Honesty, integrity, and quality should be the standards under which an automotive repair facility functions. Unfortunately, as a long time automotive technician and shop owner, I must inform you that many automotive repair facilities do not meet these criteria. Many technicians are less than skilled and still others simply do not have your best interest at heart. Statistically speaking, for every seven skilled, honest, and hardworking retail automotive technicians, there are three who are — shall we say — not so skilled and/or honest.
Please understand that the majority of automotive repair personnel are well trained and they will attempt to repair your vehicle to the best of their ability, but how can you determine into which group your mechanic, or auto repair facility, fits?
Allow me to clarify one other thing: In the day which we live, automotive repairs are largely accomplished by human beings. In the automotive field, like any other, mistakes will be made. No one is perfect and inevitably human error will enter into the automotive repair process. We, as auto technicians, service advisors, managers, and shop owners, attempt to keep these instances to a minimum. As we gain experience in our respective fields, the frequency of mistakes should be minimized and eventually become very rare. Having said that, please allow me to state that mistakes and dishonesty are very different matters. An honest mistake can be identified, addressed, rectified, and then excused. However dishonesty, as it pertains to the automotive repair industry, is inexcusable.
Here are a few methods which you may use to determine whether you are patronizing an honest automotive repair facility, or not.
- Speaking with other shop owners can yield results, but not in the conventional manner. It has been my experience, in over thirty-years in the auto industry that shop owners who are too quick to publicly criticize the competition are often like the guilty dog that barks first. In my personal experience, those who openly and specifically criticize their counterparts, with no evidence or plan of action, are typically pretty shady themselves. Shop personnel who adhere to the old adage, “If you don’t have anything good to say, then don’t say anything at all” tend to be more competent, honest, and upstanding in the long run.
- Ask for your old parts. Any shop that is totally honest will not mind providing you with the old parts which were replaced. Sure, some parts require a core charge, but you should be able to at least get a look at the failed part/s. Shops which balk at showing you the old parts (removed from your vehicle) should be considered suspicious, at the very least. If your mechanic fails to produce your old parts, then ask in advance before the next repair. If a tech is tempted with “pencil-whipping” a repair order, having to account for the customer’s failed parts may keep him/her honest. Even if you don’t know a spark plug from a side marker lamp, look at the old parts and act as if you know what you are looking at.
Honesty is the only policy. In the business of automotive repair we are building long-term relationships with our customers, as well as with each other. One technician’s dishonesty reflects badly upon the shop in which he/she works. Similarly, one dishonest shop reflects poorly upon the entire automotive repair industry. Here are some tips to let your co-workers and customers know that you can be trusted.
When mistakes are made, own up to them; be honest with the customer, shop owner, manager, or service advisor. Address your shortcomings, take time to perform an accurate diagnosis and politely, articulately lobby to be paid for your diagnostic time. You will not always “beat the clock” but the good jobs will make up for the hard ones. If you make a mistake, no matter what it is, make it known to the next link in the “chain of command.” If you have accidentally broken a component or inadvertently misdiagnosed a condition, do not attempt to cover your tracks by overselling additional repairs. Tell the truth; rectify customer complaint and move on. You will earn the trust of your co-workers and customers, alike. If you are employed by individuals who seem to condone dishonesty, in covering up your mistakes or otherwise, your skills and integrity will begin to suffer. Take a stand and be honest, no matter what.
- Service Advisors/Managers
Push technicians for an accurate diagnosis. He is a member of your team and it will take the entire team to succeed. If you suspect that a technician is being less than forthcoming regarding a particular repair, then inspect the alleged faulty component personally. If the failure is not evident, then quietly, calmly, privately call him/her into account about it. If you determine that the tech is being dishonest, and it can be unequivocally proven, he/she should admit guilt and proper disciplinary action must be taken. Even if the dishonesty cannot be proven, the tech will surely be aware that you will not tolerate fraudulence in the future.
Please do not attempt to cover for misdiagnosed repairs, broken parts, etc. Never lie to the customer, either by omission or commission. If you are honest, even in failure, your customers will be loyal; you will have earned their trust.
Always treat customers with respect. Never use profanity or make inappropriate remarks in public areas. Treat every customer the same, regardless of gender, age, race, or economic status. If, for some personal reason, you cannot bring yourself to treat an individual customer courteously, then excuse yourself from the transaction if at all possible.
- Shop Owners
As a shop owner you have the greatest responsibility to your customers. You should be aware that this is not a “get rich quick” business and that a loyal customer base is necessary for success. An honest shop owner must either be involved in day-to -day operations accountability, or employ a manager which can be trusted to do so. Any shop owner who is aware of unethical business practices, in his facility, and allows them to continue lacks either integrity or backbone. A shop owner who does not make himself aware of the marketing and repair practices of his facility is flirting with disaster. As a shop owner, it is your responsibility to know who you employ, as well as whether or not they are honest. No amount of revenue, earned dishonestly, is worth the price that you will pay in loss of integrity and customer loyalty. Techs, managers, and service advisors who have displayed a pattern of dishonesty must be reprimanded (regardless of the amount of revenue which they generate). Individuals who continue to be dishonest must be terminated. There can be no exceptions.