Troubleshooting a headlamp may illustrate the advantage of applying an interim deadline to a diagnostic task. Here's why.
Last spring, I discussed a management method, the interim diagnostic deadline (April 29, Page 9). I believe this approach helps automotive service providers improve accountability during the critical but contentious diagnostic period of a repair job.
This approach requires a technician to update a manager on the progress of diagnosis at some sensible interval. The objective is to prevent troubleshooting time from ballooning into something a motorist claims he or she cannot or will not pay.
My field experience has been that test time may become a runaway train more easily than managers realize.
Over the years, I have stressed that a proper repair relies on an accurate diagnosis. Nonetheless, some skeptical motorists believe that diagnosis has no value. (Sadly, some owners and managers agree with these people!)
A manager may rein in a job by requiring a tech report his or her progress after spending a certain amount of time on the vehicle. For instance, a tech may have to update the manager on the diagnosis within 30 minutes.
Or, a boss may require techs report their test results by the time they have reached a particular step within the overall diagnostic scheme for that symptom and vehicle.
Suppose that this interim report on the job's progress consumes 10 minutes. For one thing, the cost of this time should be built into the overall price of the job.
For another thing, this 10-minute lull enables a manager to assess a tech's disposition early in the job.
For example, one tech may appear cool and confident, but another tech may seem apprehensive and uncertain about the overall diagnostic process. If so, a shop foreman may need to oversee and assist this tech.
What's more, this brief update may reveal that the overall diagnosis will take longer than expected. This vital feedback should cue a manager to get the customer's authorization for extra test time.
Additional test time, of course, means the entire job will take longer. Traditionally, an easy way to exceed a customer's expectations is to advise him or her when a job will run late and provide a reasonable estimate of its completion time.