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  Guest Editorial

Succeeding in a World of Gray

Posted 5/12/2011
By Jason Bertellotti

How technology can help shops validate their commitment
to a high standard of ethics.

In the automotive repair industry, insurance adjusters and collision repairers deal with many issues every day that creep into the realm of ethics. From pre-existing damage, to part type and repair procedures, even the most exacting professional who does everything by the book encounters plenty of gray areas where ethical judgment calls must be made. It's in these gray areas that reputations can be made or broken.

Documenting a shop's commitment to high ethical standards can be far more difficult than some of the more "black-and-white" areas, like certifying compliance with government regulations. For one thing, people have varying views on what is ethical. The matter of ethics has been hotly debated in our industry for years, stemming from the nature of the shop-insurer relationship and the fact customers entrust their safety to their collision repair facility. To help guide shops through these thorny issues, many trade associations, such as the Automotive Service Association, have made a code of ethics an integral part of their charter.

Beyond leading by example and following a code of ethics, how can shops validate their commitment to a high standard of ethics to their customers, employees and vendors? Meticulous documentation of repair procedures and business practices is one way - and technology can help.

Today's technology provides shops with comprehensive solutions to manage all aspects of shop operations from a single, cohesive workspace and easily document elements of the repair where ethical gray areas may reside. For instance, a workspace set up with management tools, estimating functionality, advanced photo imaging capabilities and repair procedure specifications can help shops:

• Adhere to step-by-step OEM repair procedures required to meet OEM specifications and return the vehicle to safe driving condition
• Capture frequent photos of the repair in progress to provide proof of the work performed
• Save part orders and invoices electronically to document cost and part type purchased
• Manage inventory to establish an electronic paper trail
• Document the condition and contents of the vehicle at drop off
• Write accurate, detailed estimates that clearly explain the charges and the scope of the job to all parties - shop employees, insurer, and vehicle owner - so everyone is on the same page.

Modern shop management technology can also help establish systems and processes that support an ethical workplace for shop employees. Good communication and visibility into schedules, assignments and labor times add to a culture of efficiency and fairness inside the shop:

  • Labor tracking features empower technicians to see assigned repairs, print work orders and clock-in hours right on the shop floor.
  • Task management functionality allows managers to create and assign tasks to employees so that nothing falls through the cracks - ensuring best quality.
  • Ability to indicate "manually altered" items on the time sheet helps keep the lines of communication open between technicians and the production manager.
  • Documentation of payroll activities confirms correct payment to technicians - preventing both under- and over-payments.

Selecting the right technology is crucial. Solutions that offer a wide variety of functionality give shops control and choices in managing their business. This is just another way shop owners can send a clear message that they are dedicated to adhering to ethical business practices.

Using technology to document ethical practices may not be the first use that comes to mind when considering shop management solutions, but it's a benefit that should not be overlooked. Of course, there is no guarantee that technology will be used ethically. But having the right tools available certainly makes it easier to reduce areas of ambiguity and document transactions and procedures that demonstrate your commitment to doing things "the right way."

Lindsay Roberts Jason Bertellotti is vice president of repair solutions at Mitchell International where he oversees Mitchell's collision repair segment. He currently leads the company's product management amarketing teams in the repair market. He holds an MBA from the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California and a bachelor's degree from UCLA. He may be reached at Jason.Bertellotti@mitchell.com.

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