By Bob Cooper
When your techs come to you and tell you they’re stumped, if you give them a recommendation, you’ll lose regardless of the outcome. If you solve the problem, you’ve sent a message to your techs that you’re more knowledgeable than they are, which is not going to build confidence in your employees. But then it gets worse; you’ve also taught them to come to you when they’re up against a wall. This is a lose-lose situation, in that if your recommendation doesn’t solve the problem, the tech will come back to you looking for your next recommendation because you now own the problem.
As a business owner, you need to invest your time working on the business, not working on cars or solving problems for your other techs. The answer? It’s a lot easier than you think!
The first thing you need to do is create a system for solving technical problems in your shop. Once you have the system outlined, you’ll need to meet with all of your techs and tell them something like this: “Guys, I realize that you all know we each have a job here at Elite Auto Service. Mine is to set the goals of the company, hire remarkable people like you, and to provide you with a lot of opportunities. Your job is to accurately diagnose the vehicles, and then get our customers back on the road just as soon as possible. Unfortunately, I’ve been spending way too much time helping you do your job, which means I don’t have the time I need to do my job.”
“So what I’ve done is put together a system you guys can use to solve technical problems without my help. Here’s how it’s going to work: If you get stumped with any diagnosis or repair, the first thing you’ll need to do is ask one another for any ideas. If no one in the shop has a quick answer, I want you to go to the second step, which is to check our Mitchell Repair service. If you can’t find the answer there, I want you to go to the third step, which is to call our technical support line.”
“Now, if for whatever reason you still can’t come up with the answer, it’s time to go to step number four, which is to post online. If you still can’t find the answer, then it’s time for step five: partner up with another one of our techs, because you know as well as I do that there’s a good chance the answer is right under your nose, and sometimes all we need is a second set of eyes. At this point you’ll need to hit the reset button, and start at the very beginning again by re-confirming the customer’s complaint, and then go through this entire problem solving system one more time.”
“If you still can’t solve the problem, then you’re more than welcome to come to me to see if I can help. But if you do, bear in mind that I’m going to ask you what have you done so far to solve the problem, and I’m going to have an expectation that you’re going to tell me you’ve followed each and every one of these steps. I’m going to put each of these steps down on a piece of paper, and pass on copies to each of you. Then we’re going to have another meeting so I can learn what you think we need to add, subtract or change on our list. As soon as it’s finalized, I’m going to give each of you a copy, and I’ll have an expectation that you’ll use it. If you do, I am confident that you’ll be able to solve problems a lot more quickly, you’ll flag more hours, and I’ll be able to do what I need to do by investing my time in finding ways to provide you with all the opportunities you’ll need.”
In closing, I know that there is no one, single problem solving system that will work for every shop, but hopefully this information will give you the start you need to solve the age-old problem of techs coming to you for answers, when all they need is a simple system they can follow.
For additional help with employee or shop management, learn more about the Elite Coaching Program.