'What Would You Do?'
By T.J. Reilly
Every shop owner runs into 'situations.' How they handle them is important.
Shop owners run into "situations" all the time - "situations" that leave them scratching their heads, trying to figure out how to resolve the issue fairly to everyone concerned. They want to make the right decision in solving a dilemma, but things are not always black and white. Sometimes there are gray areas.
For example, a shop owner recently had a 1992 Honda Accord come in with a supposed transmission problem. One of his technicians test drove the car and told the service adviser that it probably needed a transmission.
A used transmission was sold to the customer and installed. But the vehicle continued to have the same problem. The technician finally figured out that it had a plugged catalytic converter.
The transmission, which had been ordered from a firm in another city, was not returnable since it was not defective. The shop can probably resell the transmission if it takes it back out of the car.
Meanwhile, the technician thinks he should get paid for his work since he told the service adviser that it should be checked out by a transmission shop.
"What would you do and why?"
That's the question AutoInc. put to three ASA members. Their replies follow:
- John Vallely, AAM, owner, McLean Auto Repair, Elgin, Ill. - "It would be easy to blame the employee for the misdiagnosis and then unjustly withhold his pay for that repair. The result would be an unhappy employee who could taint the workplace.
"However, where is the real problem? I would first look to myself as the owner or manager and ask, 'How could this [situation] have been avoided?' A solid shop system or policy could have changed the outcome by a thorough inspection and diagnosis. With a system in place, the service adviser should not have accepted an incomplete inspection and sold a service to the customer based simply on an interpretation of a test drive. Again, what is the shop policy? Is the policy sufficient to promote a successful outcome?
"The revenue dollars related
to the labor of installing the replacement transmission is already lost and can never be recovered. The owner would have to weigh the expense of reinstalling the old transmission including lost labor on other repairs, parts and fluids used against the cost of the used transmission. If the original transmission that was removed from the vehicle is in good condition, it could possibly be sold as a used unit.
"On-the-job education is costly. The customer would owe nothing for the transmission replacement and the repair should be re-quoted with the correct diagnosis of the catalytic converter replacement and the possible cause of its failure.
"Test drives are simply the first and last steps in the repair process. Verifying the symptoms related to a customers concern, identifying the cause, planning an educated corrective action and then verifying the repair are the essential keys to success. A recipe for disaster and an unsuccessful repair usually result when a shortcut is taken and the critical steps are omitted.
"In order to avoid costly errors by misdiagnosis, we must have proven systems in place to promote a successful shop environment. Ongoing technical and management training will improve work flow, improve the bottom line, provide the basis of professionalism in our employees and ultimately result in happy customers."
- Jeff Bly, diagnostics technician, Maywood Transmission and Auto Repair, Independence, Mo. (Bly is president of the ASA-Kansas City Chapter, secretary of the ASA-Missouri/Kansas affiliate, and newsletter chairman of the Missouri/Kansas ASA-affiliate) - "By the way I read this particular scenario, the technician was instructed to quickly test drive the vehicle without doing any real testing. After returning from that quick test drive, the technician said it probably needed a transmission. He recommended further testing at a transmission shop.
"The service adviser is the one who sold the transmission to the customer, ignoring the tech's recommendation of further diagnostics.
"Why should the technician be punished for simply rendering an opinion?," Bly asks.
Bly says the assumptions made by the vehicle's owner and the service adviser are to blame for this situation.
He says, "This is what I would do:
"I would explain to the customer that during testing of the used transmission that was installed, it was found that a large contributor to the problem with the vehicle was actually a defective catalyst. I would continue explaining to the customer that in hindsight it would have been better for all parties concerned if everyone would have listened to the technician and run more tests on the vehicle before replacing the transmission.
"I would mark down the charges of the transmission and the catalytic converter to make the customer as happy as I could, chalking the whole situation up as 'on-the-job-training.' I wouldn't waste my time pulling the used transmission out of the car unless that was the only way I could please the customer. I would definitely pay the technician for his labor time.
"After the smoke clears, I would change shop policy by making sure to sell testing/diagnostic time to customers. Every ASA repair shop should try to partner up with a fellow ASA member transmission repair shop in the area, if possible. Better to be sure that the vehicle really needs a transmission before causing any unneeded tension between you, your customer and your employees."
- Betty Jo Young, AAM, co-owner, Young's Automotive Center, Houston - "Saving the customer would be our first consideration. We would contact the customer and explain that their vehicle is an OBD-I vehicle and it is easy to mistake lack of power due to catalytic converter or transmission, but we take responsibility.
"They would be charged for the catalytic converter repair and we would also give them the option to purchase the installed transmission, no labor, with warranty, due to the age of the vehicle.
"After the customer is satisfied, I would discuss the decision with my technician. We have to be a team and be fair with each other. We would negotiate a fair sharing of the labor loss and learn from this experience and move on."
How did the shop owner where the "situation" occurred handle the problem?
He told AutoInc. - "We have a written policy that states, 'The technician is responsible for making sure that all parts being installed have been properly diagnosed by the company.' The technician knew better than to install the transmission on a guess.
"After a long discussion with my technician, I ended up paying for the first installation and the technician reinstalled the old transmission without compensation.
"I also had a long conversation with my adviser. My adviser is also responsible for not verifying that the technician performed the proper tests to verify the problem. The technician told my adviser that he was not totally sure the transmission was the problem and that he recommended that a transmission shop check it out first.
"We called the customer to let them know what had happened. Because we needed to have their car longer, we gave them a free rental car. We only charged the customer for what it should have cost if we had done the job properly in the first place.
"The customer was thrilled that we were so honest about the situation, since we could have easily fixed the problem and charged them for a transmission and not said anything."
| Editor's note: T.J. Reilly, AAM - the author of this feature - is the owner of Same Day Auto Service, an ASA member-business in Clackamas, Ore.
Since the above article has so much to do with ethics, we would like to remind readers that ASA has a Code of Ethics to which all members agree to adhere. To review it, go to the ASA Web site, www.ASAshop.org. Click on "About ASA," then "Code of Ethics."
If you have an ethical dilemma you would like to share with readers, please send an e-mail to editor@ASAshop.org. Your "situation" may be spotlighted in an upcoming issue.
AutoInc. Web Site |
ASA Web Site |
U.S. EPA Auto Body Refinishing Regulation |
Training, Education Can Give Your Shop the Professional Edge |
Managing Supplements |
Benefits of Education Investment |
'What Would You Do?' |
Training Your Manager in Waiting |
Guest Editorial |
Tech to Tech |
Tech Tips |
News Briefs |
Taking the Hill |
Around ASA |
Shop Profile |
Net Worth |
Stat Corner |