Murray Voth: What to do about comebacks in automotive repair

by | Oct 12, 2018 | 0 comments

By Murray Voth

I want to dedicate a whole column to this one. As independent automotive repair shops, we actually have a very good “fix-it-right” score.

In my last column, we talked about the five top complaints made by the driving public about automotive repair shops. Number 5 was, “My vehicle was not fixed right the first time; I had to bring it back more than once for the same concern.”

When we experience a vehicle coming back to our shop for the same concern, it is challenging. It is embarrassing, it can damage our reputation and it is costly. Repairing something again for free hurts the bottom line.Here is a list of things that could potentially lead to comebacks, in no order of priority:

  1. We rushed the technician.
  2. We pulled the technician off the job.
  3. We did not listen well or document well at the consultation process.
  4. We did not identify the client’s primary concern.
  5. We did not confirm the client’s concern prior to beginning the repair.
  6. We overrode the customer’s concern in favour of our own opinion.
  7. A part was defective.
  8. We tried to do the customer a favour.

I am sure many of you could add more reasons that cause comebacks (or technician warranty, if you want to call it something else). In all of my writing, I try my best to give you a couple of takeaways that you can implement in your shop right away. There are a lot in this column. Consider the following potential solutions for the problems described above.

  1. Usually it’s management and/or the service advisors that rush the technicians. This could be caused by overbooking, over-promising, or poor estimating.
  2. Again, it is usually the advisor and owners who are interrupting and pulling the technician off of the job. And again, the likely cause is poor planning, poor scheduling, and poor dispatching. For example, if you know a technician is going to be needed for a diagnosis in half an hour, why assign her or him a four-hour front-end job?
  3. Clients are not vehicle experts; we are. But they are experts in their experience of their vehicle. It is important that we ask them questions that they are able to answer. How does it feel? What does it sound like? We need to stop being so technical with them.
  4. It is easy as technical people to jump to conclusions about what is needed on a client’s vehicle. We see the vehicle from a safety and an efficiency standpoint. It is important that we always check in with the client about what is important to them. Sometimes, we need to gently explain why our technician’s opinion about what needs to be done today is a higher priority. Many times when we explain a service or repair to a client, they assume that we have heard them and their concern will be looked after in the process we are describing.
  5. After a technician is assigned a vehicle, they should confirm they are experiencing the client’s concern before they proceed. Many technicians will keep going on a repair or diagnosis even though they have not experienced what the client has expressed.
  6. See number 4. We make a diagnosis that the front brakes need service because the linings are low, but the client is concerned about a rubbing sound (likely, just a dry bushing that can wait). We make the call ourselves and service the brakes, and the client calls back the next day and says, “The noise is still there.”
  7. Defective parts have always been a challenge, but some technicians say it’s getting worse these days. Even though, in my opinion, the parts manufacturers and distributors are ultimately responsible for this problem, I have seen a growing number of shops inspecting all parts as soon as they are received. Ordering them a few hours ahead gives you the opportunity to do this.
  8. Either because we feel sorry for our clients, or we want to be a hero, we ask our technicians to take short cuts, skimp on good practices, or cheap out on repairs. These will always come back to haunt you. Estimate the job properly, show the value, and do the job right or don’t do it at all. If a customer asks you to cut corners, politely ask them if they cut corners when they do their job. You will quickly qualify whom you are dealing with.

Take your pick and work on one of these for the next month. Work on one a month, and you will reduce your comebacks significantly – and you will have happier technicians.

Murray Voth



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