Your Shop as Customer Service Department
by Don Tyler
Through years of working in the shop, managing a shop crew and now coaching shop managers, I’ve found there is a consistent pattern to mechanic’s complaints. From, “I can’t ever find my tools…” to, “How can we do regular maintenance when people keep interrupting us to fix something they tore up…” it is clear that mechanics have their share of frustrations.
Developing a shop crew that is on top of maintenance, handling repairs in a timely and effective manner, and keeping repair costs within budget includes several elements.
They want every repair done right the first time and they don’t like band-aid repairs. They take pride in what they do and want the quality of their work to speak for itself.
The solution requires a slight change in perspective. Most mechanics are reserved, task-oriented and tend to prefer working alone, so interruptions make them uncomfortable and force them to interact with people when they would rather stay focused on the repair. Changing their perspective from the shop being just another department within the business, to being the “Customer Service” department can help them approach their work from a different point of view.
To make this change, alter the way that you communicate with them and reinforce the service that the shop provides to the employees and the operation. Remind them that they are essential to the efficiency of every employee in the business and that their effectiveness maximizes the productivity of the entire operation.
Good mechanics cannot be effective without good tools and a good facility.
Hold everyone accountable for keeping track of tools and using tools properly. Write them up when they show a pattern of disregard for this equipment, and praise them whenever they keep a neat, orderly workplace. When you see a clean, tidy workbench, or a freshly swept shop floor with all the tools in their proper place, snap a few pictures of the area. Print copies and leave them on break tables, lunch areas, and other visible locations. Write personal notes like,“This is just what I like to see!” or “Awesome shop!” Do this for other areas of the operation as well to promote the behaviors you prefer.
At a recent feed yard visit, the shop foreman and I were talking about how to schedule the mechanics so they could cover more hours in the shop without the mechanics having to work longer days. We realized that in the early morning and late afternoon the duties could be covered by only two of the four full-time mechanics. Each of the employees chose which mornings they would come early, and which days they would work late. They agreed to discuss any scheduling changes at least two days in advance, and developed a fair schedule so there would be adequate coverage on the weekends during busy seasons.
We also talked about assignments for mechanics so that one can stay focused on a critical repair, one handles walk-ins and drive-ups, and the others are “floaters” who stay focused on minor repairs or those that are not as timely. These designations may change from day-to-day so there is some variety for the mechanics, and so an employee with a specific ability can work on the most appropriate repair.
Applying some of these techniques will allow your mechanic crew to have the time to get all the routine maintenance done, and keep the major, expensive repairs to a minimum.