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Running into an issue lately. Most of the work we do the customer drops off the car and we give them a call after. Generally we usually send them our findings via e-mail or text from our inspection report and then we discuss the recommended work. Customer authorizes over the phone, we do the work, they pick up. Done deal. Normally we have no issues... normally I mean years I have never encountered a problem. Recently working with a knuckle head and he is claiming he didn't authorize some work to be done. He also never signed an estimate due to all correspondence through telephone. Also to keep in mind most of my tickets are $1000+ and I have not had any issues thus far. This is situation is causing me to rethink my procedures. Unfortunately having a customer authorize via signature can be difficult due to customers going to work, going away, living far enough distance from the shop etc. What have you done in your shop? Obviously there are state laws and such to consider as well...
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https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=1074555325898722 OK, try it now... think I got it uploaded correctly.
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Here's a little background info on my business. My father purchased an existing body shop (just the customer base and equipment, the building was a rental) in 2009 for a very decent sum. Two months later we were informed that we had to pack up and leave, because they were going to build a CVS on that property. So we had to put the equipment (1 bend-pak lift, 1 paint booth, 1 mixing machine, and 1 frame machine) in to storage. Fast forward to the end of 2012, a building opened up for sale on one a main street in town. My father and I signed the lease and moved in January of 2013. Almost 2 years down the road, here we are. My father is doing his own thing, I am left running the business. We have one technician, and one part time helper and myself. I do the management, front desk, phone calls, bills, cleaning, pretty much wearing all the hats. Business is growing steadily and surely but I feel like I need a mentor or coach. I pay myself only so often and not nearly enough by any standards. And I can't afford about 1,500 / month for coaching. Is there anything I can do for now? Thank you in advance! P.S. Questions / concerns / opinions welcomed.
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Spend enough time at a repair shop, working on cars, answering questions for the customers and sooner or later you’ll find yourself with a Mr. Details at your counter. Your typical “A” type customer (that’s “A” for anal) who arrives with all the facts and figures regarding his problem gathered up from under the nearest rock or website. He’s the over bearing, overly concerned, and downright meticulous type of client that shows up with an entire portfolio of documents about his car. He’s tracked every single repair that has ever been done to his car right down to the exact date and time the dome light bulb burned out and when it was replaced.
Our story begins with Mr. Details bringing his 2003 Chevy Silverado in with inoperable fog lights. Of course, Mr. Details has already taken the liberty of removing the dash panels and trim for me and has so graciously left the light switches dangling by their wires for my convenience. This… as he put it, “Now you won’t have to charge me for tearing it apart.” is supposed to help me in diagnosing them. He has scrutinized every detail he could find about the fog lights and followed the guidance of several known experts on some website, which has led him to a dead end and now… to my front door.
Just to be sure I understood the validity of his story he opened his overly large folder of paperwork and began to read each and every one of them. The date, the problem, and the eventual outcome and cost. (I don’t think the US government keeps the records on nuclear weapons as accurately as this guy keeps on his truck.) Time is an important commodity, and this guy was using up a lot of it. (Keep in mind, once they start, let them finish… you ain’t going to get a word in edge wise anyway, and more than likely you’ll just throw them off of their game plan, which means they’ll have to back up and start all over.)
After making it through the pile of paperwork we ended on the final document in his huge binder. The bill of sale. Yes, the original document that brought Mr. Details and this vehicle together and ultimately to the repair shop with a fog light problem. The one slip of paper the culminated into a vast collection of facts and figures so well maintained in this leather covered binder that historian’s centuries from now will be studying it in great detail.
Now, believe or not, we haven’t even discussed what is really wrong with the car yet. I had to ask, “So, what’s wrong with it now?” (After all these years I still don’t understand why some people just can’t tell you what’s wrong without going into a lengthy detailed history lesson on the car. Seriously, if I wanted all that background I would have asked a question like, “So… where’ve ya been, who’d ya see, whatchya had done to it, and when did y’all get it done?”) At this point, since I was trying to get to the problem at hand, a few more pages were getting shuffled around as he did his best to make me feel stupid that I even asked what was wrong with it. I could tell there was a bit of frustration building up, so I thought I’d better rephrase the question. “What kind of symptoms are you having?” (Works better to ask about it this way.)
Turns out it’s not only the fog lights but the day time running lights that are acting up. He went through all of the scenarios and the “tried this and it didn’t fix it” routines and the when and how he did them. Finally, the history lesson was over, I could get the keys and start on this project. On this model the DRL and the fog lights are actually operated by the BCM (Body Control Module). Rather than take his advice and replace the fog light switch with a known good one. (Since ya know… all of us mechanics have spare fog light switches just laying around for every make and model.) I thought I’d try diagnosing it the modern mechanic way, using the bi-directional control for the fog lights and the rest of the lighting system that’s available on the scanner. No need in tearing any dash parts out, removing switches, or wiring around bulbs as Mr. Details had done so far, just plug in the scanner and click a few buttons.
Yea, it was pretty messed up alright. The BCM control was fine but looking back into the gaping holes where the headlight switch and the fog light switch would normally be I could see the familiar outline of an aftermarket alarm system piggy-backed into the BCM wiring. Oh man… here’s the problem. I reached in and disconnected the main box and sure enough everything went back to working perfectly again.
Now it was time to call Mr. Details. Here we go…
“There’s no aftermarket alarm in my car you’re nuts!” was his response.
I could hear him shuffling through his stack of paperwork trying to find anything about an aftermarket alarm. But, there was none. And, since it wasn’t in his paperwork he pretty much made it clear that I must be either crazy or completely incompetent… or both.
There was no getting around it; he’s made up his mind… I’m an idiot. Later that day he stormed into the lobby hurling even more insults and demanded that I give him his truck back.
He was about leave when I thought I should mention something to him.
The truck is a 2003 Silverado that much was clear. But let’s go back to the last page of information he so kindly went into detail with… that bill of sale. (He conveniently brought all his paper work with him of course.) Let’s examine that final piece of paper one more time. Hmmm, the car was purchased in 2004 a year after the car was built. I asked him, “Sir, did you buy this new?”
“No, I bought it from the original owner,” he proudly told me, “So what’s the point of that?”
I brought it to his attention that in all his carefully laid out and detailed lists of all the things “he” has done to the car he never once considered what might have happened prior to him purchasing it.
“How can you be so dang sure there’s an alarm in the car?! In fact, I know every inch of that truck like the back of my hand!” he sternly asked.
“Well sir, the fact is, it’s there, and since you took the dash apart already it wasn’t hard to spot.” I told him.
A lesson learned by both of us, it’s sometimes not about what facts you know, but the fact that you don’t have all the facts.
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Details Like most professions, automotive repair relies on good information. Preciseness is a must. If the manual shows a tolerance for a gear back lash or specific timing for an engine, the person holding the wrenches is going to do his/her best to obtain those values. It’s not only the values, but the descriptive nature of the components that’s just as important. If two techs are talking about a solenoid or a sensor, the terms and nomenclature are important for their conversation. This is true in just about any type of job or hobby. Getting the description of a component or procedure correct is all part of the communication. But, that doesn’t hold true with the novice or misinformed customer. Trying to sort out what is a real problem and what is not, can be a terminology battle. I know I’m not the only one who’s had to deal with the phone call or customer at the service counter who is trying their best to describe their problem, while throwing in some term or part name that just doesn’t fit their explanation. Now, if I try to explain something to someone I always will use the full name or common name for the component. That way I feel I’m not misleading them. They may ask several times, “Now what’s that part called?” and if that happens, I’ll try a little less professional explanation. Although, from the consumer’s side of the counter all bets are off when it comes to explaining things. I’ve heard it all. From headlamps being referred to as “light diffusers”, and a timing belt as a “clocking controller”, and of course, the ever popular… “relay switch”. There are thousands of odd terms out there, far too many for me to list here. By now, you’ve probably got some sort of grin on your face, yep, me too. My wife on the other hand, tells me I shouldn’t stand at the service counter with that quirky little smirk when this happens. Honestly, after some of the escapades I’ve had, you can’t help but laugh. Just to prove a point, one night after dinner my wife and I were talking about a subject dear to her heart…quilting. (Which I know next to nothing about.) I purposely blurted out a mixture of two different terms I’ve heard her use, all in the wrong context just to see her reaction. And, right on cue she went into full out “giggle snorts”, which nearly dropped her to the floor with laughter. That’s proof enough for me. Whenever you’re talking to a pro, and you try to sound professional and don’t… the giggle snorts are automatic. This also includes jumping into an explanation for one problem, and then abruptly asking a question that’s completely unrelated or absurd. How do I handle these absurd questions? Easy, I have an absurd answer to go along with it. Of course, I’ll try to correct their misguided information, as long as it doesn’t go so far off base that it turns into a lesson in automotive repair rather than trying to fix their car. Just the other day I got a call from a guy who told me this interesting story. He said after installing a new battery the headlights wouldn’t work, the park lights wouldn’t work, and it wouldn’t come out of gear. As his description of the problem continued, my little mechanic brain was already hard at work zooming through the wiring diagrams of that particular car and surmising the possible problems, when all of a sudden he blurts out an entirely unrelated question that stopped my thought process dead in its tracks. “Do you think it’s the security system?” he asked. Ok, good question… sort of. A quick rethink of the theft and starting system on that type of car, I answered him, “Does it start?” “Yes, but I can’t get it out of park.” Knowing the circuits I could deduce it’s not the security system, so I answered his question like this, “No it’s probably not the security system. I’ll bet you have an open circuit either from something you left disconnected, a blown fuse, or fuseable link.” “What’s a fishable link doing in my car?” (Did I say that?) That’s a new one. (I’ve got that smirk on my face again.) He kept repeating it even after I tried to correct him. For some people it’s from misguided information, or sometimes it’s a homegrown interpretation of how the car works. Sometimes they just don’t comprehend what you’re telling them. It never ceases to amaze me how many times somebody will call a component by some homemade name, or twist a problem they are having into an indescribable adventure into some weird world of automotive jargon. Maybe it’s me… maybe I’m trying to be too precise. But, I can’t think of any other way to be, except to be as precise and to the point as I can possibly be. For example, the call I got about a 95’ Jeep that the owner claims to have ripped out “all” the wires. But, it runs fine, has a transmission problem, and the tail lights don’t work. Aside from the short history lesson about his car, his only “actual” question was, “Do ya think it’s a coil pack?” Ok, for the layman a coil pack might as well be a widget. But, to the trained and seasoned tech the mere word “coil pack” speaks volumes. Again, that little mechanic brain of mine was trying to put together a mental picture of wires pulled out, a bad transmission, and no tail lights only to have this question about a coil pack come at me from left field. Now all I have is this “Rube Goldberg” image of what’s left of this guy’s car in my head. (For the record a coil pack is a device that produces the high voltage spark for a spark plug, and a are in pairs or multiple coils molded together to form a “pack”.) His only question was whether or not I think it was caused by a coil pack. My answer to him, “Ah, no.” The more he explained his problem the more my diagnostic mind went into a tail spin with even more bizarre interpretations of unrelated issues. At some point it becomes a futile effort to either explain things, or try to make sense of what is going on. Every mechanic has experienced these “questions” at some point. I for one, get a kick out of the absurdness and wacky explanations. If you can imagine spending a day deep in thought over a serious diagnostic problem with countless diagrams, software, and scanners, then end up on the phone with somebody wanting to know how much to put a helicopter landing pad on the top of their Yugo, then you can understand why your mechanic gets a case of the giggle snorts when you ask him that. Sometimes it might be better just to tell the mechanic what the problem is and leave the diagnosing to the experts. The details are in the communication, the better the communication the fewer giggle snorts. Click here to view the article
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By Joe Marconi
As shop owners, we sometimes feel that we need to answer every question and handle every situation. While you need to be proficient as a business owner, you also need your employees to think for themselves.
Empower your people to solve problem. Ask them for their opinions and don’t be too quick to jump in on every situation. The more you jump in and solve their problems, the more they will rely on you. This is not to say you don’t have their back; but a team functions best when everyone takes ownership of their position and takes responsibility to take care of problems.
Will employees make mistakes? Yes. But there isn’t a shop owner on this planet that has a perfect record at making decisions. We all make mistakes.
As a shop owner; teach, mentor and coach. Include your employees in on decisions that relate to their job position. When employees feel you trust them, they will begin to solve their own problems. This will set you free to work on the things that will bring you greater success.
By Joe Marconi
A few weeks back I had a problem with my refrigerator. I got a referral and called an appliance repair company. I called three times and each time I called this is what happened: "C and E appliance, please hold." I was put on hold three times for about 5 minutes. After being put on hold each time, a women would say, "What's the problem?" No engagement, no sign of interest for me the customer, no signs of caring. I gave the women a brief description of the problem and each time she told me someone would call me back. Well, no one did.
So, I called for the 4th time, and as the person answered the phone I said, "DO NOT PUT ME ON HOLD." There was silence, so I continued. I explained to her that she has spoken to me three times, I left messages three times and three times you told me that someone would call me back. She replied, "You are talking to the wrong person, if you have any complaints, write a letter to my boss, after all he won't listen to me anyway." I hung up the phone and called another company.
The lesson and takeaway here is simple: Who's answering your phone? The wrong people on the phone in your shop can kill your business. Have meetings with your people. Make sure you review your phone skills policy. If you don't have one, create one. Empower your people to people to handle issues. And make sure you log every phone call. If you feel you have a problem, start recording phone calls.
Your phone is your lifeline to future business. So, please ask yourself....Who's answering your phone?
By Joe Marconi
Shop production is a hot topic these days. High production results in higher sales and profits. But there seems to be so many obstacles to overcome to achieve high production levels.
I was discussing production with a few shop owners, and one shop owner mentioned that he recently hired a shop foreman; an “A” tech in his early 50’s. The foreman uses his knowledge and skills to organize the work flow. For younger techs, it’s even more important that they know how to work and keep productive.
What are your thoughts? Does anyone else have a foreman or similar position? And how does this role affect production?
By Joe Marconi
I am writing this on my last day of vacation in California, spending time with family. It took me a few days to totally relax, but made it a point to not look at emails or call the office.
We all need downtime. I know there will be a ton of work to be done when I return, but I also know that the time away has recharged my batteries and I will be more productive.
Being away from business and spending time with family puts things into proper perspective. You realize that a lot of the things you stress over, are really not as important as you think.
Take time to enjoy life. We all know how quickly time passes us by. And remember, no one on their death bed ever said they wished they spent more time at work.