Tire dealers who offer automotive services should not give workers carte blanche to help other technicians at other service facilities.
My shop experiences around the country have convinced me that bailing some techs out of a jam makes as much sense as giving the local drunk another drink. Here´s why.
Let me begin with a careful qualification. Regular Tire Business readers know I´ve quoted the late Dr. W. Edwards Deming many times in this column. He was the mathematics whiz who fathered the concept of statistical process control and also taught the meaning of quality to eager Japanese industrialists after World War II.
When asked to cite the major differences between American and Japanese manufacturers, Dr. Deming was fond of saying, "Americans are obsessed with competition, the Japanese focus on cooperation." I have always urged service personnel at every level to build strong, reciprocal relationships with fellow tradesmen in every area of auto repair.
First of all, you never know when his or her expertise might save you untold hours and dollars of wasted time and material.
Long before people began swapping information via the Internet, savvy techs and service managers had established their own networks—formal and informal—of experts in all areas of automotive repair: Transmission and driveline, cooling and air conditioning, electrical testing, etc. One of the best things about belonging to a good trade association has been the professional contacts membership provided to you.
However, the operative word here is still "reciprocal." Cooperation is a two-way street. You want fellow professionals to know you´ll try to make time for them whenever the need arises. Often that means caucusing at lunch breaks or after work. When you cooperate with good people there´s never a concern about keeping score because, information wise, what goes around certainly comes around.
The flies in this marvelous ointment are the sad-sack characters who don´t reciprocate. The reason these alleged technicians don´t return the favor is they have no information to share! Need I profile these people for you?
First of all, none of your crew can remember ever seeing the sad sacks at a training seminar of any kind. When it comes to the fundamental equipment needed to diagnose today´s vehicles, these fellows are perpetually a day late and a dollar short.
If you´re privy to the conversations between your staff and these needy pseudo techs, these characters don´t want to have to think or actually diagnose something. They always want the proverbial quick fix—the automotive aspirin they can feed the vehicle to make it all better.
I´ve overheard countless conversations of such problems in my travels. The caller is always fishing for a quick-and-dirty alternative to using proper tools and techniques. Afterward, everything your tech tells me about the caller confirms that he refuses to invest in himself and in his career.
This sad-sack, technician wannabe has survived thus far due to the good graces of neighborhood professionals who know him from church, bowling league, softball or other social activities. He´s viewed as a sympathetic soul —a truly nice guy—who no one wants to offend.
The cruelest but most-accurate assessment anyone makes is: "Ol´ Joe can fix anything that comes into his bay—provided he´s got my phone number!´´
Worse yet, some of his old-boy cronies are so sympathetic that they help him squeak through a repair job by loaning him a scan tool, special puller, etc. They don´t see that loaning him tools or providing information only prolongs the business life of unqualified people who are holding this industry back!
Furthermore, these kind souls need to track what their time is worth.
For example, keep a chart near the shop phone and track the number of minutes per pay period you spend counseling a good old boy who refuses to invest in himself. Round those minutes off to the nearest hour and you begin to see how much your kindness is actually costing you.
Matter of fact, double the number because the time you spent talking to Sad Sack was time you should have been selling to a paying customer for profit.
In my next column, I´ll discuss some novel ways to deal with these one-way information seekers. See you then! &Copy;