Effective bosses recognize that competent workers may try to skirt company rules whenever they think no one is watching them.
Owners and managers can address this potential issue by inspecting employees' work as often as practically possible and monitoring customer feedback.
Specifically, I'm referring to technicians who fail to protect vehicles' exteriors and interiors adequately during every repair job. Given the typical pressure to produce labor hours, it's understandable that some techs would take this short cut.
Note that in my column of June 5, I made the case that protecting customers' vehicles equals respecting those vehicles. Besides showing respect, it also comprises a key part of meeting motorists' expectations today.
You may recall that I urged bosses to make this process shop policy and to pay techs accordingly for procedures that protect customers' vehicles.
Now let's return to the often-frantic world of performing automotive maintenance and repair. Some tire dealers and service shop operators seem stunned that capable technicians take these shortcuts.
But some do scrape, stain, ding and scratch customers' vehicles, seemingly without a second thought. What's more, they'll continue until they realize that the manager is watchful and vigilant.
A boss must demonstrate that all workers really are held responsible for their actions. This includes employees in every area of an automotive service facility.
Mind you, there is an old joke that a shortcut's only a problem if it becomes a problem. This is loosely translated to mean get away with what you will.
But ignoring fender and seat protectors always brews trouble. This isn't a matter of if but a matter of when it angers a motorist.
Here, I'll cite just three memorable examples of technicians' careless and thoughtless behavior. I noticed it, and co-workers told me it was ongoing behavior. But somehow, the manager was oblivious to it until it angered a customer.
In the first example, I saw a tech who had a habit of sliding screwdrivers or wrenches into his back pocket. At some point, he would put the tools back in his toolbox or on his tool cart.
That careless habit cost the shop the repair of a leather seat in a customer's car. Predictably, reupholstering a leather bucket seat was astronomical.
What's more, neither the tech nor his manager can ever know how many potential customers that motorist negatively influenced — basically, chased away from the shop.
In the second example, I worked in a service shop in which some of the techs routinely parked themselves on work benches. Of course, some work benches are cleaner than others — these were average cleanliness, at best.
None of the techs used seat protectors of any kind. This routine continued unabated until the shop owner had to cope with a greased-up velour bucket seat.
Having the seat professionally cleaned was only the initial cost of overlooking careless behavior. Not only did the shop lose this customer, but this unhappy person's influence on other motorists is unknown.
My third example concerns another busy service shop.
To his credit, a service manager had issued a neat clip board to each tech. He issued an edict that all work orders, repair orders and the like had to be filled out on a clean counter top or on a clip board.
But one tech ignored this rule and continued using the vehicle's body metal as his clip board. The fellow got away with this until he tried it on a fender that had been recently repainted as part of a collision repair.
His writing left an obvious, deep imprint in the paint. The boss paid a fortune to have the fender repainted and color-matched to the rest of the vehicle's body.
The bottom line is this: The time to pay attention to techs' procedures is now.
Laying down the law on careful procedures and monitoring them may seem like hard work. But believe it, it's considerably easier than regaining a customer's trust — let alone garnering the new customers that keep your business going.