It seems that everyone is looking to blame someone else for their particular circumstances. This can be a wide array of things, especially in the automotive repair industry, and it can be on both sides of the service advisor counter. Some things the vehicle owner might try to blame on the repair shop could be: “Since you had the car in, why did you not go ahead and fix that?”, “Why did you fix that since that was not what I had it in for?”, “It didn’t make that noise when I brought it in” or “That scratch wasn’t there before.” We have all experienced different versions of this type of scenario. Regretfully this blame game can happen on the bay side of the advisor counter also. Things like the technician saying “I did not note that on the repair order since it was the same way last time it was in” or “Why should I tell them about the need for a repair since the customer won’t do it anyway?” As automotive repair professionals, we must continually walk this thin line with our customers. It’s imperative to know the customer on, not only a professional level, but on a personal one as well.
The “Since You” Customer
We have all had the customer that brings the car to you with the check engine light on and the engine clearly missing on at least one cylinder, but they brought it to you for a poor performing A/C system. You diagnose the A/C and find it to be a weak clutch, then give them the price. They deny the repair then show back up a week later with a “since you” problem. It usually starts out something like this, “Since you had my vehicle in last week it has not been running properly.” It was likely a problem they had from the initial visit, and hopefully it was noted on the original RO, otherwise you don’t have any ground to stand on. We have all had these customers, and my advice for this type of customer is to FIRE them. Yes, I am a proponent of gleaning your clientele because too many of these customers will sink a repair shop in free repairs. I propose that a large portion of the automotive repair industry is guilty of this very same fault. I call it the “Since You” mentality.
The “Since You” Industry
I know this might offend some that read this article, but I ask you to think about it before you send the email of how wrong I am (which is not unusual for me). I continue to hear that there is no one to fill skilled labor positions. Repair shop owners complain about their ability to hire qualified technicians. Manufacturing whines about having no one to fill their open positions. Here is where the “Since You” mentality comes in. I have heard the shortage blamed on the education system, millennials, and the claim that no one wants to work anymore. Really, I believe these are all excuses to place blame anywhere but on the individual industry itself. We chose not to promote the automotive repair industry to the public. Up until possibly the last 5 years, the industry (me and you) have been very, very lax about educating the public on the professionalism required to properly repair today’s modern vehicle.
Who is Truly to Blame
Having been in the industry for thirty plus years, I feel I can make this statement. I think the shortage of technicians is directly proportionate to how well we, as an industry, have promoted the skills required to repair vehicles. I want to quantify this by saying I am not referring to today but the industry five to ten years ago. I think we have made great strides in promoting the industry in the past 4 to 5 years. I recently recorded a podcast with Chris Chesney where we discussed some current actions being done to improve the shortage issue. I highly encourage you to take the time and listen to our conversation to hear some great ideas to improve the shortage.
The Reactionary Repair
The automotive technician is a classic example of a reactionary individual. We are handed a RO with a problem then we react and repair. Yes, it is not quite that simple. Technicians should spend time in diagnosis, but that diagnosis is a direct reaction to the vehicle owner’s complaint. So, to simplify, we react to the customer’s complaint. If we had been promoting the industry and the professionalism of the technician ten to fifteen years ago to the parents of today’s young workforce, then would we have the shortage we have now? I say no, and that is why it is so very important to support the promotion of our industry today. If you and I don’t do this, then the problem is just going to continue with no solution in site.
How to Help
Search out local education facilities that have an automotive program (grade school, high school, or college) and ask the instructor how you can help. These instructors will have some great ideas of how you can help encourage their students. Join a local advisory council at the community college. Join civic organizations and don’t be shy about promoting the value of our industry. As technicians, donate some time talking to different youth organizations like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Royal Rangers, FFA, etc. Get out of the bay or behind the counter and promote the industry that is keeping a roof over your head and clothes on your back. It’s a great industry with a number of outstanding individuals. We have had the feeling/stigma for too long that “oh we just repair vehicles,” but we do so much more. We work to provide safe, reliable transportation to everyone no matter what they drive or where they are going.
As always, I encourage your feedback positive or negative. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.