It seems to be a universally asked question, whether you run the service department at a large dealership, or the local 4 bay repair shop. How do you know when you have just the right amount of technicians employed? Regardless of how you pay them, if you have too many, you have idle hands, otherwise known as the “devil’s playground”. If there are too few, your technicians are overworked, causing incomplete check outs and possible quality issues.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume all of your technicians are flat rate employees, which is basically a fancy way of saying they are paid for the work they do and not the hours they are present. Whatever labor guide you use gives you the billable hours for the repair you are going to perform. For example, your customer’s check engine light came on. Most shops charge a diagnostic fee, assuming, of course, that more than a simple computer scan is required. The labor guide calls for 1 hour. The diagnostic routine shows that the engine is not reaching operating temperature, so it is determined that the thermostat is at fault. To replace the thermostat on this particular car calls for 1.0 hour of billable time, so the entire job pays 2.0 hours. Your more experienced technicians will typically beat this time, which is how they can turn more hours than they work. A rookie technician may take longer than two hours, though, which is how a customer is protected by the flat rate system. Otherwise, it would cost someone more to use inexperienced technicians than it would a professional!

Back to the subject at hand. In order to determine how many technicians you should employ, you will need to do some math. In most of my teaching, I always say to start with the end in mind, and then reverse engineer your way to the answer. In this particular case, let’s start by setting up the foundation of where you are currently.

1. Step one is to determine your productivity per billable hour. Basically, you take your total sales, including BOTH labor and parts, less tax, and divide that by the total number of billed hours. In the case of the thermostat above, let’s say the total repair cost is $300. Your billed hours were 2.0, so $300 divided by 2.0 is equal to your productivity of billable hours on this job, or $150. If you apply that logic to your whole operation for a full week, you will come up with a pretty reliable number to base the rest of your calculations on.

2. The next step is to determine where you are currently at. If you have been regularly turning $16,500 a week in sales, while billing a total of 110 hours, then your productivity of billable hours is $150. This is your starting point.

3. Now you need to determine where you want to go. You would really like to generate $1,000,000 in annual sales, and you know that in your case you have 50 working weeks a year, so that means you need to generate $20,000 a week ($1,000,000 / 50 = 20,000). This is your goal.

4. If you take your goal of $20,000 and subtract your starting point of $16,500, you are left with $3500 between where you are at and where you want to go. You can now divide that by your productivity of billable hours of $150, and what you get will be the number of hours you need to generate to get there! In this case, you need a technician who can turn 23 hours per week (3500 / 150 = 23.3). The way you move from where you are at to where you want to go is called your map, or your plan.

My suggestion at this point would be to look at the technicians you currently have. If you tweak your systems and make other improvements, could they turn the additional 23 hours? If the answer is yes, then make those changes so that your current crew can enjoy the benefits of your solid management skills. If the answer is no, then you need to find a technician that can, and in our business, finding a technician that can turn 23 hours is not that difficult.

One other train of thought, and one that has worked very well for me over the years, is that in a scenario like the one above, you hire a technician that can generate 35 or more hours. This now puts the pressure squarely on your shoulders to generate the business needed to keep all of your techs happy. But now let’s take a look at what happens. Your current staff was generating 110 billable hours at $150, or $16,500. You add a technician that turns 35 hours a week, and then you market your company to generate the additional business to cover the additional hours. You are now billing 145 hours at $150, or a total of $21,750 per week. Do this for 50 weeks and you now have a shop producing annual revenues of $1,087,500. You have exceeded your goal, or worse case scenario, you have given yourself a little breathing room. It is very important, though, for the sake of your technicians, that if you do this, you MUST do the marketing to generate new business within the next 30 days.

Your technicians trust you to help them provide for their families. If you are not going to get the additional business, either stick with a 20 hour tech, or plan on staying where you are.

Online Automotive Education Programs

The automotive industry is advancing in technology every year and seeking an education in the highly specified field can turn a passion into a career. Automotive online training will prepare an individual by exploring all the areas within the industry. This includes design, development, manufacturing, and more all relating to the parts and function of a vehicle.

This professional field is specifically focused and students have to prove they have learned the necessary skills. Automotive service technicians have to show they know how to diagnose, understand, and fix automotive troubles. In addition students will need to gain practical experience in the industry. Individuals who complete an accredited online program will walk away with an Automotive Service Excellence certification.

There are a number of online accredited automotive schools for people to gain ASE certification and prepare them to enter the work force. Students can choose from general programs that have an all-encompassing course load or choose a specific program to gain their certificate. Students can enroll in an Auto Repair Technician program and learn the necessary skills required for this career from home.

Auto Repair Technician courses will include electrical systems, exhaust systems, fuel systems, computerized engine controls, braking systems, transmission components, and automotive engine disassembly, repair and rebuilding. By gaining the credentials to be a technician students upon graduation can work for established garages or start their own business. Certification can take on average a year or longer depending on the students schedule.

The price for a program like this will cost approximately $800 from start to finish. This price includes all textbooks, study materials, and course supplies needed to complete the program. Many of the automotive online schools have different options for payment. Students can pay either in full at the time of enrollment, choose automatic payment, which will establish payments to automatically be charged to a credit/debit card, or a standard payment plan may be set up.

Through 3D animations, 2D illustrations, video instruction, broadcasts, and other technology students will learn the ins and outs of automotive mechanics and repair. These skills will allow students to be able to work in a number of professions. With numerous specialties students will be in high demand and will be paid accordingly for their services.

Students have to be certified before entering the work force. ASE exams prepare students for all major technical areas of repair and service. With the number of certified professionals reaching almost 400,000 the ASE program is accepted and nationally recognized. Students should enroll in an accredited program if possible. ASE professionals can be found at all types of repair facilities, dealerships, service stations, part stores, and garages.

The certification tests the competency of the individual technician not the repair facilities. The exams have been developed by leading industry experts and will ensure that a recent graduate has obtained the correct knowledge to perform their job duties. Exams are broken down into specialties. Eight exams exist for individuals seeking to be an auto technician; other exams cover collision repair technicians, engine machinists, parts specialists, and more. Technicians in every field of work have to re-certify every five years to stay current with the leading technology in the industry and to remain eligible to work.

DISCLAIMER: Above is a GENERIC OUTLINE and may or may not depict precise methods, courses and/or focuses related to ANY ONE specific school(s) that may or may not be advertised at PETAP.org.

Copyright 2010 – All rights reserved by PETAP.org.

The Automotive Service Advisor and the Oversold Customer

Are people whispering about your Service business? You know the type of whispers I’m talking about? Whispers in the service drive? Or how about the whispers that get back to you from “that guy down the street?”

These are the whispers of “they always pressure you here to buy something” or “every time I come in here they find something else wrong.”

Then those SCARY whispers turn into SCARY RUMORS!

They that start off with “Yeah, I heard some of their customers went down the street to Joe’s Garage because they were being oversold here.”

WHAT? Oversold? WTH do you mean by that?

Oh wait, you mean UNDERSOLD, don’t you? Undersold…that’s where the Service Advisor cuts corners….oh…you’re not aware of an “Undersold” condition? That’s because in your store it is ALWAYS the CUSTOMERS FAULT, isn’t it.

Lately I have been hearing these caaaarrraaazzyyyy fairy tales. Oversold. What a crock of gear grease.

Oversold means that the Customer somehow got the impression that the only thing that matters is how much money you Mr. or Ms. Service Advisor can get out of their pocket. Basically, they are calling you crooks…right?

Let me ask you this. How many of you reading this would say that you are a person that would do or say anything to a Customer merely to allow you to take that persons money? No One? I thought so.

Here is another one. How many of you would say that you work with a co-worker that does this? No takers?

One more. Would you say that most people are honest and want to do a good job? Now we have some hands raised.

Do you know that studies conducted over the years state that over 90% of Americans believe themselves to be honest? And those same studies say that we want to do a good job. Which means that someone else is that person. The person who is dishonest and does a poor job.

So, lets go back to the “Oversold” statement. How can your Customers be oversold if over 90% of you are honest and believe you are doing a good job? And that you believe your co-workers are honest as well?

Do you know why your Customers have that perception? Because you don’t think that your communication skills and sales techniques are bad. They are! When was the last time you tested your Listening Skills there sport? Or had a Telephone Training Session? Huh? Yeah…you are on top of your game…

If your Technician has inspected the vehicle and written down what the vehicle has wrong with it based on observations, tests, wear, appearance, end of service life, etc. and you tell your Customer what is wrong, as honestly and straightforward as you know how, how is it that your Customers are being oversold?

If it’s worn out, broken, leaks, buzzes, steams, burps, chortles, chugs, chirps, squeaks, bleats and screams for mercy your tech should be writing it down. The vehicle is what it is. You know why they are being oversold…you know…because you are not prepared, ready and Trained to talk to your Customer.

You have been doing this for so long…you know exactly who will buy what, when they will buy it, how much they will pay, how much you think they’ll pay, what they did the last time in and everything else that prevents you from doing a simple estimate preparation with each item listed in order of importance (just in case your Customer asks you a question), why it’s important to them to have it done (it’s called a feature/benefit analysis), what will happen if they don’t (not scare tactics like “If take this car out of the shop and you drive it, you die”), what is the cost breakdown per item (think budget) and how long it will take.

You don’t do your homework before you call. Nope.

Because you’ve been doing this so long, you just grab the Repair Order, start estimating parts and labor off the top of your head, write everything down as “$69.95” (of course that doesn’t sound made up) while dialing the phone and with no regard to prioritization and start off the conversation with exciting and wonderful phrases like “You knew this call was coming” and “I told you I’d be calling you back when you came in” (aren’t those wonderful icebreakers) or some other witty opening line all the while explaining to the Customer and adding numbers on your little desk calculator like some bizarre Las Vegas act (“Oh folks, you gotta see this guy…..he’s amazing!”)

You do this while completely ignoring the fact that your Customer has placed their trust IN YOU to give them the best ADVICE regarding their vehicle (look at your job title, it doesn’t say Service Adder Upper, or Service Unprepared Phone Caller Person) and when you finally get done explaining the whole thing to them ending with “So, you want to get it done?”… you have the gall, the chutzpah, the cohunes to say something like “I can’t understand why our customers feel oversold?” Right…..

Get a grip on the reality ride pal. You need a different mindset. One that is in FAVOR OF THE CUSTOMER and not in opposition to!

3 Steps to take RIGHT NOW if you want to change what you are doing and get results!
1. Become a better LISTENER and not a better talker! Practice the 2-1 Rule, Listen Twice As Much As You Speak!
2. Become a better COMMUNICATOR by talking to the Customer about what is MOST IMPORTANT TO THEM! Prioritize your estimates in the correct order. Primary Concern, Safety, Reliability, Maintenance and Time.
3. Become a better RE -CONTACTER/FOLLOWUPPER Advisor by calling your Customer not only when it’s done but TO GIVE YOUR CUSTOMER UPDATES!

Do these 3 Steps Right Away and you will begin to make difference. Now go get some TRAINING!

Automotive Service Facility Secrets That Will Save You Money

I want to talk a little about automotive diagnostic costs and how they get passed on to the average consumer along with the reasons behind this. The inner workings of Automotive service centers are very similar in some aspects and very different in others. Some service centers really try to give the best customer service available while others will charge you for every bit of time that they can scrape up and not even look back.

  • Not all Automotive diagnostic strategies are equal.

The truth about diagnostics is that technicians will not always treat them the same way. There are always different points of view and unfortunately just because you retrieve a certain fault code, the part it points to may not in fact be the failed part. The technician will use his own experiences to diagnose the problem and not necessarily the “text- book” method depending upon the skill set of the tech.

  • Technicians need to feed their families.

The technician, like anyone else, needs to feed his family and in the automotive service profession the techs are paid by the book hour. This means that they receive a small amount of time to diagnose the problem and the standard “book” time to replace the part. This is where things tend to go wrong as the technician is forced to “beat the clock” to diagnose and repair your vehicle.

  • Parts Swapping

When the technician is faced with a fault that is unusual and has to spend a fair amount of time on it, this is where you start to pay. It is not that the technician is untrained or inexperienced, but rather that he or she may have to ask for extra time or start swapping parts which you may end up paying for.

  • Paying for more than you needed

Nobody usually minds paying a little extra if the technician has run into a problem and needs more time, but it is when the fifth part that was replaced has fixed the problem and you are faced paying for the other 4 possibly unnecessary parts. This happens because the technician must fix the vehicle as promptly as possible to get paid and move on to the next job.

  • Be smart about your repairs

When you bring your vehicle in for diagnostic work such as a check engine light, air conditioning, abs light, air bag light, etc. always and I repeat “ALWAYS” tell the service center to call you after they have put an hours worth of time in and convey to you where they are at with the vehicle at that time. At that point you can make a determination where the technician is at in diagnosing your vehicle and you can then decide how much more time you are willing to let him spend on it. Don’t be afraid to push the service adviser into telling you whether he is close or not.

  • Paying for parts you did NOT need

There are many instances where the technician will put 2, 3, or 4 parts on the vehicle and say that they were all contributors of the problem and it seemed to get a little better as each one was replaced. From my experience this is possible only when the vehicle is just so old and neglected or there was consequential damage as something took out a multitude of parts and it usually wasn’t any of the parts but some other underlying problem. Again you should instruct the service adviser to call you as soon as they suspect a part and want to replace it and if it is not the problem will you be charged for that part.

  • Generally dealerships will treat you better

Automotive service dealerships normally will be more expensive, but are large enough to usually work with you on possibly splitting the time of the diagnosis. If it was an extensive diagnosis they may consider “eating” some of the time and NOT charge you for any parts that did not fix the vehicle. There are many independent service shops that will grant this negotiation to you, but in my experience there were not as many.

Everyone needs to get their vehicle serviced at some point or another and being aware of the situation will greatly help you in the long run. If you experience a situation that you are not so sure of and need a little advice, be sure to drop us a line at the company website.