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Automotive Service Management Newsletter
Vol 1, No 8, August 2007

Quit Losing Money Over Quality Issues
Part 2: Whose Job is Quality?

This question is not as obvious as it looks. Most people in service would agree that a quality repair is the result of how well the technician completes the repair the first time so the customer does not have to return for the same repair problem again. Yet there are many people other than the technician involved in the repair process that have a profound affect on not only the repair but the customer's overall service experience. Each of these becomes a quality issue because we have to make sure we fix the customer as well as their vehicle.

I compare this to a situation I had flying from Chicago to Phoenix a few years ago. We boarded the airplane on time and I happened to have a window on the side where I could watch the refueling of the airplane. As the young man climbed on top of the wing and inserted the fuel hose, he seemed like he was in a hurry. As he finished, he quickly shut the fuel door and jumped off the wing to go refuel another airplane, I guess. As the plane was pushed off from the gate the fuel door popped open and splashed fuel all over the wing.

Instantly, we got an announcement from the pilot that the wing had to be cleaned but everyone had to exit the plane due to the fire hazard of the airplane fuel. After about forty-five minutes we reboarded, delayed but not too long. As we were pushed back again, the fuel door popped open again spilling fuel all over the wing and the process of unboarding the airplane to clean the wing started all over again.

After about 15 minutes in the gate area, an announcement stated that the fuel door had been damaged during the initial fueling and had to be replaced. Luckily the part was available at the airport and the repair would take about 2 hours. Well, goodbye to our flight being on time. When we finally took off, our flight has been delayed by 3 hours, resulting in many folks missing their connections in Phoenix. This put even more pressure on the airline folks because they had to make sure all the delayed passengers had flights to their next destination. All of this due to one person who did not understand how important he was to the success of the flight being on time. Even worse, this was not an employee of the airline, but someone who worked for the company that refueled the airplanes.

The first quality experience the customer is going to have is when she calls the service department to make an appointment for service. If the person making the appointment does not properly follow the procedure for logging an appointment, he could easily overbook one area of the shop causing the repair to be hurried, not repaired properly or not completed at all. All of these are an inconvenience to the customer, our first repair defect.

The customer arrives for her assigned appointment time. The Service Advisor does not greet her until over 15 minutes later than her appointment time. He rushes through the write-up, does not give her time to give him all the symptom information she had available, does not review the repair order, and does not let her know about any financial liabilities or agree on status call times. She leaves feeling that she has not received the quality of treatment she expected and is worried that there will be problems with the repair.

When the Dispatcher gets this problem repair order, he does not see much symptom information and does not know when the diagnosis needs to be ready for a status call. Since he is behind in getting out repair orders to technicians, he does not have time to find the Service Advisor who wrote the repair order to clarify any information. He decides to just choose the next available technician for the repair and sends it out.

The Technician gets this poorly written repair order and realizes he does not have enough symptom information to properly start a diagnosis. Even though the shop is starting to get backed up, he goes to the Service Advisor and asks him if he has anymore information that the customer may have given but was not recorded on the repair order. The advisor says he will need to contact the customer for more symptom information which ends up taking several hours. Due to the delay, the customer's job was pushed back and was not completed that day creating another repair defect.

When the technician finally gets the job, he is able to complete it in a timely manner and repair it properly. It took less than an hour. The Service Advisor contacts the customer to arrange for vehicle delivery but does not review the repair order. While the vehicle is in the service lot, a technician gets a vehicle for repair sitting next to her vehicle and puts a noticeable door ding on the driver's side.

Finally, the customer arrives at the service department to pick up her repaired vehicle. She has several questions about the charges on the repair order but the service advisor took the afternoon off for a dental appointment. She angrily discusses the charges with the service manager who makes adjustments to her bill.

While she is talking to the Service Manager, a Porter is bringing the vehicle around. When he approaches the vehicle, he notices the new door ding but does not tell anyone because he doesn't want to get anyone in trouble. He hopes the customer will not notice it.

When she finally goes out to her parked vehicle she notices the door ding and is back in the manager's office demanding that it be repaired. He agrees to repair the door ding but states that she will have to leave the vehicle another day and gives her a loaner car for her inconvenience. After the service department finally resolves all the customer's issues including adjustments to her bill and a loaner car, the vehicle has been in the shop for three days for something that could have easily taken one day. The customer mentally vows she will never return to this shop again and when she gets to work has a story that she shares many times over the next few days with over a dozen of her co-workers.

So ask yourself, "Was the Technician the sole cause of the problem with this repair?" Obviously, the answer is "no" because the vehicle was repaired properly on that visit but another vehicle problem was caused resulting in a "Repeat Repair" to have the door fixed. Even though everything was properly repaired to the customer's satisfaction, the customer's satisfaction with the overall service experience was defective causing her to never want to return to that service department again.

Even worse, we could have completed the repair perfectly that day. The only problem would have been the charges on the customer's bill which could have been avoided, too. Though the manager corrected the bill, the customer still leaves with the attitude that the service visit was poorly handled and will never return for another repair or if she returns she will be very cautious while her vehicle is there.

This scenario happens daily in service departments, many times with customers never complaining but just going elsewhere for their vehicle service needs. In fact, studies show that only 1 in 20 customers will complain about poor service to the service department.

The key idea is that anyone who has contact with the customer and the customer's vehicle is responsible for quality. When all is said and done, the customer only looks at the organization, not a particular person, as the problem and feels that the service department is poorly organizationed.

Next Month: Part 3: The Cost of Repeat Repairs and Poor Customer Handling

Copyright, 2007, J. Daniel Emmanuel

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