One of the secrets to boosting productivity and profitability is earning workers' respect. In turn, a good way to earn technicians' respect is to shield them from unreasonable, tightwad motorists. From my earliest days in a full-service gas station, I learned that there's a segment of motorists who appreciate what technicians do for them. They understand that maintaining and fixing vehicles requires skill, knowledge and dedication. On the other hand, there's a small segment of motorists who simply want the cheapest price—period. Frankly, they neither know nor care what's going on in and around their vehicles. Cheap price defines their outlook on the world. That includes what you charge them for maintenance and repairs. Within a year at the service station, I quickly learned who the regular customers were. Typically, the people who whined, cajoled and maneuvered for the cheapest price were not repeat customers. Sometimes the owner or manager cut someone a break just to test the waters. “What will you bet me that we'll never see this guy again?” the boss would joke. Indeed, we never would see that motorist again. I've written about this before, so let's bring this argument back to the techs in your service bays. Too often I've seen service managers and service writers hook a prospect with a low-ball price. Worse yet, they may throw that price at them without having a tech thoroughly inspect the vehicle first. In fact, the vehicle needs much more than initially meets the eye. Then, once you're knee-deep in the job, the customer expects that repairing those additional items is all included with the initial quote. Now, desperate people say and do desperate things. As I've discussed in previous columns, it's very tempting to work cheaply and accept any and all jobs when business is slow. However, repeatedly attracting the dregs of the marketplace and then forcing these poor choices on your technicians is the quickest way I know to lose your techs' respect. It certainly is the surest way to discourage them from making extra effort when it's really needed by a worthwhile customer. And it's the quickest way to get them looking for new jobs. OK, imagine that the most obvious problem was a seeping or leaking water pump. But closer inspection reveals a marginal radiator, seeping core plugs and swollen hoses that the service writer couldn't see or didn't see. Another example is corroded or damaged electrical wiring and connections. I've watched service personnel catch only the most obvious condition—such as a corroded terminal that's separated from the electrical connection. But the closer the tech looks at the job, the more questionable connections he finds. Or, the person who worked on the vehicle before you made several amateurish wire splices and you see that one of them has separated. A conscientious tech's instincts are to painstakingly rework those splices—as well as investigate the rest of the wiring. Whether it's the additional wiring trouble or the cooling system issues, these are failures waiting to happen. If you can count on one thing, it's that this tightwad motorist will blame you for the breakdown. To me, the respectful move is also the smartest business decision: Call the customer and describe the additional trouble. If necessary, haul the person back to the shop or email him or her digital photos of your findings. Get authorization for additional parts and labor. The disrespectful, counterproductive decision is forcing a tech to play automotive magician, investing a bunch of time and effort so this vehicle's fixed on time and on budget. It's not a tech's fault that a service manager gambled on a job quote and failed to take control of the overall transaction. Instead, build both profits and respect by keeping techs involved in the job—use their expertise to get the best possible grip on the vehicle's condition. Then keep control of the situation by selling what's necessary to keep that vehicle from coming back again.
Screen out cheapskates, earn techs' respect
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