Speaking the correct, consistent language of an automotive professional improves the productivity, efficiency and ultimately, the profitability of any service department.
It does this by reducing confusion, wasted time and misdiagnoses.
Never underestimate the value of service personnel who all speak the same, appropriate automotive lingo. Forgive me if I seem to flog this topic, but I encounter too many instances where service personnel needlessly complicate their lives and hamper the industry's image.
They do so by speaking a colloquial and wholly inaccurate automotive language. Then they insist that their homespun nomenclature's clearer than that found in authoritative technical literature.
Calling a component, system or test by its proper automotive name doesn't always impact a repair job one way or the other. However, describing something incorrectly or unclearly may cause enough confusion to waste time and fuel mistakes.
Many service personnel I meet compare and contrast themselves to professionals such as doctors and lawyers. They tell me they want to earn the money, respect and status that these professionals enjoy. For years, I've urged service personnel everywhere to behave akin to and market themselves like automotive doctors.
However, the first thing I've noticed about these professionals is that they speak the same language first time, every time, everywhere. For example, a doctor in Des Moines, Iowa, or Fort Collins, Colo., describes human organs and medical conditions exactly the same way a doctor in Charlotte, N.C., or Portland, Ore., does. They use standardized terminology for medical tests and exams. Typically, one doc always knows what the other doc is saying.
My impression is that it's extremely unlikely that any doctor would substitute his own lingo for proper medical terminology. Speaking the same, medically correct language is an assumed, integral part of their professional bearing, training and behavior. They look and sound professional—then they charge accordingly.
Now compare and contrast a doctor's behavior and language with that found in many service bays across the country. For example, in a recent column I tried to simplify electrical testing for readers. I explained that current is electrical volume; voltage is electrical pressure.
If you've ever used a garden hose, you've probably realized that pressure isn't the same as volume. Yet many techs use these terms interchangeably—as if they were the same thing. Unfortunately, many service personnel muddy matters by referring to “juice” in an electrical circuit. Juice specifies neither voltage nor current—it describes something served with breakfast.
When you're selling something as sophisticated as automotive repair, strive to be simple, clear and concise. Over the years, I've watched many service personnel needlessly complicate their jobs.
Here's just one prime example based on an observation: An older lady is discussing her car's starting problems with a service writer. Her body language suggests she doesn't trust or understand what the service writer's saying.
Then he comments that “the Bendix” may be failing. (This is very old slang for a starter drive—Bendix used to be a major manufacturer of starter drives.)
Seemingly startled, the lady blurted, “Oh no, my father always said Bendix made terrible radios!”
Now the lady was even more confused and suspicious—not to mention needlessly distracted. Naturally, her dad's opinion of 1940-something automotive electronics had nothing to do with her vehicle's potential problems in this case.
Worse yet, this service writer seemed much too young to grasp the Bendix reference, let alone steer the discussion back to a sane, sensible course. He would not have derailed the discussion if he had simply used the correct, generic phrase, “starter drive.”
Now he struggled to redirect the discussion.
Once again, the incorrect words or descriptions don't always matter. But, as my dad used to remind me, the words may matter a great deal when there's a problem.