David Foster, explains what the independent workshop needs to do to stay relevant in the ever-changing world of the automotive industry.
My, how things have changed over the years!
When I first joined the motor industry, many years ago, I could go into town on a Friday night and quaff three pints of lager and lime for just less than a pound. Lapels and pants were so wide that windy conditions placed you in mortal danger. Pans People gave you a warm fuzzy feeling in an area that you still hadn’t fully investigated and garage workshop conditions were a world apart from the environment which we see today.
Men in stove-pipe hats working in dirty and greasy conditions wielded heavy tools and hit things with big hammers making much noise and din. The sales department and the service department were almost sworn enemies, each viewing the other with suspicion. The workshop was a place where a clean living “junior sales bod” tried to never venture unless under pain of death.
At the end of a working day, it was often difficult to work out who was the coal miner and who was the motor mechanic.
It was a time when it was totally acceptable and in fact, in some instances, almost compulsory, to use and abuse apprentices by making them the butt of many cruel pranks and japes. Their new overalls never fitted properly, and their work boots always looked far too big for their feet giving them an almost clownishly comedic gait. And how many remember being sent for a box of spark plug gaps and a gallon of tartan paint?
Back then if your car ground to a halt at the side of the road, enterprising and capable individuals could often get it going again using little more than the contents of their smoker’s pack. The rough edge of the matchbox could remove carbon deposits from sets of points (hands up who remembers them!!), silver paper from the fag packet replaced blown fuses and the “gapping” of spark plugs could be done by eye. If a modern car stops, you don’t even bother to open the bonnet, you just call for roadside assistance.
It’s nothing like that today!
In the same way that today’s stranded motorist knows to immediately call for assistance, modern workshops are having to learn a similar discipline. Being prepared to reach out is becoming increasingly important to efficient operation and to delivering Mr Jones’s car back on time.
Even without the emergence of new-fangled technologies, such as hybrids and EVs, modern vehicles have become very complicated. Even the humble farm tractor now requires an operator with a degree in computer science to just start it never mind work on it!
However capable you and your staff may be, sometimes you will reach the limit of your knowledge database and you can’t possibly know everything about everything. So what do you do? Phone a friend, Google a fix or look at online forums?
All of these take up valuable time and ultimately, are unlikely to provide the information you need to successfully complete the job.
It is at this point, that the need for expert outside help is the only answer, and the sooner you reach out, the sooner the information you need can be accessed making it more likely that Mr Jones will get his car back on time with workshop time optimised and a happy customer. What’s not to like?
Technicians have got to realise that reaching out to outside expert assistance for help with either a reluctant computer or with a thorny technical issue isn’t an admission of defeat or evidence of an embarrassing lack of knowledge. It won’t mark them down in the eyes of their superiors. Wasting valuable time searching the internet for answers possibly will.
The “Five-minute” rule
Here at Maverick, we ask workshops to adopt the five-minute rule, if you haven’t found the information to complete the job in five minutes, reach out to a team expert in order to get the job back on track as quickly as possible.
There are many providers of technical information available to workshops, but obviously, we are going to promote our own range of TechSuite support packages.
Maverick TechSuite was conceived as a direct result of listening to the needs of our clients. It is a range of support package options consisting of two major elements which we are constantly developing and optimising in a desire to provide the best possible service to our contract holders.
Maverick Help Desk (MHD) is the support option which will in effect give you your own IT department. OEM diagnostic computers require constant management and updating of software ensuring that the machine always remains ready to go and always up to date, many will confirm that this is a job on its own.
Most workshops don’t factor in the amount of time spent by technicians ensuring the currency of their kit and scratching their heads trying to find a technical “fix”, but when they do, they are often shocked by just how much time is being used up and remember when your technician is ‘Googling’ for answers, they aren’t doing what you pay them for i.e. working on customer vehicles.
And computers are totally reliable, right?! How many times have you switched on the machine, and it doesn’t want to play? What do you do now? Spend even more time trying to solve a computer glitch during which time the customer’s car is languishing in the workshop untouched by human hands. Again, MHD is on hand to get you going in as timely a fashion as possible. Our technicians will dial directly into your machine in order to get you up and running, so the sooner you call the sooner you can get on with the job at hand.
The second element is Vehicle Technical Support (VTS), this facility is provided by our working partner, Grup Eina, based in Spain.
They are a leading provider of technical assistance to independent workshops throughout Europe. Contracted clients can access and download Technical Bulletins from a selection of some 1.3 million tried and tested ‘fixes’ covering any make and any model. They can be accessed as often as customers wish through an online portal. Should this fail to provide all the necessary information, there is also a hotline to Master-Technicians which will work with you in real-time to provide ‘end-to-end’ solutions to issues.
Independent workshops have more than enough on their plates without the added complications of managing diagnostic computers and knowing all the ins and outs of every vehicle they may be asked to work upon. So let someone else take some of the weight by reaching out to our team experts.
All the above becomes irrelevant if workshops don’t make full use of these facilities and it is quite remarkable to find data showing that a vast number of workshops are paying for a service which they are underusing. Even though they say that there are many occasions when assistance would be very useful, workshops still aren’t taking full advantage of the facilities available to them, if you haven’t already signed up to a support contract the help you need is easily and readily available, and if you have a contract in place don’t forget that you’re paying for it, you need it, so bloody well use it!