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Singing from the same hymn sheet

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Do you have an agreed system in place when taking on jobs? Andy Crook of GotBoost Training suggests a framework that will prevent problems and promote good customer relations.

If you have been reading my articles in Autotechnician this year, you will be familiar with the theme by now – exploring the areas around the ‘doing’ of diagnostics. This has resulted in a training course, which examines the business of undertaking diagnostic work. ‘The Business of Diagnostics’ is a diagnostic course like no other, it isn’t aimed at technicians for a start, nor does it have much in the way of technical content. It doesn’t provide answers but asks plenty of questions. 

Diagnostics is not the same as other workshop tasks, so you have to approach it differently. If you don’t, there could be problems ahead, or you could already be in trouble. Garages have been diagnosing faults on vehicles since the dawn of motoring, so why does this everyday task need to come under such scrutiny? The simple answer is because it has got complicated, really complicated. Not overnight, but the continuing pace of change within the industry has resulted in ever-more sophisticated machines with increasingly complex faults. My question is, have your systems and methods adapted to reflect this change or do you still do what you did 5 or even 10 years ago? 

Take this scenario for example… A customer who hasn’t used your garage before has called into reception and asked if you can take a look at her car as a “light has come on and it isn’t driving right”. 

What would happen next at your garage?

a) Depends if we can spare 15 mins to look at it quickly

b) Depends who the customer spoke to

c) Take a booking for the next mutually convenient slot

d) A short customer interview takes place. 

What course of action would you like to think would happen at your garage?

Have you used a mystery shopper to find out? Let’s examine each response in turn…
“Depends if we can spare 15 mins to look at it quickly.”

In this scenario, there is a technician who is waiting for parts to complete a job, so they are tasked with dealing with the fault. The customer is delighted, they appear to have dropped everything to take a look at her car. She has been offered a cuppa and is waiting for the kind people to fix her car. The technician clocks on the job and goes for a quick drive to confirm the fault. The fault isn’t obvious and there are multiple fault codes stored. During the test drive, the parts for his other job arrive. The technician prints out the codes and tells the customer she will need to leave it with them. The customer asks for how long and how much will it cost? The technician doesn’t know at this stage and explains this to the customer. The customer looks bewildered, “You have plugged it in, doesn’t that tell you what’s wrong?” she asks the technician.

Sound familiar? The garage has tried to help the customer, but in doing so has created a problem for themselves. What was the contract between the garage and the customer?

What is the customer’s perception of the service being provided?
1. At the start
2. After she spoke to the technician after the test drive.

“Depends who the customer spoke too.”

Everyone who deals with customers should give the same response, but if the staff haven’t had in-house training, how will they know what to do or say? Scripts may seem constrictive, but they ensure the customer has the same experience whoever they are dealing with. Consistency is a key factor when dealing with customers, imagine the customer has been told they need to book it in for this work only for a technician to say it is ok we will take a ‘quick look’.

What is the customer’s perception of the service being provided?
1. When she was told to book it in
2. After she spoke to the technician who will ‘have a quick look’.

“We’d take a booking for the next mutually convenient slot.”

While this sounds like the ideal response, could anything else be done right now? The customer is here and is no doubt anxious, could this be a good time to ask some questions about the nature of the fault? When did the fault first happen? Does it always happen or only in certain situations? Record these details on the job card as part of the primary data gathering process. This sort of thing doesn’t happen often, and the customer will be impressed with your professionalism.

What is the customer’s perception of the service being provided now?

“A short customer interview takes place.”

Why would a garage want to take this approach? It gives both parties an opportunity to find out a bit more about each other. How did the customer find out about you, for example? Primary data can be captured about the nature of the fault and you can find out if any work has already been carried out in order to rectify the fault. If the garage wants to take on this work, then a contract can be set out that suits both parties. For example, if the car is required at 3 pm tomorrow, you can discuss if this is likely, or if they should make alternative arrangements.

At the end of the interview, the customer should know how much it will cost for the diagnostic assessment, what the garage will do in return and when the garage will be in touch with their findings. What is the customer’s perception now?

Having a system to deal with customer enquiries results in consistent service being provided with both the customer and the business understanding each other’s expectations. On this basis, both parties can make more informed decisions on whether they should proceed.

Without a book time for ‘diagnosis’, it is difficult to put a price on doing work that will be agreeable for both parties. If youdon’t know what is required, how can you expect the customer to make a judgement on the value of your service? All customers generally want to know is how much it will cost and when will it be ready? Developing a process that fixes at least part of this conundrum must be a good thing: “It will be x amount to carry out an assessment, where we will carry out a number of tests to prove what is or isn’t wrong with your vehicle and report back no later than 4 pm with our findings. This may or may not conclude the diagnosis but should give us a good idea of the nature of the fault,” is the script used here at GotBoost.

This gives the customer a timeframe and a price for the investigation work. There is no promise of a fix, but it offers both parties an opportunity to stop before it becomes uneconomical. Building in natural breakpoints allows both parties to remain in control of the repair and encourages communication.

After all, would you be willing to spend an unknown sum of money on a yet to be determined service or product that may or may not satisfy your current requirements in an ambiguous timeframe? Didn’t think so, so why would any of your customers?

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