The coming trends in automotive repair demand first-rate skills at selling diagnostic time.
Covering a technician's diagnostic time has been vitally important for years now. Modern technologies have not and will not diminish the value of diagnostic time to successful repairs.
Typically, automotive service facilities that have survived and thrived for decades have a sales staff that sells diagnostic time capably.
I can't speak for the personal experience of the folks reading this column, but my field experience has been that precious few service sales pros sell diagnostic time comfortably and consistently.
If selling diagnostic time was easy, then everyone would do it well — but they don't. The elite few who do the job well are worth their weight in gold to any automotive service facility.
The caliber of motorists you want to attract for long-term customers aren't fixated on getting the lowest price. Rather, they need the vehicle repaired correctly on the first visit. The key to fixing cars correctly the first time is an accurate diagnosis.
Mind you, some technicians guess correctly at a diagnosis, but guesswork only succeeds some of the time.
Accurate diagnoses, meanwhile, take a certain amount of time. It may be several minutes; it may be 90 minutes or more.
Years of experience confirm that it's easier to back off the initial diagnostic time estimate than it is to beg a car owner for additional time. (Naturally, motorists love hearing that a job will cost less than they expected.)
Technology's limitations are another reason why selling diagnostic time will still be valuable in the future. Modern diagnostic technology, you see, isn't the panacea that some motorists and service sales people think it is.
For example, most — if not all — readers have seen a tech plug a scan tool into the diagnostic connector under the dashboard of a vehicle.
It's easy to get the impression that this single step magically diagnoses a modern vehicle, but believe me, there was no magic when that diagnostic connector went into service in 1996. There won't be any magic in it next year or the year after that.
In previous columns, I have explained that various breakdowns require detailed testing above and beyond plugging a scan tool into that connector. A more-recent example of this is a failing computer on a vehicle's network.
Common vehicles rolling into your service bays are equipped with networks of computers; each "networked" computer may be called a module or node.
On some vehicles, one failing module may cripple an entire network. After a technician covers the basics, the simplest, most-accurate diagnosis entails disconnecting one module at a time from that network.
If disconnecting module X revives a dead network, it confirms that X has failed.
The reason selling diagnostic time is so vital here is that these modules may be hidden in awkward locations throughout the vehicle.
So, the task consumes a certain amount of unavoidable time. Likely, the car owner has no inkling that his space-age machine must be tested this way.
Troubleshooting battery drain problems is yet another procedure that begs for diagnostic time — not to mention patient updates to customers. Typically, onboard computers should shut themselves off after the driver shuts off the ignition and leaves the vehicle.