Susan Schmoe (Joe’s wife) wakes up early on Tuesday so that she can drive to her dealership, Service First Ford, first thing. The noise in her three-year-old Fusion is driving her batty and getting it fixed is her only priority at this time. However, she waited until the engine oil needed changing to get the racket attended to, and she was particularly thrilled the time had come since her husband claimed she was turning into a mean soul over the wait.
Upon early arrival at SFF, she peered over the line of vehicles ahead of her and parked in the first available crevice since the car already had six other door dings. Surely, she could get right in since she asked for the first appointment at 7:30 she calculated. As she paced into the service area she noted there were about a half-dozen customer-appearing individuals, some with a mean look. Where to go? Who to see? Then suddenly there appeared to be an opening at a service desk so she hustled over just as the proprietor ran off with some paperwork. It appeared that this was the best alternative so she just stood anxiously and waited.
After a what-felt-like-a-forever time, a frenzied petite lady, who appeared to be irritated and a little sweaty, reappeared rendering a quick “How can I help you?” as recognition.
“I had an appointment at 7:30 for an oil change and a noise. I told the lady I would wait.”
“What’s your phone number?”
“Uh, my cell is 342-6790.”
Pregnant pause. “Computer is slow today.”
“You must be Susan. Did you bring in the truck?”
“No, my Fusion. I told the lady.”
“How many miles do you have?”
“Uh, not sure but it was time for an oil change. Maybe 40,000.”
“And you said you have a noise.”
“Yes and I really want it fixed, it’s very annoying.”
“No problem. Ok then, the oil change is …just a minute. Fred, take those keys to Bill now. The truck is somewhere around the front – use the beeper dummy. Tell him Virginia said…Ok then the oil change is $35 including the tire rotation and the diagnostic on the noise is $90 if it isn’t covered under warranty. Just sign here.”
“The car is only three years old. It should be under warranty.”
“We will check it out and let you know. Just sign here.”
“Well, ok, but I want to know as soon as you find out. I am waiting.”
Most of you reading this are quietly chuckling under your breath. Some are hoping I didn’t hear this in your operation, even though you know it has happened, maybe even just now. Rather than going into the details regarding the lack of relationship building in this verbal tennis match, my main concern is the unfortunate technician who got handed this completely inadequate, and all too common, concern description.
One of the most effective methods for capturing the existent RO documentation reality is to survey the inmates, err technicians, since they ultimately are the money makers and the rest of us are just an overhead. Any and everything that affects their attitude, motivation, approach, and ultimate effectiveness is measurable, and I like to start with their vantage point since they are ones trekking on the repair ledge so to speak.
“One of the fundamental tasks of a professional writer is be a problem detective…”
Of the hundreds of tech surveys I have orchestrated, one of the top issues has always been the lack of information the writers collect regarding customer concerns. Of course, since few writers have even jacked a wrench most are clueless on what it takes to eliminate problems, or even to determine if they exist. Not their fault though, few even have the tools or proper instruction on info collection, and added to that is having more than one concerned citizen at a time (Murphy’s Law) in their face, being away from the vehicle in question, a constant telephone, poorly designed DMS setups, unending tech questions, lack of Prep Packs, and at times just the damn noise surrounding them. It’s the perfect storm, especially in the sun-up to first so-called “break” period, if one even exists.
– Yogi Berra
One of the fundamental tasks of a professional writer is be a problem detective, meaning to seek out every tidbit of intimate information surrounding every detail of a patron’s concern, then to attempt to witness the complaint as assurance that it actually exists. Often times this involves coaching the owner / student on how to manipulate their sophisticated machine (more needy than ever since the Owner’s Manual is as now as thick as Tolstoy’s War and Peace). Of course, all of this vital transaction needs to be done in private while at the vehicle, including using some type of form to thoroughly document the investigative results. Usually this includes What, When (point in time), Where (on vehicle), Who (complainant), How Long (has it been occurring), Been Worked On Before (& by whom) at a minimum – while attaining the those past receipt(s) should be part of the deal too.
Of course, unless you have a bodyshop with nothing to do and you like paying for other people’s harms, appraising the arriving vehicle’s current condition regarding dents, scrapes, breakage, collision damage, cracks, and maybe even missing pieces would be part of the reception process. And while performing this viewing, checking the wipers and measuring the tires is what a professional would do at minimum.
So, many ops today use a pre-conceived “Pre-write” format for reception, typically generated at appointment time. A well-designed one would contain, besides the owner’s info, the vehicle’s history, past recommendations, and notes of the original appointment conversation, as well as a spot for the customer to acknowledge the documentation. The idea of a Pre-write is to be able to get away from the too-dominate workstation, eliminating it as the center-piece of the entire reception process, while the vehicle languishes somewhere out of the loop. What’s missing are the vital questions (above) needing answers so the responsible tech has a fighting chance of solving “actually existing” distresses. Also, few PW layouts have a place for the vehicle appraisal documentation and related customer initials.
I utilize the back of the Pre-write format to list the noted mandatory questions and answers, as well as pics of a vehicle to document pre-existing damage, etc. I print this side first and then place it in the document printer so a full-service Pre-write prints on the other side – a combo of all the needs front and back. If you guys would like a copy to preview, send an email to Ed@NetProfitGroup.com and put on the subject line: “Dude, I wanna full service Pre-write,” so I know what to send ya. It’s a lot easier than having your teeth cleaned for sure.
Author: Ed Kovalchick
Ed Kovalchick is the CEO and founder of Net Profit Inc., Alabaster, AL, an international fixed operation consulting and training firm located in Alabaster AL. Mr. Kovalchick and his firm have assisted hundreds of dealers and manufacturers, and conducted workshops throughout the world for thousands of students since 1979. He has written columns for Dealer Magazine since its inception.