You Need to Plan Ahead: Looking After the Patient Well

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After 28 years I have lost my family doctor to retirement.

The benefit of going to one doctor for all that time is that all my records are in one place, and that he reviewed my records at each visit and helped keep me maintained.

In the last few months I have seen a theme emerge with some of my clients. That theme is: “Serve the customers well that came in today, and work on the cars that came in today.” It is an easy human trait to focus only on what is in front of us, and not look up and plan ahead for ourselves, for our customers, and for their vehicles. Then in January and February we end up panicking because there are no cars booked in and we waste money advertising or discounting at the worst possible time.

The four assumptions

There are four assumptions that a lot of shops operate under. 1) If we book in a lot of cars and keep the bays full, we will make a lot of money. 2) Most customers expect service right away and want their car back within unrealistic time lines. 3) Most customers are price sensitive, so I have to offer specials or discounts to get them to come to me. 4) Most customers know what they want or need done on their car, so we do just what they ask. Because of these assumptions, we have ended up with what we have, just getting through the day, so we can get to the next one.

My research indicates that a well-maintained vehicle can last between 10 and 15 years in Canada depending on the part of Canada and climate it is being driven in. To keep a car running and riding like new for that long there needs to be a plan to accomplish the same. I know that any shop owner or technician who believes in maintenance could actually sit down and write out a pretty decent plan from what they know already. But “busyness” keeps them from actually accomplishing it. Here are the simple beginnings of that plan.

The four sources of information

There are four sources of information required to maintain a vehicle well, and create a plan moving forward. 1) The client’s concern about how the vehicle runs, rides and drives. 2) A good formal and informal inspection process. 3) The maintenance recommended by the manufacturer or technician. 4) Those things that have been listed in vehicle history, or deferred work that has not yet been performed.

Let’s consider the 400 percent rule. When a vehicle comes in for service, make sure the four sources regarding the condition of the vehicle are identified 100 percent of the time. Create estimates for the identified services and repairs 100 percent of the time. Present the estimates to the customer 100 percent of the time. Document all deferred work 100 percent of the time.

You can see by this outline that you have begun to create a system where the “patient” is scheduled for regular visits, and all their records are documented in the same place. Once customers see that there is a plan and can budget, they will buy in to the plan.

Categories : Mechanical


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