A couple weeks ago, I was conducting a heady Service Manager Performance Group, where we discussed good ideas, why we keep lousy employees, why we have lousy applicants and whether we were paying as much tax as a secretary – you know, real up-to-date stuff.
A buck here and there
An aggressive import store manager (we will call him Mike, cause that’s his real name) distributed a nifty worksheet listing detailed results of his personal audit (including road test) of the multi-point inspection process in his shop. He pointed out, to his chagrin that he discovered some of his techs were not thorough in the inspection. Some provided poor documentation for the ASM to utilize, some didn’t seem to care based on who generated the RO, and that even more items were missing because the vehicle wasn’t road tested as part of the MPI party.
So, Mike made a complete list of everything that was missed or missing, and discovered that on the average, .2 to .5 of additional labor was available per RO, some much higher and some none at all. Interestingly, the biggest opportunity resulted from the road test discovery, rather than just pure inspection/measurement business. It appears customers become immune to vehicle maladies, which occur slowly over time, so that they essentially adapt to the problem. Until a non-adapted driver experiences the situation, it remains undiscovered and overlooked.
I decided to experiment, so I asked other professional managers I respect to perform detailed MPI audits in their shops. I told them what Mike had experienced and I wondered if they would find the same, and as sure as ongoing trouble in the Red Sox locker room, they did – probably no surprise to you.
Should we? Yes!
The biggest unfound culprits were suspension-related noises, usually created by worn bushings, shocks, struts, tie rods, tires, bearings and the occasional dead critter lodged in the springs. But, let’s probe deeper into the philosophy of the MPI. Is it something we owe the customer, who put their trust in us to be the caretakers of their second largest investment? Are we obliged to ensure their vehicle is safe, dependable and properly maintained? My guess is that you answered these questions with a resounding “Yes,” unless you paint your fingernails black.
That being said, why are technicians not thinking the same way? Why does road testing a vehicle receive such pushback? Why can’t Junior win a race – but I digress.
When I approach managers about negative employee actions, usually (ok, almost always) the manager blames the employee for not performing up to standard. My take is that most (not all) are responding to management input, or lack thereof. The unfortunate circumstance here is that allowing every tech to set the bar for the MPI process, then later lathering him or her with criticism for not performing, is a form of management hypocrisy. First we don’t care, then we suddenly care – a little hard to digest when one is on flat rate commission with hefty tool truck, roach coach and child-support payments.
Generally, we accept that the MPI process needs improvement in all shops. Beside the significant money-making aspect, there’s the issue of fundamental operational safety, which in my opinion is the more important of the two. If I were faced with this challenge, this is how I would proceed:
1. Perform an intensive investigation of the MPI process reviewing each technician, and then document the results thoroughly.
2. I would compile the results to make these points:
A. How much individual income each tech missed (WIFM approach).
B. The items where I discovered potential dangers to the driver and occupants.
C. Items which, left neglected, would create dependability issues later.
D. Lastly, I would highlight maintenance items, the least important in the large scheme of things.
After I carefully assembled enough information to build a noteworthy case for improvement, I would develop an agenda with a poignant presentation. Included in this production would be my extreme apology for not recognizing this need before (I take the first blame), and that from now on the policy will be “no exception” MPI procedures, including regular audits from me. I would also determine the consequences of poorly performed MPIs, including write-ups, unpaid days off, and eventual dismissal. I would explain that customer retention, customer satisfaction, financial obligations, and a healthy company liability are at stake here!
Road test this
Back to the road test policy – in some cases there should be two road tests – one prior to the MPI, then one afterwards when something is repaired or maintained. There should be a manager-mapped road test route and timed, so that the flat rate involved is known – no joy rides to check the chicks at the Burger Palace. Mileage in and out to be recorded which match – tricky huh.
The MPI is serious business in so many ways, but it won’t be unless a caring manager sets the table for that realization. I tried arguing with myself on this one, but responsibility won out. If you need an MPI audit worksheet I will send you one – just put “MPI Audit – I’m A Great Manager” on the subject line so I will know what to send.