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Attitudes and Altitudes

by Art Little

Transmission Digest Magazine
This article appeared in the December 2012 issue of Transmission Digest.

I was in a shop the other day when a customer came in complaining to the manager about the lousy service he had received on his repair. It started off bad and then got worse as the conversation went on. He had been in three times since the original repair and wanted to know what the shop was going to do about it.

The manager asked the customer exactly what the problem was this time. The customer yelled,  “The same problem I had when I brought it in here ! ” When the manager asked for his keys and told him he would check it out for him, the customer would not give him the keys. He said, “The last time I gave you these keys you kept my vehicle two weeks”.  The manager asked “How can I help you if you will not give me the keys?  The customer replied “You can give me my money back so I can take it to a shop that knows what they are doing”.Then, the manager then lit him up real good when he said, “ Sir, you have a bad attitude”.  I thought to myself, who wouldn’t have a bad attitude?  

Have you ever considered that maybe your attitude as the shop owner is the root cause of the bad attitude your customers have when they come in like this customer ? Let me explain what I am talking about. After the customer calmed down and left, the manager showed me a folder with restraining orders the owner had filed against previous unruly customers. I had never seen that before. That was a new one on me. I went to the owner and asked the owner what he was going to do about this customer and he said  did not know what he was going to do. He just knew he was not going to give him his money back.

 I looked at the history of the repair and went to the builder to see what he had to say about it. He said the owner would not let him buy the parts he needs. He said every time the owner came in he complained about his parts costs. When the owner left , the manager would tell him to order what he needs. That is called duel supervision . One boss is telling him to order the other is telling him not to order. He was confused. Instead of the owner respecting the builders knowledge and giving him the responsibility to do what he thinks is right every time, his attitude was, you are spending too much of my money on parts. I do not want to take the time to find out why you are spending too much of my money on  parts. I just know you are. The manager had to face the customers and did not have to pay for parts so, his attitude was, he wanted the builder to buy the parts and hope the owner doesn’t go broke.

So, here we go. No one has taken responsibility and the customer loses.  It is not the managers fault. He did not work on it. It is not the builders fault. He is not allowed to buy the parts he needs. It is not the installers fault. He just does what he is told to do. It is not the owners fault because he is the owner. That is a bad attitude for a shop to have and It is exactly the reason the customer had a bad attitude when he came in and wanted his money back.

Don’t be too quick to judge the people in this shop. I think we all get bad attitudes from time to time. They seem to creep up on you. Little things start to happen. Then some big things happen. Then, things start mounting up and working on your good nature. Before you know it, you have a bad attitude about one or two things  and then it starts to spill over into everything you do. That is just the way it goes when you walk around with  a bad attitude.

A bad attitude is like a flat tire. If you don’t change it, you will never go anywhere. What can you do?  Let's look at two different shops on opposite ends of the scale to get a feel for the issues.

Shop  A has an owner that  is absentee and only shows up to complain. Payroll is late all the time, employees are just numbers , the parts cleaner doesn’t work half the time, the lifts are not safe, no money is put into improving the shop, the place is always dirty,test equipment is outdated, there is a dial up Internet connection and the builder and installers are sent home without pay when the shop slows down.

All parts are C.O.D. because the owner does not pay his bills on time. He buys the cheapest parts available no matter what .The shop does not belong to the Better Business Bureau. The customers are not allowed in the shop for any reason. Management  lies to the customer when the truth would sound better. Management has a history of lying to employees. There is no modern test equipment . A misdiagnosis is common place. No one ever gets a pat on the back or a bonus if they do good. The shop always  has several lawsuits in small claims court. Employees come and go. The average tenure for employees is six months. And, last but not least, the employees are always blamed for the shop not making money.

What happens in a shop like this? This is where employee attitudes toward the owner and the customer are created .  Employees look at the way the shop is managed and tend to take the shop owner’s attitude on.  It becomes clear to the employees that the owner does not care about his employees or his customers.  So they give the same amount of respect they get and the  games begin.

The employees start coming in  late for work, lying to the manager, taking extended road tests and lunch breaks, building bombs, stealing from the shop and are mainly looking out for themselves. No one is concerned about  doing the job right much less warranty issues ,  parts costs , working as a team, getting the customers car back on time etc. This is the attitude that the employees develop for the customer. Why ? They start thinking, if the owner doesn’t care about his customers why should I ? If he doesn’t care about me , why should I care about him? That’s what happens in shop A.

Shop B , on the other hand , has an owner that is hands on and works in the shop every day. He is their leader. There is no possibility of dual supervision. He likes what he does. He likes people.The main reason he is there is to make sure his customers and employees are happy and satisfied. He encourages education. He closes his shop down and takes all employees to the trade shows with him every year and pays for their seminars .

 He pays top wages. He has medical insurance for all employees. His equipment is in top shape and he strives to give his employees a safe place to work.  He has invested in all the latest test equipment and teaches his employees how to use them himself. He is organised . He has job descriptions posted for each employee so they know what he expects from them. He makes sure his team is working together and communicating.  He offers a structured bonus to each employee when they exceed his expectations.

He respects his employees. He likes his employees. He wants his team to get along and work together so he pays for company picnics.  He buys tickets to sporting events and takes everybody or offers them up for bonuses. He pays them for  time off when their vacation comes around  and pays them for all major holidays.

He respects his customers. He has built his business on honesty and integrity . He gives a longer warranty than the customer can get from the dealership. If he is having a problem with a repair , he will put the customer in a rent car. If the customer is a few miles over his warranty , he will honor the warranty anyway. He will fire the manager if he lies to the customers. Customer satisfaction is his number one priority.

 He wants an accurate diagnosis on every customers vehicle no matter how busy the shop is. He does not want to charge a customer for something  not needed. He will give the customer his money back if he thinks it is the right thing to do. He is a member of the BBB and chamber of commerce , sponsors a little league team and gives back to the community he does business in.

 He has production meetings every morning and assigns the work for the day so that everyone knows what he expects from the team that day. He asks if anybody needs anything or has any problems at the production meetings so there will be no surprises or delays. When the meeting is over everyone feels like part of his team and they know what their work assignments are. He has the manager call every customer every morning after the meeting and give the customer a report on the progress of his repair. After lunch he has another short production meeting and adjusts the work schedule accordingly.

 

What happens? Employees see how the owner manages his business and take the owner’s attitude on. They start looking out for him because he looks out for them. The employees are rarely late and are time conscious when working on assignments.  If they can save him some money or time , they do. They appreciate their job and want to keep it.

They try to be more productive and get better at their craft. They appreciate his commitment to education and as a result , they are always wanting to learn more. They all become better teammates and excel when they communicate and work together. Now they are part of something good. They are part of a team. They start looking out for the customer and doing what is right for the customer because the owner wants to do the right thing for his  customers. The quality of their work improves and the customer satisfaction improves right along side that. That is what happens in shop B. It is called pride in the workplace. Remember?

I live in the real world. I know  things take on a different meaning when you do not have the money to cover the bad things that happen to you. But, you have to find the way to do right regardless of the situation.  You can start taking short cuts to try and  save money or time like shop owner A but, once you start,  it only creates more problems.

 The normal problems become magnified  and the big problems seem  insurmountable at times. It is hard to have a good attitude when you are broke all the time and trying to play catch up. But, if you do not change that flat tire you are not going anywhere.

So, what can you do to start changing your shops attitude? Look at both shops and you probably fit in somewhere in the middle. If you want to change the attitude of your shop, you need to get a good attitude first. Your attitude affects your discipline. Revisit your shop policies and procedures and update them with your new attitude. Set your standards high and focus on discipline again. Then, get you some people around you with a good attitude and lead them .  

Look for people with the right attitude . The shop owner in shop A knows what he is doing is not right. He is just not going to do anything about for one reason or another. So, you first have to make a commitment to to things right yourself and then surround yourself with people that want to do things right. If you start doing things right then, things start goiing right.

The employees you see in the work place will fall off into three basic categories . Quitters, campers and climbers. I know it is not right to put people in categories but, for discussion purposes , let’s make an exception this time. Because, if you are going to become a climber , you need to get some employees to climb with.

Remember, the most profitable shops do what is right all the time no matter what. Let’s look at the characteristics of quitters , campers and climbers so you will know how to spot them when you see them.

  1. Quitters do right only if they have to or if it is not too hard and it benefits them.  Even then, they will usually find a way to quit . They usually are transient because they can not keep a job. They come in  late to work , miss work, they are hard to get along with, not team players, inflexible,and they know it all so, they do not need to or want to learn. They don't want to climb with you. They don’t even want to camp with you.

  1. Campers do right if it it is not too hard to do and does not take them out of their comfort zone. They come to work everyday and are rarely late. They are good team players only if you do not ask them to get out of their routine. They are not flexible and are highly resistant to change.They do not want to learn. Campers hate change. They like things just the way they are. They do not like to get out of their comfort zone. They don't want to climb with you. They just want to stay at the camp site.

  1. Climbers do right every time no matter how hard it is to do.They come to work every day and are never late. They are good team players . They are flexible to change and want to learn. They follow shop policies and procedures. This type of employee is not afraid of heights.They are the climbers.They want to climb with you.

The people you hire do not have to be the smartest kids on the block, but they do need to  have a good attitude. Like  Zig Ziglar,  the greatest motivator that ever lived  says “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude ". You will need some good  climbers on your team if you are going to reach  the top of  the mountain together.

 I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year and issue a challenge to you to  all.  Make your New Years resolution this year to have a good attitude no matter what. Take it into the shop with you every day  next year and see what happens. Who knows, maybe your customers will start  having a better attitude too.

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