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The Business of Diagnostics: Perception

The Business of Diagnostics: Perception, by Andy Crook AAT AAE FIMI

If you want your business to be effective and your technicians to be efficient, then you need systems and processes. This is the first in a series of articles based on the well-received presentations at the Autotech event last year. Here, Andy asks you to consider ‘perception’.

How you perceive a situation depends on your frame of reference – two people may perceive the same situation very differently. This has been proved many times, one famous example is the ‘Rubin vase’, seen here, which was created by Danish psychologist Edgar Rubin in 1915. This image is a two-dimensional drawing that can be interpreted as either a vase or two faces in profile, depending on how you focus your attention. Perception, therefore, is not only what one sees but also a mental activity.

Consider how three people could perceive this same situation…
A warning light has illuminated on the dashboard of a car. How do you think a customer would perceive this? Compared to a service advisor, and finally, a vehicle technician?

How does this situation make them feel? Do they all feel the same?
Of course not, even if the vehicle was the same make, age and in the same state of repair. The customer may feel anxious about the light – what is wrong, the cost of the repair and the impact this may have on their mobility. The service advisor notes no impairment in the performance of the vehicle and has a greater understanding of vehicle systems. They are not unduly worried about the light. The vehicle technician is not bothered at all, the car is still driving so they will take a look when they get a chance. Same light, same fault, but three very different perceptions.

The same is true when the customer contacts the garage, which for most people is an alien place, where they may not feel comfortable. They will be apprehensive, they do not understand much of what is said to them and are faced with an unexpected expense that has not been budgeted for.

The Front of House (FOH) staff want to be effective in their role. They perceive their job as ‘filling the diary’, booking as much work in as possible. The owner is always talking about utilisation and efficiency in meetings – they believe if the diary is full, they are being effective. So, when the customer contacts the garage, they perceive their job as securing the booking.

The vehicle technicians want to be efficient. When they are given a job, they like to complete it as quickly as possible. The boss is always monitoring how long they take on each job, so they are continuously looking for ways to get the job done quicker.

The garage owner thinks the nice clean waiting room and reception area are just what customers need; fancy coffee, Wi-Fi and designer chairs. The recent meetings have underlined what is expected of the FOH staff, the priority must be providing the best customer service. All the technicians have been reassured the new time monitoring is about identifying where improvements can be made. In a bid to improve efficiency the owners are planning to add another ramp, up-to- date diagnostic tools and training for the staff.

Hopefully, this has illustrated how the perception of the same situation can change depending on your frame of reference. Even the garage owner’s perception of what the customer wants is from their frame of reference. What most customers want isn’t fancy coffee or designer chairs, but to know they are in control of the repair budget and understand what is being communicated to them.

Aligning frames of reference…

Having systems and processes in place can help align the frames of reference. Systems increase effectiveness, they can be continuously improved, and help maintain standards of service. Processes increase efficiency.

Using this example without a system, the FOH staff may all answer the phone differently, offer a different solution and suggest different timeframes. This lack of a consistent approach can lead to confusion. In this case, FOH have booked a one- hour diagnostic session and suggested the customer can wait while this is done. A suitable slot has been identified in the diary and the booking confirmed. They believe they have been effective.

The customer is now under the impression that the car will be fixed in an hour, while they wait. While this was not what was just agreed, they did not understand much of what was said, but they definitely heard them say that it would take an hour, which is brilliant because they need the car that afternoon.

A systemised business would deal with all enquiries in a similar fashion, using templates and scripts that have been refined to remove jargon and ambiguity. The solution for this customer is a diagnostic session, but there is no way to know how long this may take, or how much it will cost.

All that is known at this stage is the technician is required to carry out a diagnostic assessment.

Therefore, the solution is a diagnostic assessment, (a series of tests to establish what is or is not wrong with the vehicle) and report back with the findings. It should be made clear that there is no promise of a fix at this stage. The cost and time required are known, which satisfies the customer, who is now in control of the repair budget. No further work will be carried out without prior authorisation. FOH also knows that the average diagnostic assessment requires two hours additional workshop time and overnight parts – this can be factored into the workshop planning. The technician knows the diagnostic process and has enough time to complete it thoroughly, and there is no pressure to come up with a diagnosis, only to gather facts and data at this stage.

Having a system allows the garage to re-frame the problem so that everyone now knows what is expected of them.

Next time, Andy will examine how garages could improve how they communicate their offer – The 4 C’s of the contract.

For more ideas, advice and free training why not join the Garage Owners Network Facebook group?

About Autotechnician
Autotechnician is a magazine published nine times a year, delivering essential information to independent garage owners and technicians in the UK. Delivered both digitally and in print, autotechnician provides readers with technical, training, business advice, product and news, allowing our readers to keep up to date with information they need to run and work within a modern workshop.
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