Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Light is on my Toyota Scion

"Hi this is Lee" I said. 

The call came in from the owner of the most successful body shop in the area. He is heavily into processes with lots of procedures to minimize any kind of failure and client complaints.

He told me we had done an oil service in one of their vehicles a month ago and the oil maintenance, along with the tire pressure lights were on. He implied our mechanic had forgotten to reset the light when the work was done as he was required to do.

He said he was doing did this to help me and that our processes must be very weak for an auto mechanic to forget to reset the light. While he continued to talk, I started to look up into our Auto repair shop point of sale software, and retrace the circumstances for the vehicle in questions last visit.

"We last worked on that vehicle in January the 21st of this year" I said. This is now over 7 months ago. "But Lee, I'm looking at the lube sticker and it says 7/21/19" he replied.

I explained to him he was reading the date the vehicle would be due again for service, not the date the service was done. I also gave him the last known mileage the vehicle had at the last visit. Well, it is now 7 K miles and 7 months ago. The vehicle is now due for service and that's why the warning light is on, not because we forgot to reset it as he initially insinuated.

Wrong as he might have been, at the very least he had the courage to call me to let me know of the perceived transgression.  I just wish I knew how many people who had a complaint, valid or not,  didn't call and instead just chose to not come back.  

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The best or worst thing that happened today

The best or worst thing that happened today.

It’s a cold Monday in July here in Ventura. But it heated up very quickly when I got to work, opened my emails and found we had a Yelp review. I went to my Yelp dashboard and read the review.

It was one of the worst reviews we’ve had in a long time. It stated we had taken a Jeep Wrangler for a simple battery test, had taken one week to get back to them, had no communication in between, and still had no answer as we still had the vehicle here. It was the biggest waste of time they had ever gone through!

The temperature in my body rose very quickly as a read the contents of the review.  But, first things first. I got the other side of the story from the service adviser involved with the vehicle in question. Got the story but he wasn’t all that apologetic. He felt he had done everything possible to address the issues, to mitigate the anxiety of the client and to inform them of the findings and possibly needed repairs. Couldn’t understand why things had gone so horribly for the client to write such a poor review.

Second, I searched into my soul, and into my business, then asked the question, “is there anything I can learn from this?” The answer was a resounding YES! I can learn from this.

In every business, there are processes that are sometimes dropped due to human nature, apathy, boredom, cell phones, etc.  I realized we could have done better, much better! Otherwise how else could we be getting trashed with such poor review?

I left a voice mail for the owner of the vehicle to call me back in hopes we could resolve the matter out of the public forum.

When the owner called me back, he started by apologizing profusely. He told me the car was his 16-year-old daughters first car, which they had just bought. He told me we had indeed called him and informed him in a timely manner, we had done everything possible to work with him and a vehicle with a failed battery purchased elsewhere. 
Unfortunately, his daughter wasn’t in the repair loop. All she knew, was that she was without her new (used) car for almost a week now and desperately wanted it back. And no one was updating her. So, she took the matter into her own hands. She posted a review on Yelp from her own perspective of the matter. And that’s what brought us back to the father calling me back apologetically for her daughter’s behavior.

Fortunately for us, we dealt with a father with a strong moral compass who was willing to right a wrong. He demanded from his daughter the removal of such review and she did. I felt vindicated, but at the same time, I did acknowledge to the father his daughter wasn’t all wrong. Maybe in her approach but perhaps not in content.

You see, when they brought the car to us for something as simple as a battery test, we should have been able to address it on the spot. Not a day or two later. I understand there were other underlying circumstances that conspired to delay things. Mainly, the owner wasn’t in a hurry to get back to us.

In that regard, that bad unposted review, will have help us make the changes to become better. Changes that without that bad review, we may not have considered. Thank you, Emma. Next time call us first please!

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Took my Chevy to the,,,,,,auto repair shop

The subject this time is a 1978 Chevy El Camino with the V8 5.0 L engine.

A very elegant looking gentleman in his late 70’s brought us the vehicle and stated that he needed it to run better when cold. All was fine once the engine came up to operating temperature.

We kept the car overnight for us to duplicate the concerns. I, being the old man of the shop, and the only one who worked on those vehicles, started the car and took it for a road test.

I set the choke (Google it if you don’t know) and cranked the engine. It came to light and running at high RPM’s as it was intended. Dropped it in gear and started driving. It didn’t drive poorly at all, it’s just that it doesn’t run as good as a car with fuel injection would today. And that’s the point of this story.

We’ve all seemed to have forgotten how poorly carburetor cars run, we accepted it because we had no choice. And then came fuel injection to spoil us all. Gone are the days when you had to let the car run for 5 to 10 minutes prior to starting your trip in order to warm up the engine and avoid those troublesome stumbles and hesitations. Gone are the quitting, cutting out and stalling of those carburetor days.

The car in this tale sits most of the time in a garage collecting dust, it isn’t until that one time a year when nostalgia overwhelms the car owner and he feels compelled to drive it around the block for those fortunate souls to see.

I guess I’m at a loss on how to tell him he forgotten how carburetor cars used to run. I’ll tell him to count his blessings and forget about spending money to make this car run better. It already runs darn well! Proportionately speaking,

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

A sad Lexus

It all started with a quote over the phone, about a year and a half ago. Another shop had looked at the vehicle and made some repair suggestions. 
For some reason, the owner did not feel comfortable to have the work done there and instead brought to us. Once the car got here, we inspected the vehicle prior to the work and corroborated the items suggested by the other shop.
In addition, we found a large number of other things needed that had been missed. We proceeded to let the client know about our additional findings.
The vehicle had some issues with the front suspension, the tires were wearing out rapidly. We replaced the control arms, the sway bar links, the front and rear struts, the rack and pinion and the power steering high pressure hose. We did a front brake job as well as they were worn down to the last 1 mm. 

Despite all the work done, there was a long list of suggestions that went unheeded. This is not uncommon as a portion of all clients, feel the suggestions made to them by their repair shop may be without merit.

Now, this were not necessarily a steady and faithful client.

They decided not to do any of our additional suggestions. They were going to only do what they brought the car for and would “think about the other stuff for later”
One of the suggested items on the repair order “recommendations” were all the cooling system hoses, upper and lower radiator, the water pump and the intake hoses, along with heater hoses. They appeared original and in poor condition. This vehicle was 16 years old and pushing over two hundred thousand miles.  

We got a call today from our infrequent client. They wanted to know how much it would be to replace the engine on their Lexus. It turns out one of the heater hoses blew out and caused the engine to overheat and seize. They were now requesting the price to install a used engine as they had an emotional attachment with the vehicle.

What could have been $350.00 a year and a half ago, became a quote for $6500.00 for a used engine today.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Oil and coolant leaks

An interesting pattern we noticed of late. We’ve been having an unusual number of vehicles come back for oil leaks we had previously repaired.

As we began to put the data together, we could see the cars were not coming back for the work we had done, they were coming back for other oil leaks we may have missed. Oil pan and valve cover gaskets were the familiar culprits, an occasional timing belt cover or the rear main seal, transmission front pump and tail shaft seal, even an occasional differential pinion seal. We asked ourselves what we could as a business do to prevent the client from having one oil leak fixed, yet still having to come back for other oil leaks.

We went back to basics and started at the beginning. How we intake the vehicle and what questions we ask. From an office perspective, all seemed okay, the right questions went on the repair order and the tech got to work.
And that’s when we noticed the weak link in the process. You see, advice is only worth as much as you pay for it. And we were not asking anything for the oil leak advice.  We expected our mechanics to spend a great deal of their time trying to find the oil leaks when in fact, they would stop at the very first sign of oil and blame the apparent source.

We expected them to spend their valuable work time without the possibility of reward. The message we sent was that their time was not valuable.
We decided to try a pilot program. To charge a fee to the client for the advice on oil and coolant leaks, and to reward the mechanic with a half hours’ worth of time paid. We did have the expectation the mechanic would spend the half hour checking the vehicle for oil leaks, and not to stop at the first sign of oil.

Once we did that, the mechanics started to remove panels, covers, shields, air cleaners, snorkels and all other necessary items to come up with the correct answer. Why? You ask, because now, they are being paid for their time. That’s why!

A lot of unnecessary work is being done on cars simply because mechanics did not take the necessary time to check and inspect things properly. And why would a mechanic not take the time to do the inspection correctly you say? Because the client wasn’t paying for it,