Kovalchick: Wanna hurt or maim someone? Use their vehicle!

By Ed Kovalchick, CMC/Article courtesy of Dealer Magazine

Ed Kovalchick

I suppose I’ve been on a rampage about vehicles getting analyzed, tested, and fixed right, particularly directed at driver/passenger safety as well as dependability.

The responsibility for taking proper care begins with the assistant service manager (ASM-writer) position, which is being treated as if it could be done by anyone who could fog a mirror these days.

Maybe it was this tête-à-tête:

Amateur ASM: “The lube guy says you need tires. They’re worn down to 3/32nds.”

Uniformed Customer: “Really? How much are tires?”

Amateur ASM: “Depends on what you want. We have good, better, or best tires.”

Uniformed Customer: “What’s the difference?”

Amateur ASM: “Basically the price. Good is the cheapest and best is the most expensive.”

Uniformed Customer: “How good are the cheaper tires.”

Amateur ASM: “Those are the ones we sell the most.”

Uniformed Customer: “How much cheaper?”

Amateur ASM: “About $370 less than the most expensive ones, installed.”

Uniformed Customer: “So, how much is that?”

Amateur ASM: “Right at $750 in total, including everything.”

Uniformed Customer: “Is that the best decision?”

Amateur ASM: “Most people buy them.”

Uniformed Customer: “I think I will wait a little longer, they got me here OK.”

PHOTO GALLERY: FUN, INTERESTING & COOL AUTO FACTS -> http://bit.ly/FunInterestingCoolAutoFacts

Or maybe it was this sad dialogue:

Amateur ASM: “The technician says you need a serpentine belt.”

Uniformed Customer: “What’s that?”

Amateur ASM: “It’s the belt in front of the engine.”

Uniformed Customer: “How much is it?”

Amateur ASM: “The belt and labor is $138 plus tax they say.”

Uniformed Customer: “How bad is it?”

Amateur ASM: “It needs to be replaced he says.”

Uniformed Customer: “Can I wait till later and do it?”

Amateur ASM: “I guess. You can do it next time?”

Uniformed Customer: “I think I can wait a while anyway.”

What the…

If you consider yourself a professional automotive service manager/director/guru/sage or likewise, and you don’t see anything missing from these impotent conversations, you need to brush up on the ASM position and the related important responsibilities they carry, not to mention the tremendous liabilities they can create.

There are too many barristers masquerading as do-gooders who are really just looking for a fast buck for themselves from a perceived fat cat – there, I said it.

I’m not saying that service department customer managers have to be master technicians, but they have to recognize the importance of conveying at least a morsel of semi-technical safety and dependability information, tied to the benefits and consequences of all types of service and maintenance purchases. Oh, and vital purchases are made comfortably as a result – no buyer’s remorse.

Informative materials are available and attainable at everyone’s fingertips, starting with the “chock- full-of-important-info-which-no-one-ever-reads” vehicle owner’s manuals, tire manuals (in the glove box), manufacture and other service manuals, and literally tons of materials published by parts manufacturers and users.

To get a taste, peruse “tirerack.com” for instance, a bible of usable tire info and data.

Speaking of tires, according to www.safecar.gov, some 11,000 accidents annually are caused by tire failure, and recalls are getting more and more common they stated.

Their list of tire issues included poor tire design, tire de-beading, tread separation, shredding, wheel explosions, side-wall zipper failures, poor construction, poor manufacturing, blowouts, and failed tire adhesion.

When tires fail or are installed improperly, roll-overs and front to rear accidents are common results, along with resulting broken bones, head, neck, and brain injuries, as well as death.

Uh, just a minute coach, I need to run out and check mine.

Take a belt to it bro

Today’s snake-looking belts (hence the designation “serpentine”) are extremely important to both safety and dependability.

Regarding dependability, in a school I attended, Gates instructors demoed a picture of hundreds of core-alternators piled in a room. None were malfunctioning, and all were replaced because of a slipping serpentine belt which didn’t make a sound, and looked like new while the grooves were completely worn out.

The only way to test a belt for wear now is to measure the depth of the grooves with a petite plastic measuring tool, which you can get for free at many parts stores. The days of substantial cracking and belt noise are for the most part over we were told.

And what happens when a decrepit serpent sash suddenly bites the dust? Well, consider that they often drive water pumps (burned up engine), power steering pumps (help, I can’t steer), alternators (help, it won’t start), and other components such as the air conditioner.

Keep in mind that when the engine eventually stops, there ain’t much stopping power, either.

What to do, Batman?

I suggest every manager listen closely to the customer presentations of their ASM staff.

I am seeing important MPI-discovered needs closed at less than a measly 20 percent way too often. These are “NEEDS,” not “Wants.” Heck, the closing ratio in car selling is better than that. Needs have weighty consequences and few ASMs I am finding are knowledgeable enough to know them, let alone explain them.

Consider doing some research and starting once-a-week 30-minute internal training sessions with your customer managers.

Cover the basics, especially the details of maintenance what, why, benefits, and consequences.

Teach them to use the assumptive close, not the clumsy and weak “asking close,” which just signifies that the request was optional all along.

Rather “learn-them” ASM creatures to be thorough in their review and then close with “So, we will take care of that today.”

You will be amazed at the positive results, and both the patrons and their vehicles will be far better taken care of doctor.

Simply this brethren, consumers don’t visit your establishment so that you can ask them what they should do.

Duh bro, thinkaboutit.

Here’s a start, Art

To get your short and sweet training regimen cranked up, I have a nifty basic tire training workbook written in Excel for you. I just finished it, and used it myself with a great reception. You can load it on puters, “pads” or print it out.

Try a session at least once and you might find it refreshing, enlightening, and your troops will do a better job handling your potential tire liabilities (Smarty lawyers will refer to your peeps as “the experts” – don’t forget that scary fact Jack).

Just email a request to Ed@NetProfitGroup.com and put on the subject line “Tire Facts-Safety First Lefty” so I knows whats ta send ya.

If your posse throws stuff at ya during the session, get someone else to mentor next time – it’s that important.

Ed Kovalchick has traveled the world training and consulting in fixed operations with manufacturers and dealers. His extensive background includes master technician status, independent shop owner, dealer with all Chrysler & Nissan franchises, and founder of Net Profit Inc., fixed operations consulting and training. He is a graduate of the University of Louisiana, and has served as state president of the Automotive Service Councils, and the advisory boards of Wyo Tech and Virginia College. He has been a regular columnist and conference presenter with Dealer Magazine and Digital Dealer since 1995. He can be reached at Ed@NetProfitGroup.com.