Ultimately, the boss is the person responsible for the quality of work performed in any tire dealership or service shop.
Many owners and managers have asked me how to get employees to do the quality work that earns customers' trust and repeat business. The solution is simple to state but challenging to implement. The boss must give workers the means to do top-notch maintenance and repairs—including a favorable work atmosphere.
The means to the end include establishing the time needed to diagnose and repair vehicles correctly the first time. It requires investing in modern equipment and ongoing training. Once the boss provides this overall means to the end, the overall approach becomes shop policy.
Then you must groom and recruit employees who fit your policies.
The most-successful owners and managers I've met always monitor the service department's methods and performance very closely. They use various management software programs to monitor how well technicians perform their tasks—how well they follow policy. Tracking tech performance flags the carelessness, mistakes and comebacks that hamper your reputation and profitability.
Some bosses either don't track tech performance or else don't do so very carefully. However, techs who're given the time, technology and training to fix things correctly the first time should deliver accordingly. When techs don't follow shop policy, counsel, encourage and coach them. Release those who prefer guesswork to proper procedures.
Remember that choosing guesswork over the proper information and equipment needed to do a job only hurts profits when it screws up the repair. That's not if but when it spoils the job. Eventually, bosses who undervalue training and proper equipment pay a heavy price in poor tech efficiency, lousy worker retention and unhappy customers. Dissatisfied customers don't generate long-term success.
Recently, reader Andrew Jackson asked how to get techs to diagnose vehicles properly. Mr. Jackson manages Jim's Tire & Brake Inc. in McAlester, Okla. “I can't sell a job, then find that the vehicle hasn't been fixed properly,” he wrote in a letter to the editor on page 7 in the April 13 issue of Tire Business.
Mr. Jackson began tracking the store's services with a business management software program. But some techs have resisted his new approach, he said.
Let's step back and review the things I just discussed. To some extent, I'll answer Mr. Jackson's question the same way I've addressed so many of these inquires—by asking questions. First, have owners and managers given technicians ongoing training and proper equipment? Second, if the techs have the knowledge and the proper equipment, are the bosses giving them adequate time to diagnose vehicles correctly? Are they covering the cost of diagnostic time via diagnostic fees or prudent labor rates?
If the answers to these questions are yes, then techs ought to be fixing vehicles correctly the first time. If so, then the service department and its techs ought to be making money. When techs are making money and working in a favorable atmosphere, then they should embrace the boss' approach.
The shortest, surest path to fixing a vehicle correctly the first time occurs when an informed technician follows procedure and uses the proper equipment. (At least, that's been the case during my time in the industry.) But owners and managers have to lay down the law: Enforce that this is the way the service department operates. Whatever scatter shot or guesswork methods were used in the past are out—they're history.
Some techs have gotten away with using their own questionable methods for too long. Perhaps they have stubbornly resisted any training that leads to newer, smarter, more-effective diagnostic techniques. When they have this negative mindset, they're certainly going to push back against any efforts to monitor their work—especially track their efficiency.
Techs who refuse to be accountable don't belong on your team. Still, someone in charge must hold workers accountable in the first place.