Mitch Schneider: If Vehicle Repair Customers Only Knew...
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Mitch Schneider: If Vehicle Repair Customers Only Knew…

What would you do if a company you trusted, a company reputed to be “Best in Class,” seemed to go out of their way to profoundly disappoint you? What would you do if they appeared totally disinterested, if not incapable of delivering on their promises of quality and service? What would you do if it turned out their QC Department were more concerned about Quantity Control than Quality Control? Do you think you might lose your temper?

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Did you see the smoke? Hear the roar? Watch the contrail, as the famous — or is it infamous? — Schneider temper manifested itself this morning in all its blazing fury, soaring into the stratosphere above Simi Valley leaving a trail of debris and broken bodies in its wake?

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You didn’t? Oh, that’s too bad. I can tell you without hesitation it was quite a sight to see.  

The colors were amazing…from the whitest white-hot rage to the malevolent blackness of silence. All that energy and pent up emotion released suddenly and without warning…well, almost without warning!

I can make light of it, but I do have a temper and that is nothing to proud of. Pride comes from not losing it.

Until this morning’s outburst, I had managed to keep that temper in check for a very long time, years, in fact. In the beginning, I believed that control was a function of age; jagged edges worn smooth by experience and the passage of time. But, I’m not altogether sure that’s true any longer, at least not insofar as this morning’s explosion was concerned.

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You see, tempers are unique, a little like fingerprints when you think about it. Everyone’s temper is forged by a different set of catalysts: different gene pool, different environment and different experiences. So, temper, like temperament, is unique to the individual. My temper is a functional by-product of passion — passion for, passion regarding.

You lose your temper when you are hurt by someone or something you care about. Or, when you, someone you love or something you care about or believe in deeply is threatened or betrays you. You lose your
temper as a result of acts and actions beyond your control that impact your life in powerful and negative ways.

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That’s why this morning proved as frustrating as it did: a conflagration of powerful and negative events that was, and should have remained, totally avoidable!

The worst part about losing your temper the way I did just a few hours ago was having an audience when it happened.

And, the only thing worse than having an audience is when that audience just happens to be a client.

No one wants to seem like they are on a weekend pass from the Institution the first or second time someone brings a vehicle in for service. I didn’t. That kind of behavior isn’t exactly consistent with the image we are trying to project: an image grounded in quality, professionalism, courtesy and consideration.

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It’s a safe bet fits of rage and unstable behavior are inconsistent with that model…thank you, very much!
Unfortunately, there are times when errant behavior is unavoidable, especially when provoked. And, based upon the circumstances, my rage was at least understandable, if not completely justified!

What would you do if a company you trusted, a company reputed to be “Best in Class,” seemed to go out of their way to profoundly disappoint you? What would you do if they appeared totally disinterested, if not incapable of delivering on their promises of quality and service? What would you do if it turned out their QC Department were more concerned about Quantity Control than Quality Control?

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Do you think you might lose your temper?

Would you put something in a vehicle that had obvious, visual physical defects? I didn’t think so.

We couldn’t do it either: We couldn’t…

We wouldn’t…And, so we didn’t!

If you were the manufacturer, would you let it leave the plant that way?

You would send the part, or the component, or the unit or the module back, wouldn’t you? You would send it back, especially if the last one you received from that same company had so many problems that giving them a second chance would be harder to explain than assuming it was just an aberration!

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Nevertheless, that’s the assumption I made when I called that same company to help solve a problem created by another service facility that had installed another part/component/unit/module that had failed prematurely.

By now, you’re probably wondering why I won’t give you the exact “what” or “who” of what we’ve been talking about. The answer is simple: I can’t. But, frankly, I’m not sure the “what” or the “who” is all that important. I’ve been doing this a long, long time and over the years there have been countless “whats” and “whos” — too many to count, in fact!

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Aside from that, the choice we made seemed like the only reasonable thing to do based on factors like turn-around time, warranty and overall cost. That was until it arrived and it became obvious that some of threaded holes critical to final assembly were so badly cross-threaded you had to wonder how anyone — even someone who knew nothing about things mechanical — could ever send something like that out of the factory without knowing with absolute certainty they were just going to get it right back again!

Nevertheless, send it out they did, and, send it back we did! But not before calling to let them know just how frustrated, angry and disappointed we were. They were contrite. They were apologetic. They were convinced it was just an oversight; the one-in-a-million anomaly we were just talking about.

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And, that it would never, could never, happen again.

How do you calculate the odds of being disappointed twice? Is it one in a hundred, one in a million? Are the odds the same as winning the lottery, the same as getting hit by lightening twice, while standing in the same spot?

No need to calculate the odds. They were determined for us and turned out to be 100%! This time there were two threaded copper inserts installed to repair a different pair of cross-threaded and damaged holes, visible enough to ensure they couldn’t be missed.  

I know inserts like these might not be a problem. I know they are often used to successfully repair damaged threads. But, I also know they are not supposed to be themselves damaged!

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When the inserts were discovered, along with the fact that one was badly damaged, all hell broke loose! The technician given the responsibility of performing the repair went berserk, proclaiming there was “no way in hell” he would install anything with so obvious an external problem. He felt that if something as obvious as this could leave the plant undetected and it was on the outside of the component, how could anyone be sure there weren’t more severe problems buried deep inside the component where no one could see them!  

I went nuts right along with him! What does this incident say about the company I trusted? What it said was: No one cares. How many inspectors failed to actually look at what they were inspecting? One failure could be an accident, an aberration, but two?!

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What does this say about a process that would allow whoever did the inspection to sign off on it while ignoring defects like the ones so plainly obvious to us?!

What does this say about our industry? How many damaged or defective parts, components, units or modules are delivered, accepted and then installed…without a second thought? What does it say about our standards? Did I get the only defect to leave that plant — twice? Or, is it likely there were more defects, more damaged threads that escaped detection, that were delivered, accepted and installed?

There was quite a bit of discussion going on regarding what we could and could not do, would and would not tolerate — all with high ranking individuals within the company in question; all in front of a client patiently sitting in a corner of the waiting room quietly reading his book, a client seemingly oblivious to what was going on around him.

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Seemingly…

When all was said and done, and the company had been called and instructed to refund our money and remove the component in question, and after everyone here had the opportunity to calm down a bit, I turned to the gentleman quietly sitting in the corner and apologized. I apologized for my frustration, for losing my temper, for raising my voice and for my use of colorful metaphors.

He just looked at me and smiled.

“No need to apologize. You just confirmed that I made an intelligent choice: the ‘right’ choice, when I decided to bring my car to you!”

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“I appreciate that,” I said, “More than you can imagine under the circumstances, but no one should have to witness the kind of display I just put on and you were forced to witness.”

“I’m not sure you’re right,” he countered. “I believe everyone should have the opportunity to witness such a display! It goes to the heart of what having to depend upon someone providing a service, especially one that is a mystery or invisible, is all about.

“What could be better than to witness the person you have chosen to make the decisions you couldn’t possibly make yourself, work so diligently on a customer’s behalf! It’s good to know how far you are willing to go, how hard you are willing to fight to ensure I get what I am paying for!

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"Frankly, I would think you’d want all of your clients to witness that kind of commitment, that kind of display. I’m impressed. And, I’m sure anyone who witnessed what I just witnessed would be impressed as well. Perhaps, you should tell everyone what just happened here.”

In all honesty, I hadn’t thought about it that way. I was just embarrassed for losing my temper the way I did.  

But, in a way, he was right. I know this was one of those times I would eventually stop and think to myself, “Wow, if the owner of this vehicle only knew what I just went through on his or her behalf.” And, here was a client sitting right there who did get to see, a client who did know!

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It wasn’t much, but it did allow me to take a deep breath and smile…at least a little.

And, as far as telling everyone what just happened here…I think I just did.

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