Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury…

Rick Newsletter I would like to take a little time today to build a case that clearly proves “my client’s” innocence. You see, many people have developed the opinion that they have utilized “my client” to the best of their ability and “my client” has failed them. They will have you believe that even though they have done everything in their power to develop process, track and manage their people, that process has failed because “my client” has not done its job in supporting them. They will tell you that “my client” is outdated and needs to be dramatically changed to support them because they have done everything to foster its success yet they have failed. My response to that would be: (in the infamous words of the great Vinny Gambini) “the prosecution’s case doesn’t hold water.”

“My client” is MPVI, MPI, Multi-point inspections (or whatever you chose to call it) and I am here to say that “my client” is innocent of all of the above charges. Today, I will show you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, beyond even a reasonable shadow of a doubt, that my client was framed of these charges. It held up its end of the bargain (and more) but rather than being set up to succeed, it was set up to fail…by its accusers.

It’s been probably 15(ish) years now that the manufacturers have asked us all to focus on using the Green/Yellow/Red forms for documenting additional needed services on our customers’ vehicles. While I believe it’s safe to say that everyone agrees with the fact that these are a great way to CONSISTENTLY document, present and follow-up on these additional services; what I am consistently floored by is the fact that so many service managers (myself included; when I was in that role) struggle SO much with using this tool to its fullest extent. I honestly believe that if you take the time to set it up for success, you will reap what you sow.

I am reminded of a recent project at home. After replacing our pool with one that was twice the size, I was left with a pool deck that only half as large as it should have been. Being someone who would much rather build it than buy it, I decided to expand the existing deck from 18 feet wide to 36 feet wide. It seemed like a very easy task that would require minimal planning so I decided to get a good idea in my mind on how I wanted to proceed rather than putting it on paper and away I went. While the project itself turned out fine, there were many things I could have and would have done better had I thought them through prior to starting the project. And…there were even a few bumps in the road along the way that I had to deal with as a result of the lack of planning. The end result was a nice deck but not a GREAT deck. And when all was said and done, although I am very proud of my accomplishment, it could have been better. And it would have been better….had I engineered it to be that way.

As my deck project went, so goes our adoption of Multi-points. Most service managers have never really engineered any process here. We have all simply gotten our folks together and said “Here’s what we are going to do…” And away we went. Consider some of the engineering that we could have done if we had taken the time to blueprint our process before we started building. The remainder of this article is not necessarily a “how-to” guide, but rather a series of best practices to ensure that the use of the multi-point vehicle inspection is a successful process in your store.

Please take a few moments to look through this list and feel free to send in your comments and/or suggestions. We love to hear your feedback.

  • Who Does What?
    Start out by taking a look at the form. Most forms are set up to somewhat segregate the areas of responsibility typically held by the advisors from those that the technicians typically perform. Does this fit the existing processes in your store? Are your advisors already doing walk-arounds? If so, this would be a perfect time to introduce the form to the customer and have the advisors start checking boxes during their walk-arounds WITH the customer. Get a few technicians and advisors together and get their input on who is responsible for what parts of the form. This input will positively affect buy-in and will also help eliminate the resentment that technicians sometimes have of advisors who do not fill out the “walk-around” portion of the form.
  • What is the Definition of Yellow?
    Here’s a challenge for you: Survey all of your technicians, one at a time by asking them “What conditions would warrant a yellow check mark when checking CV boots?” Chances are if you interview 10 technicians, you’ll get at least 7 or 8 different answers. Why is this? Well, we use the form to drive consistency in process, but the form (no matter how good it seems to be laid out) typically is not good enough in and of itself to drive that consistency. Once again, get some technicians together and develop a definition of red, yellow, and green for each of the boxes on the checklist. Using the technicians to develop these definitions will help promote their buy-in.
  • How to Inspect a Vehicle?
    This is a little tough to quantify, but it’s a process development step that, in my opinion, is one of the most critical of all. Think of the “by the book” method of determining whether a ball joint is pass or fail. A technician should attach a dial indicator, load the lower control arm and using a pry bar, lift up on the knuckle to measure the ball joint end-play. While this is the correct method, many technicians will resort to the “alternate” method of grabbing the wheel at 12 and 6 o’clock and trying to rock back and forth. If there play is noted, then many will go to the traditional method to determine if the ball joint is the culprit. So, what is the inspection method that you ask of your technicians? Are they required to do the “book” test on ball joints or the “alternate” method? More importantly, if they are required to do the “book” test, are they short-cutting it by doing the “alternate” method? Why not get them all together and define the how-to portion for each box on the form as well? Getting their input in how they will inspect each item will not only help eliminate short cutting, but it also promotes the technicians policing each other. It is now “their” process. When they take ownership, they are not going to let someone shortcut what they built.
  • Track and Manage
    This is really the “heart” of my case. Over and over, data has shown that you are not really doing multi-points unless you are tracking their data. By tracking data, I mean that you are monitoring the technician and advisor performance and regularly reporting back to them on their performance. There are a few key pieces of data that MUST be monitored on a daily basis.
    • Penetration Percentage (or number of RO’s written vs. number of Multi-points initiated):
      What should your goal be here? Well, that depends on your policy. Saying that this number should be 100% may be unrealistic unless your policy is 100% of cars 100% of the time. But we can all agree that it should be pretty darn close to 100% regardless of what your policy is.
    • Closing Ratio (or hours presented vs. hours sold):
      What should your goal be here? Once again this is more of a judgment call based on your advisors’ experience and level of expertise. But the number itself is not quite as important as what you do with it. If you have one advisor who’s performance is far below your other two advisors’ performance could you possible work with that advisor on their presentation techniques?
    • Percent of Representation (or number of multi-points performed by a technician vs. number of multi-points with at least one request):
      Here’s a VERY important indicator of technician performance. This will help you determine how well each technician is performing the inspections that we laid out in the first part of the article. Basically there is no “stock” number here. What you’ll need to do is look at the average for your shop as a whole and then take the high and low performers as your targets. Here’s what I mean by that: Let’s say that your shop as a whole finds at least one item on 70% of the cars that come through the shop. In looking at the data you have one technician who is at 95% and one who is at 25%. Based on the numbers, both present an area of opportunity. The technician who is at 95% may very well be looking over the cars a little too critically while the technician who is at 25% may be a little too “loose” in looking over his cars. Either way, you have data to quantify the difference between a good job and a bad job. As we said earlier, what you do with the data is more important than the data itself. Working with these technicians will help bring them closer to the shop average and thus maximize their performance.
    • Average Request Value (or number of hours requested vs. number of multi-points with at least one request):
      Here’s another critical indicator of technician performance and one that typically goes hand in hand with the percent of representation. It’s a measurement of the average number of hours that a technician brings to the service advisor every time they find an item or items when performing a multi-point inspection. Data has proven over and over that when this number is excessive, stores have a declining customer pay RO count…100% of the time! Plus, there’s a direct correlation between the average request value and the closing ratio. Of course, the higher the average request value, the lower the closing ratio and vice versa. You would manage this number the same as the percent of representation. Look for the high and low performers and get them to the middle.
  • The only real challenge here is collecting the data in order to manage your staff as we described. And the solutions are about abundant. It can easily be done by assigning a daily manual RO review to gather the data. Many times the cashier or service receptionist will be well suited to this task, since they typically are in a position to put their hands on all repair orders. Some service managers will accept the task personally, although it MUST be done daily, so be careful that you are willing and able to consistently perform if you decide to take on this task. There are third party vendors that will offer a solution. This comes with a price tag but quite honestly, a compelling argument can be made, that the return will FAR outweigh the investment. And finally if you are fortunate enough, your manufacturer may offer a no-charge or almost-no-charge solution.

In any case, I hope you will see based upon the information above that it is well worth your investment (whether it be time or dollars or a combination of both) to collect this data. The most important thing to remember is simply this… what you do with the data is FAR more important than the data itself could ever even hope to be. Keep in mind that, just like there is no such thing as a perfect pay plan, there is no such thing as a perfect tracking method. People are people and sometimes they will try to manipulate the numbers. Your greatest task as a manager is manage behavior above all. Sometimes that includes managing behavior that includes trying to manipulate a number. Don’t get so caught up in the task that you miss the point. Manage relative improvement above all. If you can get each of your technicians and advisors to incrementally improve their performance in this area based on the points we’ve discussed, you will have a TREMENDOUS win!

And so, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I trust you’ll see that my client is totally innocent of the charges against it. It has more than upheld its end of the bargain but only when used properly and effectively. I implore you to give it a proper trial by setting forth the processes and best practices that we have outlined here today before passing judgment. I am certain that when you do this, you too will see that my client is the single best tool you will ever have to drive true performance in your operation.

The defense rests…

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