AKRON (May 19, 2000)—Tire dealers who want to succeed at vehicle diagnosis must be as diligent as a good doctor in getting an accurate patient history.
The more accurate that history is, the quicker the dealership´s technicians will be able to pinpoint the real problem.
My experiences out in the field continue to reinforce my belief that this is a theme I cannot emphasize often enough. Countless times I hear firsthand horror stories from service personnel about the "diagnosis from hell." And numerous times I discover that the important questions were not asked up front.
Readers have probably heard of that country song describing a luckless person looking for love in all the wrong places. Likewise, a tech without an accurate vehicle history will be looking for solutions in the wrong places. The end result: an arguably difficult diagnosis that becomes a certified nightmare.
In this column and the next one, I´ll review aspects of vehicle history that are commonly overlooked.
First of all, savvy service managers approach diagnosis the way a competent doctor does. That is, any diagnosis worth doing begins with the patient (the motorist) completing a detailed medical history (diagnostic questionnaire).
When a customer whines about filling out the questionnaire, managers tell me the quickest way to overcome the objections is to compare it to a doctor´s introductory "rundown sheet." No patient in their right mind would challenge a doctor who requires him or her to complete a rundown of medical history. Matter of fact, you usually can´t get into the examination room until that sheet is completed!
Always remind motorists that providing a detailed vehicle history helps you spend their money more intelligently. Ultimately, investing a few minutes in the questionnaire will save them money by helping your techs find the real problem quicker.
Suppose a motorist schedules an appointment for diagnosis via telephone. Some service shops are so serious about culling vehicle history that they send out a vehicle history questionnaire via facsimile or e-mail the moment they hang up the phone! This way, the customer has ample time to consult previous service receipts and records.
It enables the motorist to concentrate on the questions without worrying about being late for work or missing a ride back home.
Plus, getting the questionnaire back to the service shop in advance allows service personnel to do some homework in advance, including discussing the vehicle´s problems among themselves as well as checking for relevant factory bulletins or recommended service actions.
What´s more, experience shows you cannot assume that important factory fixes or field upgrades have already been performed on the subject vehicle. Solving the customer´s problem becomes downright anticlimactic when you discover that a field fix your dealership´s techs take for granted was never performed on this vehicle.
Realize that consumers aren´t always anxious to confess the fact that other repair shops—possibly including their favorite service center—haven´t been able to fix their car. Doctors´ questionnaires ask you if you´ve been hospitalized, when, and why. Surely you can muster the nerve to ask the same thing on your automotive fact sheet.
As long as you´re asking the motorist if his or her vehicle was in the shop within the last year, request any and all relevant paperwork on those shop visits. You´d be amazed what you learn from those previous work orders and receipts.
For example, before you even open the hood, perhaps the paper trail tells you that new injectors, a fuel pump and an entire ignition system failed to cure a misfire complaint!
Next, see if the motorist supplies any diagnostic printouts or troubleshooting checklists.
If so, study them for thoroughness and whatever clues they may provide. Don´t be surprised if the other guy already did the diagnosis for you. In other words, the answers are already on the diagnostic printout he gave the motorist—except he didn´t understand how to interpret the readings and you do!
Consequently, you stun the motorist by fixing his or her car in record time based on test data they already had in hand.
Don´t miss my next column wherein we complete our discussion of vehicle history´s impact on faster, more-accurate diagnoses.