week! But then the well went dry this week. We've done two oil changes all week. That is all! Can someone please talk me back from the ledge here? I want to go puke.
By Joe Marconi
First I want to start by saying, “When was the last time someone wrote a news article about a shop owner who stayed late into the night to make sure his customer had his car ready for vacation? When was the last time someone featured a shop owner, on the 6:00 news, who gave away a used car to the wife whose husband died on 9-11? When was the last time you read about a shop owner who held a fundraiser to help the local youth sports associations.” I could go on and on about all the good we do for our community and customers, but you get the point. The fact is the overwhelming majority of shop owners and mechanics are hard working people who go the extra mile for the motoring public day after day. We don’t ask for recognition, we do it because of who we are.
Ok, now on with Wallet Flushing. In 2006 Douglas Flint, the owner of Tune-Up Technology in Alexandria VA detailed his feeling about fluid services and started a firestorm of controversy over the legitimacy of fluid services and the practice of many shops. You can read his entire comments by going to the link below, but in short he stated that mechanics and shop owner’s, because it’s economically more profitable, push fluid services on their customers. He questions that validity of fluid services and says that when shops push fluid services on their customers, the only they are flushing is their wallet.
Because of Flint’s comments, the California Bureau of Automotive Repair began an investigation into the “questionable tactics” of selling fluid services. The results may affect many shops, not only in California but around the country. There is now an initiative in California and a brochure to “educate” consumers about fluid services. California states it will prosecute for Wallet Flush under the Automotive Repair Act of 1971 and the California Unfair Competition Law of Section 7200, which prohibits the unlawful, and unfair, deception, untrue or misleading advertising. PLEASE READ THE LAST SENTENCE AGAIN.
We sell fluid services all my shop. We are not deceptive, we are not unfair, we do not mislead and what we promote is not untrue. Our service programs and recommendations "flush" more money back to the customer through preventive maintenance, which lowers to total cost of owning a car over time.
The investigation makes comparisons to cars of yesterday and cars of today, basing the findings by comparing a 1940 Cadillac Series 60 to a 2007 Cadillac. Is this a true comparison? We all know that cars are better made today and last longer. In 1940, you were lucky to go 40,000 miles without major engine, transmission or other repairs. In the 1970s, when I started as a mechanic, we did a ton of transmission work and engine work on cars that had less than 50,000 mile! It’s not the same anymore. Today’s cars last longer and servicing fluids will help customers lower the odds of failures.
We do educate our consumers, we do explain the reasons why we are recommending a particular fluid service and we do explain that these recommendations may not be found in the owner’s manual. We also promote the BG Lifetime Protection Plan. Many of my customers keep their cars for 200,000 miles or more and I want to make sure they are protected. We don’t recommend fluid service based only on condition of the fluid, we base it on what WE feel is in the best interest of our customers. By the way, I can still do that in this country? Make recommendations based on my professional judgment, right? If the car maker states that you do not need to change a particular fluid, then why don’t they warranty that component for life???
I urge everyone to read the links below and please give me your thoughts and comments. I am not one to sit on the sidelines and prepared to go to bat for each and every one of you. So, please give me your honest thoughts and opinions.
Article on Wallet Flushing, National Oil & Lube News, June issue 2013
Article when story broke, AOL Auto, posted December 2006
By Joe Marconi
Are your service advisors engaging customers, or are they part of the walking dead?
Ok, I admit it. Let’s get it out in the open. I am a zombie movie fan. There is something about dead people shuffling around grunting in an expressionless, catatonic state that captivates me. The new TV series, The Walking Dead, is my current favorite show. However, when it comes to catatonic customer service people…well that’s another story.
Two Saturdays ago I went to an upscale clothing store to purchase a new suit for my son’s wedding. Being a special event and the fact that I haven’t bought a new suit since Reagan was President, I figured it was time. Buying a quality suit was my goal, the money was secondary, not that money isn’t important, but this is my son’s wedding and buying a nice suit would, for me, add to the overall enjoyment of the occasion.
Well, the karma in the store just wasn’t right. Everyone seemed preoccupied, confused and stressed. After waiting for nearly 10 minutes I finally managed to get a saleswoman to help, and together with the help of my wife, I picked out a real nice suit. The Tailor worked his magic and told me to come back in a week to pick it up.
Last Saturday I went back to the store to try on the suit. Again, you can tell something just wasn’t right. There were sales people on the floor and a few at the sales counter. But they were not engaging anyone, just shuffling around aimlessly. Every minute or so a sales person would shuffle by us gazing into space. As I tried to communicate, I could hear a faint grunt coming from the sales person. I couldn’t make out what they were saying, but it was definitely a grunt…..maybe a secret sales language? Or code? After a while my wife turns to me and says, “It’s like the walking dead”.
So here we are in the middle of this upscale clothing store, where my original intention was to have an experience what would add to the enjoyment of my son’s wedding, and it feels more like the movie set of “The Night of the Living Dead”.
I did finally find the same saleswomen who helped me originally. I quickly tried on the suit, grabbed my wife and ran out of the store. I was afraid that whatever infected these people might be contagious.
It may sound like I am making light of the situation, but don’t mistake my humorous analogy with a very serious situation. This incident got me thinking about business in general and how customers are treated, especially in our shops.
When customers come into your shop, are your service advisors engaging with them in a timely manner? Are they smiling and act in a way that make customers feel special, like family? Are your service advisors doing all they can to provide world-class service, treating people with respect, smiling and engaging in a little small talk? Or are they more like the Walking Dead, arms hanging at their sides, expressionless faces, with eyes staring off in the distance and grunting like zombies?
Let’s face it; being in business is not always a walk in the park. Some days are tougher than others, and we all get caught up with the daily struggles that weigh heavy on our shoulders. But the truth is the public has no idea what we go through and we need to understand that above all the customer experience is what matters most for the success of our companies.
So, where ever you are from now on, whether it’s a restaurant, hotel, on a plane or even in your own shop, pay particular attention to the sales people. See if you can spot any of the walking dead. If you do, tell them they just may be better off auditioning for next year’s Walking Dead TV series, and stay out of the customer service business.
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Talk about creepy jobs that come into the shop, this ranks up there as one of the oddest. I have a regular customer with a company that picks up and delivers the deceased for funeral homes, private pickup from homes, and hospitals. His fleet of vehicles travels across the country picking up and delivering bodies wherever they need to go. Yes, that's what I said… bodies, and they are always busy. (Well, somebody has got to do it.) Here at the shop we gave them the nickname "Body Snatchers". Most of the vehicles from the outside look like your typical soccer mom minivans or a 4 wheel drive vehicle with the windows heavily tinted. (Gotta have 4 wheel drive vehicles for all the different weather conditions.)
If one of these vans pulled up alongside of you… you wouldn't know it from any other car. From the outside they look like normal, just like any other car. The difference is… there are no back seats… only a flat board with room for two gurneys, a stack of body bags, plastic gloves, absorbent towels, and lots and lots of air freshener. There are no outside markings, no name on the side, not even a commercial license plate. Completely incognito … no one would know.
I've been doing the work on these vans for quite a few years now, and I've seen a lot of weird stuff in regards to this morbid work they do. Actually the most fun is when they are dropping a van off and it's loaded with their "customers". They'll back another van up to the first one and transfer the "cargo" from one to the other. Watching the looks you get from people in our waiting room when all this is taking place is priceless.
One of my least favorite things to do is work on the A/C systems. The smell… oh the smell… it creeps into every crevasse of the duct work. Take a real warm summer afternoon with the car sitting outside waiting to get into the shop, and you get to be lucky guy who turns the blower motor on for the first time. Oh, I'm telling you… it will knock you to your knees with the stench.
Most of the vehicles have hundreds of thousands of miles on them. At last count the average miles I recorded on one of their vans was around 350,000 miles. There are a couple of the vans with over 500,000 showing on the odometer.
A few years ago they brought in one on the back of a tow truck. It was a white van that didn't have a straight piece left on it. The top was smashed in, most of the windows were broken, and several tires were flat. Definitely a roll over, so I knew I wasn't going to fix this one back up, but was more than likely going to grab some spare parts off of it for the rest of the fleet. (It was one I just put a motor in, too.)
After the tow truck got it back on the pavement out in the parking lot of the shop, I got a closer look at it. You could tell everything in the van had taken a tumble by the way it was strewn all over the place.
I talked to the driver the next day when he came by to finish cleaning out the van. He was totally unhurt, but had an interesting story to tell me about the wreck. I've got to admit, it takes a special type of person to drive around with a couple of dead bodies in the back. Especially when they have to go from one state to another to retrieve a body, it's got to be a different type of ride home for sure. So one thing you better have is a good sense of humor and not to take things so seriously that it affects your job performance. This guy knew how to handle a situation.
His story went like this;
"I was on my way back with two bodies; it was late at night when a deer darted out in front of the van. I swerved to miss it, and ended up sliding down an embankment on the side of the van; it did roll over once but came to rest on its other side. I wasn't going fast, but it was still quite a ride. I climbed out and waited for the police."
When the police got there he was sitting by the van making a phone call to the office.
The state trooper asked him, "Is there anyone else in the van with you?"
With a calm soothing voice of a funeral home director, the driver answered the trooper. "Yes, but they have already passed away."
The driver then told me, "The poor state trooper turned as white as a ghost when I told him that." (Funny guy, even in such a situation… I kind a like this fella.)
It took some explaining before the trooper's color returned to normal. By then another van from the company was there to help with the recovery of the "passengers" while the trooper did his best to explain the accident over his radio.
I can just imagine the call, "A roll over wreck, affirmative, three occupants, two passengers are dead, driver unhurt. NO, I don't need an ambulance, send a wrecker… NO, the driver is taking care of the two dead bodies. YES, that's right … three occupants in the vehicle, two were already dead… No, I don't know how they died. Yes, the driver knows they are dead; he's already got them strapped to gurneys." This poor trooper had some major explaining to do.
I eventually pulled the useable parts off the old van and sent the rest to the crusher for its final demise. The whole time I was tearing down the van I kept thinking about how this driver explained things to the trooper. He has the kind of a sense of humor that can take any bad looking situation and make light of the whole thing. I wish I could have been there when he explained it to the trooper the way he did. I probably couldn't have kept a straight face thru the whole thing, and I'll bet the trooper has got a new story to tell his buddies after all said and done.
Just what everyone ought to have, a mortician with a comedic edge. I guess you could say; even on a dead day this driver finds a way of livening things up.
Note: Like the story let me know. I never know what kind of story the editors are looking for so I try to keep a variety of different stories for them to select from. Your input can affect which stories get published in my column. (I tell them which ones has been commented on and which ones you liked) Leave a comment, let me know what you think of them. Thanx Gonzo
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