Let’s face it, we work in an industry where defining right and wrong can sometimes be challenging. Here’s an example. A customer comes in with a check engine light, and the technician confirms that the Mass Air Flow Sensor needs to be replaced. Do we tell the customer that one of their engine control sensors has failed and it can be repaired for X# of dollars, or do we tell them that they can go down to the local parts store, pick up a sensor for less than we will sell it to them and put it on themselves in 5 minutes or less?

Both statements are true, but which one do we tell the customer? From a business point of view, the answer is obvious. We are in business to make money. If we were to “give away” our time and expertise we wouldn’t be in business long. Also, all of that expensive testing equipment that we used to find out that the Mass Air Flow Sensor needed to be replaced would never pay for itself.

Here’s an interesting concept concerning every repair process. There are at least 3 people involved in every service or repair, and each one has their own ideas on how things should progress. Let’s look at one possible scenario.

A pickup comes in for an oil change. While performing the oil change service, we (of course) perform a Preventive Maintenance Inspection. During that inspection, the technician notes that the upper ball joint on the right side and the lower ball joint on the left side are worn and should be replaced.

The technician’s decision process: “I hate/love doing ball joints! Should I even tell the advisor? He never sells anything I recommend. Do I only recommend the 2 that are bad or should I recommend all 4? I’m very busy/not very busy. My wife’s birthday is tonight, I can’t work late to finish this!”

In the end, the tech tells the advisor what he believes to be true, that only 2 ball joints need to be replaced.

The advisor’s decision process: “It needs 2 ball joints. Should I go ahead and recommend all 4 be replaced since the additional labor will not be much? Do we have time to do all 4? Should I recommend the best quality or the bargain brand? We do/do not do alignments; it’ll need that. Can I farm out the alignment? This guy is cheap. Should I cut the labor time to make the sale? Should I even mention it to him? He said he’s going to sell this truck.”

In the end, the advisor tells the customer what he believes to be true, that 2 ball joints are worn. He recommends not repairing anything because the truck is not worth the price of the repair.

The truck owner’s decision process: “These guys find something on my truck every time I take it to them! I wonder if it really needs them. My wife drives that truck sometimes; she’d have a fit if she knew it needs ball joints, and I didn’t have it done. That’s a lot of money! I wonder if I can get it done somewhere else cheaper. I’m thinking of selling the truck anyway; do I feel good about selling something that I know needs work? He said it’s not worth fixing, I wonder if he’s right.”

When I worked in the dealership world, we were instructed to never lie to a customer. We were however coached on how to use misleading words such as might be, could be, it’s possible that, and so on. What the owner then chooses to believe is up to them and we could only confirm the facts in the end. For example, an F350 with a 6.0 comes in with white smoke from the exhaust. We could tell the owner that we need to diagnose the problem and call with an estimate. Or, we could tell the owner that it “might be” both heads are cracked and they should be prepared for that. Now, if you change the EGR cooler with the new heads, you have fixed their problem and generated a pretty good RO. In the end, the customer was told the truth, it could have been that both heads were cracked. It’s also possible that the heads were fine, and it only needed an EGR cooler replaced.

Then there are the times when we tell what we believe to be true based on the information we have. I’m sure every one of us has had the time when our diagnostic procedure leads us in a totally wrong direction. It appears to be “this” when it turns out to be “that.” Unfortunately, we cannot return “this” part. Should we charge the customer for the part or absorb it because we made the mistake. Should that decision be based on the dollar amount?

I suppose the answer lies in the intent. Did we truly believe 100% what was said when we said it, or was there some intentional misdirection?  If you can’t do it with integrity, don’t do it.