Come and look at my knives!

John Batten explores how consistent diagnostic success starts long before a technician sees the car

Published:  14 October, 2017

Our industry is full of enthusiastic technicians and entrepreneurial business owners; people who love what they do, and their chosen trade.

With all this talent why is it that similar questions prevail year-on-year? Customers constantly ask "how much, and can’t you just plug it in?" Business owners ask "why don’t customers want to pay for diagnosis?" Technicians ask "how can I diagnose this fault when I’ve not been given enough time?"

Individually these are all reasonable questions from the viewpoint of person asking, but really annoying if you’re the party being asked. Is it possible to crack this enigma? I would like to believe so.

In this article we will show you how to grow profit, give your technicians the time they need to succeed and always do the right thing by your customer.


Knives out
We should not be surprised that customers want to find out how much it's going to cost. After all, it's an obvious question. Just because a customer asks "how much?" does not mean they are only focused on the lowest possible price. If you walked into a Gordon Ramsey restaurant and there were no prices on the menu you'd still ask "how much?" You wouldn't expect the answer to be McDonalds prices. This is where as an industry we don't always help ourselves.

Customers will build an impression of your business quickly, and whether they’ll consider using your services during their very first experience, which more often than not starts online.

Back to Gordon Ramsey then. You Google (other search engines are available) ‘Gordon Ramsey restaurant’ and are presented with a list in the search results. Naturally you start from the top, you click, and the page loads. You’re met with a surprising image. Rather than a picture of the restaurant, and amazing dining experience, you're presented with a chef in his whites with the caption, “come and look at my knives; we’ve got the best knives in town.”  The text beneath this states “we have the latest oven technology!” As a customer I’m not sure that’s what I expected to see. Peculiarly though, other restaurants are putting the same message out there and it’s colouring my view of what I need for a great steak.

With this in mind, we shouldn’t be surprised if a business proclaiming “we have the latest diagnostic equipment,” causes customers to think it is the kit that fixes the car. Maybe that’s why they then ask “can’t you just plug it in?” Could it be that our own websites are a contributing factor as to why diagnostics is a difficult sell?


Don’t just take the keys: Ask great questions
So you arrive for your meal at Ramsey's restaurant. The Maître d' confirms your reservation, takes your coat and sees you to your table. Unfortunately the menu is written in French (damn - should have concentrated more at school) and you're feeling uneasy about what to order. At this point, great front-of-house staff will put you at your ease, and ask the relevant questions to help identify the ideal menu choice for you. Garages are no different. Front-of-house staff have a pivotal role to play particularly where ‘diagnostic’ repairs are concerned. They have to put customers at ease, outline their options and ask great questions.

Enter Steve… The battleground on this occasion was a 2011 Skoda Yeti that would intermittently lack power and ultimately cut out. The client explained that it had been inspected previously, but he’d been told by the repairer “it hasn’t happened to us” and no fault was found. Intermittent faults: Our favourite type.


Sleuthing
Steve asked if the customer could spend five minutes to take him through how, what and when the issue occurred. Five minutes spent here often means a reduction in diagnostic time and a reduced cost to the customer. Naturally the client was only too happy to oblige.

The client explained his issue and Steve listened diligently, noting the salient points on the job card. He found the fault normally happened on longer journeys. Further questioning revealed that it was predominantly on the weekend. Steve asked “what’s different on the weekend”?

Now, this was the killer question. It transpired that the client was an avid football fan and would regularly travel to away games, collecting his pals on the way. Steve’s next question closed the door on his sleuthing. “Is it only when you have passengers in the back seat?”

“Yes,” came the reply.


Happy Techs
What a great job card for the tech to receive. In this instance the tech removed the rear squab to reveal a chafed fuel pump harness, which was duly repaired and routed to ensure the fault didn’t re-occur.

Post-fix processes confirmed that the car wouldn’t be back anytime soon and the keys and job card passed back to reception. A straightforward fix but one that could have remained elusive was it not for “diagnostics at the front desk”.

Easy? No. Achievable? Yes. It’s often possible to resist change even though we understand why it’s necessary and the benefits change will bring. If you have been doing it the same way all these years, a new approach could seem difficult. The task can often seem too big. However, small constant steps are all that is required:

Focus on crafting a consistent customer message that delivers on your unique benefits and the skill of the technician

Have a realistic evaluation fee that allows your tech the time required to succeed and a front-of-house team that can show the customer how this benefits them

Add great front-of-house questioning skills to unearth the hidden gems only known to your customer, which will help your techs and reduce the time taken for diagnosis

A winning combination: increased profit, happy techs and happy customers... What’s not to like?

If you’d like to find out more about Auto iQ then call 01604 328500 or go to: www.autoiq.co.uk. Join the conversation on Facebook @autoiq.

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    In a previous article, I had written about the fourth industrial revolution, but I suspect that this may not have been the most threatening topic that you were thinking about concerning your day-to-day workshop business – the business of diagnosing and repairing cars, using a range of workshop equipment and agreeing ‘partnership’ relationships for the technical data and replacement spare parts.

    The way that you work may have evolved over the years, mainly due to the increasing vehicle technology, but the basic principle has remained the same. You have customers who choose to come to you due to the good service and competitive pricing that you provide. However, the world of vehicle repair is changing and if you do not adapt, you will die. Unlike previous industrial revolutions, the pace of change is now much faster. So how is this going to impact the aftermarket?

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    The ‘internet of things’ (IOT) will change the approach to diagnostics, service and repair of vehicles, but also the way that the workshop equipment will be connected, the way that you handle your customers’ data and the way that you exchange data outside of the workshop, both as a consumer of data, but also as a data provider in data trading eco systems. All this will change the way that you do business. This might all sound like some science fiction concept, but this is already happening today with many vehicle manufacturers and their associated main dealer workshops. If the aftermarket does not start to develop the same approach and service offers, then it will not be able to compete.
        
    However, to understand this better, let’s start with today’s ‘classical business model’ and then see what will change. Today it all starts with your ability to directly communicate with both your customer and with their vehicle and (for the more difficult jobs once that vehicle is in the workshop) your ability to offer a competitive quotation.
        
    Once the vehicle is in your workshop, the diagnostic work or the replacement parts are identified, the parts ordered and the ‘complete repair process’ is conducted. However, there are three fundamental aspects to ensure that this process can be fulfilled – firstly, being in direct contact with the customer, secondly, being able to directly access their vehicle via the OBD plug and subsequently its data and thirdly, using that information to conduct
    the complete repair process in the workshop.

    Internet of things
    So, what is changing and how will the ‘IOT’ help to implement new and ‘lean’ business models to remain competitive? It will still all start with the ‘repair process’, but this will no longer be with the customer initially calling you or coming into the workshop with a question of ‘can you fix my car?’, but it will be through remote monitoring of the ‘thing’ – the vehicle (via OBD plug-in devices or in-vehicle telematics platforms) to conduct remote diagnostics, prognostics and predictive maintenance services. This will inform you when the vehicle needs work and should lead into being able to contact the customer and offer a competitive quotation for the work needed that ultimately should still result in the vehicle coming into the workshop.
        
    When the vehicle does arrive, you will already know the details of the vehicle and the necessary work, so can configure the workshop resources (which ramp, what workshop equipment, what technical data, what replacement parts etc.), before the vehicle arrives.
        
    You can also ensure that the various ‘external data’ that may be needed for the job is pre-arranged and can be downloaded into the specific workshop equipment which is needed as part of the repair process. This can be a ‘just in time’ download of the technical data, the diagnostic test routine, the replacement part fitment method and so on. All this can easily reduce the workshop time needed to complete the repair process by 50%.

    Captured
    This may already sound like a great move forward to be lean, more profitable and more competitive, but there is even more! You also now have new ways to use the data that you have captured. Not only will you know the faults of the specific make and model of vehicle, which in turn, you will store in your database (non-personal, machine generated data), but you will also be able to use this data to exchange or trade data with your existing suppliers or other (new) partners to reduce both your costs and theirs. Welcome to the world of data trading – and get used to it, because it will be your future.  The internet of things, means linking to the ‘thing’ (e.g. the vehicle and workshop equipment) and then handling the data created, by using it in new ways to make the whole workshop and vehicle repair process more efficient, as well as supporting new business models beyond just what you can do today in the workshop. However, let’s also take a step back and look at workshop equipment as part of ‘the internet of things’. It already starts with a new range of ‘connected’ workshop equipment that will not only be able to be remotely monitored by the equipment manufacturer to ensure better reliability, together with faster and cheaper repairs, but will also be the basis for ensuring that the technical information you require for the job ‘in hand’ is supplied not only ‘just in time’, but also charged for on a new competitive bidding basis from a range of suppliers and charged on an individual job basis. Going a stage further, you may be able to exchange data with your equipment suppliers so that they can collect ‘big data’ from all their customers and use it for their own new data trading business models and in turn, use this to offset supplying data or services to you at
    a lower cost. This may also apply with your parts suppliers to provide them with better forecasting and trend analysis.

    Data centric
    The classic business model of today that is ‘customer centric’ will change to become ‘data centric’ that creates added value to the consumer’s experience, but also to the service provider – you!

    This change of accessing the vehicle, your customer and use of the vehicle-generated data is a disruptive evolution that will drive (no pun intended) a revolution in the aftermarket. However, the key issue will be the ability to access the vehicle, its data and in-vehicle displays to offer your services when the vehicle needs work and that is likely to be a legislative issue as the vehicle manufacturers try to use their technological advantage to dominate and control tomorrow’s repair and maintenance business. It’s up to you to fight not only for your ‘right to do business’, but for your ability to evolve your current business models into those of tomorrow.

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