Shop owners' and managers' actions should support their words, especially when it involves automotive diagnosis.
Sometimes, they thwart the diagnostic process by telegraphing contradictory signals to their technicians.
Ask any boss if he or she wants a repair done correctly the first time. Unfailingly, the answer is “yes.”
Next, ask a variation of the same question: Do you want a technician to diagnose a condition or problem correctly the first time? Once again, bosses scream “yes!” In fact, they may behave as if this is a foregone conclusion.
However, my field experience indicates the same bosses who insist on proper repairs often send all the wrong signals to their techs. For instance, they may not pay for diagnosis or provide adequate time for it. They may unconsciously work against the proper test steps by ordering parts for the job before the tech has finished testing the vehicle.
Or they may encourage diagnostic procedure verbally, then contradict themselves by encouraging techs to swap parts first, test later.
I'll repeat something I've said several times in previous columns: Decide what your focus really is—what the character of your business really is. If you want to play the shotgun or scatter-gun approach, be my guest. If you want to play percentages and swap parts first, be my guest.
But with all due respect, readers, don't whine to me or anyone else when your scatter-gun approach backfires on you. To say the least, vehicles have become more and more complicated in every area. In particular, labor times are skyrocketing on many vehicles due to vehicle design. There's more and more stuff crammed into smaller spaces. What's more, many of the components and sub-systems simply were not designed with serviceability in mind.
Complain all you want, but these are the cards the vehicle makers have dealt the aftermarket.
For example, I have met dozens of techs around the country at my classes who tell the same, sad story. Namely, the boss comes into the bay and urges them to do a good job, get it right.
In the next breath, the boss emphasizes that he or she has already ordered three or four parts that often solve this vehicle's symptoms. Their tone suggests that the solution darn well better be installing one of these “pre-ordered” parts. After all, ordering different parts could set the job back 30 minutes.
(Think of how many businesses went under for the delay of 30 minutes! Better yet, forget for the moment that the real solution to the vehicle's symptoms may not be replacing any of those parts. Instead, the solution may be several voltage checks and then cleaning or replacing a corroded electrical terminal.)
I have met several working managers who attend training classes but fail to bring their technicians. After class, they ask me how they're supposed to successfully transfer the information they've learned to their workers. (That's easy. Enroll them in the same class.)
Then the same manager emphasizes that in the interest of speed, he has conditioned his crew to attack this condition and that one by replacing the most-accessible, “related” sensor first—sweat the consequences later.
I emphasized in my last column that the vital first step to a successful service sale may be getting a commitment for a diagnostic fee. Years of experience show that a motorist who won't commit to a diagnostic fee probably doesn't have the money to fix the car anyway.
Make your words match your actions by getting commitments for diagnosis. Many successful shops I work with have established standard or semi-standard fees for checking out a wide range of symptoms.
What's more, the techs there know there's no cheating these standard diagnostic routines.
Isn't it time your service department did the same?