A savvy boss cultivates a culture of value that permeates his or her company from top to bottom. Giving motorists good value fuels the long-term health of tire dealerships and service shops everywhere.
Years ago, successful owners and managers taught me this definition of value: It is reliable, quality work performed at competitive prices. (I have cited this definition in previous columns, but I thought it would be worthwhile to repeat it.)
Value does not necessarily mean repairs performed at the lowest price or in the fastest time.
Sadly, many owners and managers of automotive repair facilities don't recognize the value of reliable, quality work.
I see endless examples during my travels. The most-recent one was an electrical diagnosis at a large new-car dealership.
I have worked with this dealership's shop foreman often enough to respect his substantial troubleshooting skills. The man called me regarding a problem in a truck's trailer-brake control system.
Some readers may know that electrically-actuated brakes are commonplace on heavier trailers. Furthermore, many popular trucks have OEM, driver-operated devices that control these trailer brakes.
Diagnosing a modern trailer brake system could be simple enough that a technician would do it with a common voltmeter. But experience has shown that the key to success may be having the customer's trailer connected to the truck during the diagnosis.
However, truck owners often forget to attach the trailer, or the trailer just isn't available at the time of the appointment.
The foreman said that symptoms cropped up on a contractor's truck equipped with a trailer brake controller system.
This fellow browbeat a service writer into squeezing the job into an already-crowded schedule.
He also whined that other repair shops in the area wouldn't tackle the diagnosis. And the trailer wasn't connected to the truck.
I happened to be evaluating a nifty diagnostic device that effectively simulates the presence of a trailer with electric brakes.
In fact, its biggest feature is eliminating the need to have a trailer connected to the truck during diagnosis. The foreman asked to borrow it, but I was doing homework at a shop 90 minutes away.
So, I urged him to schedule more time on the job so I could get the tester into his hands.
Several minutes later, the foreman called back and sounded apologetic. His boss had insisted that the diagnosis proceed immediately. The contractor said he wanted that truck fixed yesterday.
To me, this episode illustrated service personnel who were oblivious to real value and the methods it dictates.
First of all, everyone from technicians to service writers to the service director must know which jobs require ample diagnostic time. Then schedule and charge accordingly for those tasks.
Second, providing value includes fixing vehicles correctly the first time. How can service providers achieve this goal when they allow vehicle owners to take control of the transaction?
My pal, the shop foreman, is the electrical ace — not the contractor. Therefore, the foreman determines the diagnostic tactics and budgets the necessary time.
The contractor's response is to nod his head in agreement.
Third, the truck owner voiced a demand (fix my vehicle's electrical problems).
However, the local market could not or would not supply that service. Whenever the supply is lacking, the service in demand is more valuable — not less.
Therefore, the people providing the repair (the car dealership) do so on their terms and not those of the needy motorist (the contractor). So, competent service personnel determine both the fees and the timetable for repairs.
Needlessly rushing jobs does not foster value or enhance the chances of meeting customer expectations. A "hurry-up" approach stresses out the crew and greatly increases the risk of costly mistakes.
If you insist on it, don't complain about the negative consequences.