A boss may establish interim deadlines for technicians based on the time elapsed or on the actual procedures performed. Some experimentation would determine which approach is better suited to a particular service department.
The overall objective is preventing some diagnostic and repair jobs from getting out of hand — period.
This describes a job that puts the boss in a no-win situation because its cost spiraled up beyond anyone's expectations — especially the customer's.
Sure, the customer may pay this unexpectedly high bill, but then he or she bad-mouths the tire dealer or service shop to everyone in the neighborhood, emphasizing how much the bill exceeded the original estimate.
The boss could opt to absorb a big loss by sticking to the original but inadequate job estimate, and the business may never recoup that loss.
In my last column, I recommended interim deadlines as a way to enhance accountability. This requires techs update a shop foreman or service manager at prescribed intervals.
In turn, these progress reports enable a service manager or sales person to discuss unexpected costs to a vehicle owner now instead of later. Delaying the news of additional costs never improves customer relations.
This interim deadline may mandate that a tech report back to a manager or foreman — however briefly — within the first 30 minutes on the vehicle. The employee's update may be, "Boss, the job looks straight forward at this point— no surprises."
Then again, the update may be, "Hold on, boss, because all that exhaust hardware is rusted solid. And a core plug on the back of the engine block is seeping. How far are we authorized to go on this car?"
Perhaps the tech reports that the most basic test procedures haven't identified the cause of a diagnostic trouble code.
Some managers and shop foremen I know prefer job updates — interim reports — based wholly on the actual steps or procedures a tech actually performed instead of the time expended on those.
Or, the tech must conscientiously complete a vehicle inspection checklist.
These bosses continually groom and coach their techs to complete certain prescribed troubleshooting tasks or checklists first. (They have defined these sets of tests as being proper shop procedure.)
Then — and only then — does a tech update the foreman or service manager.
The tech's interim report shows the results of the shop's test procedures for the particular vehicle and symptom at hand. Or it shows the inspection checklist.
At the risk of emphasizing the obvious, this tech does not continue testing or replace any parts until a foreman or manager authorizes it.
Regardless of which "interim deadline" approach your business uses, this single step puts the brakes on a potentially runaway repair job.
My pals told me that they prefer interim updates based on specific test results because it's more efficient — not to mention keeps their techs focused on agreed-upon, consistent test procedures.
I doubt that there's any perfect approach for every service department out there. Mandated procedures always consume a certain amount of time. But that said, this time investment is a pittance compared with the true cost of runaway repair jobs.
Some bosses believe these forms of accountability would rein in or restrict their top-producing techs. Meanwhile, some high-production techs abhor any oversight.
Simply put, they bank on pure volume from a service department to cure any and all ills.
The auto repair facilities that I admire most — businesses that have thrived for at least 20 to 30 years or more — all make accountability a company policy.
In fact, they stress that employee accountability is the foundation of their ongoing success.
From there, I'll let readers draw their own conclusions.