The Business Killer
Before everyone starts jumping into their E mails and sending me hate letters, let me explain. You see I understand that it takes an Ego (sometimes a large one) to do what ALL Automotive Professionals do. From Owners to Managers, Service Staff to Techs, every aspect of the automotive business needs some ego to be good at what we do! Because without Ego’s, in most cases, you’ll also find a lack of confidence, and it takes HUGE amounts of confidence to perform any one of the above mentioned positions. That being said, there is also a dangerous business side to these Ego’s as well.
Egos can and do create problems within Owners and Managers; too much Ego can lead to arrogance and arrogance within the management of people generally isn’t a good thing. Arrogant types of people generally find themselves replacing employees regularly. This is what we refer to as the “do it or I’ll kill you” type of management style. And if this is your style and you find yourself asking the question, “Why are you replacing employees regularly” you might want to seek out any class that has to do with motivating the Generation X, Y or Millennial generations. These generations in particular tend to react very poorly to this type of management style and only a few “baby boomers” will deal with it very long! Finding a way to motivate through psychology, through a well thought out bonus plan and through praise instead of that size 12 will get you those long term employees you see others with!
Egos can and do create problems within Service Writers or Advisors; when you present yourself as “the automotive god to service writing” you MUST be able back it up, or the word will get around very quickly that you can’t. Make sure that your Technical staffing is equally as confident while being efficient and productive in their duties. The other area (and the main reason for this article) of an Ego generated issue is that we all know, “we can fix anything” types and maybe you can, but if you return back to the name of this article for a second, it refers to the “a business killer” and this is an issue we deal with daily. So, we’re going to include Technicians here as well because it is within this Ego generated “I can fix anything” statement that in almost every case, the business loses. Within that statement there also needs to be a caveat, and that is, “given enough time” and that is where Ego rears its ugly head!
If you have good Advisors and Technicians your facility should be able to fix anything, given enough time, and when we speak about time, who pays for that time? The short answer is; the customer. However, the customer shouldn’t directly pay for our education while we spend “time” to figure out what is wrong. Sure, they pay indirectly as we go to school to be better at our jobs and those costs get factored into our labor rates (or should be, but that’s another article), but to ask the customer to pay as we work our way through a diagnostic process that isn’t based on a flow chart is simply not right. I have seen facilities (yes facilities, as in more than one, and more than a couple!!) take in vehicles that they have no experience on and without the correct information available, only to spend countless hours “figuring it out” and in most cases they aren’t getting paid for this “extra” time and all because of the, they can fix anything…..attitude/EGO!. This is what this article is truly about, those lost hours resulting in lost dollars.
I am a firm believer in taking in or working on what you know so that we give the best customer experience possible while making the most money available. Well you say, “I want to be able to work on other vehicles too, how do I learn”? This answer doesn’t come so simply and since there are so many schools of thought on how to expand your business I am going to save this for another time. Instead what I am going to concentrate on here is about having a process to give the best customer experience while making the most money possible.
In any business there needs to be processes and procedures set in writing to handle most of the day-to-day operations (and if you don’t have them, get help building them!), and how to perform diagnostic tests to eliminate or at least limit the amount of unbillable time is no different. When you perform these diagnostic inspection tests start with a basic overview (a basic series of inspections for a set amount of money required before moving to the next series of tests) and a charge for that. Now, in some cases this may be enough to correct the customers complaint (i.e. a lose gas cap causing a CEL). In most cases however, you may need to go to Inspection Test II which just like Inspection Test I (previously mentioned) has another set number of tests all focused on finding the solution and correction of the customer’s complaint. And yes, there is an additional charge for this inspection testing as well. Inspection Test III is the final in most cases series of tests and again, specific tests for a specific fee. The key to this type of testing and getting paid for it is in the initial discussions with the customers at the front counter. Make sure the customer knows what we will be doing for each step and that you may be calling him/her back for the next step if needed. Have a flow chart for an emission component failure with you at the front counter to show them the complexity of the testing being performed as reference material. Watch their facial expressions for an understanding of what you are describing and if you see their eyes roll to the back of their head, stop- you’ve lost them, and re-approach.
The bottom line here is relatively simple; educate your customers and stop the thought that we can fix everything, because although we may be able to, it will cost the facility money! Work on what you know, hire a Technician that specializes in a new brand if you want to expand your vehicle knowledge base or at least make sure that you have the information available to learn from. Above all, make sure that you don’t allow your Technicians to get so buried in a diagnostic that they lose all track of time…….and your money!! Remember, time is money and not being able to charge for time, costs you money!