by Andy Fiffick, MACS Chairman and CEO
Recently I sat in on a shop management training class, and I heard some things that made me think about my own business. The instructor, a shop owner himself, said only 20% of the work that passes through his bays requires the skills of an A-level technician. Most of the jobs in his business can be done by B- or C-techs, and they’re mostly maintenance jobs that net a higher percentage of profit for the shop compared with the kind of work that requires an A-tech’s diagnostic skills.
Cars are a lot better than they used to be, and considering how the type of repairs and service we do every day has changed over the 39 years I’ve been in this business, I can see his point. But if all that’s true, why does a shop still need a tech with advanced diagnostic skills? How does my investment in that tech’s training and higher pay- pay-off for the shop?
Here’s my answer. I would never want to put a less-experienced technician on any job because the lack of experience may lead to something being overlooked. That’s not only risky for me but also bad for our customer. The experienced technician is more likely to notice the worn part, the tell-tale stain, a leak, a smell or some other clue that indicates the need for additional work or maybe even an impending breakdown. Customers whose cars break down or flash a check-engine light shortly after driving away from my shop are not happy people. While it can be tough informing them of the need for additional work, they are much more appreciative if we let them know ahead of time rather than letting them find out the hard way.
For this reason, none of my shops have dedicated low-pay lube techs. Everyone is a lube tech! This way, every customer’s car is seen by an experienced technician who is more able to judge the true condition of their vehicle and more likely to see potential issues that should be noted on the repair order. Maybe we won’t completely avoid unpleasant surprises for our clients, but we can certainly minimize their cost and inconvenience and preserve their trust in our service.
Having experienced techs do regular service work makes good economic sense too. If I’m paying an A-tech $25.00 an hour and he can complete a task in one hour that takes a C-tech at $15.00 an hour two hours to complete, I’m saving 5 bucks an hour. In addition, since the A-tech completed the job in only one hour, he can move on to another job, and we both get another billable hour to sell.
In my opinion, the more “A” technicians we have in the shop, the better we are. But they are hard to find, so most of our shops have only two; the rest are B- and C-level technicians. That’s one reason I place so much value on training; if I can’t find A-level technicians, I’m not afraid to grow my own, because in the end they’re well worth the investment.
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The 35th annual Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide Training Conference and Trade Show, Meet me at MACS Make Connections that Matter, February 5-7, 2015 at the Caribe Royale, Orlando, FL.