A friend of mine who works as the head of technical support for a company related a very funny story about what his job was about. Once he received a phone call from a very angry fellow in senior management. His computer was not working. Everything he tried could not make the system work. He was livid and demanded that someone be sent to his office right away as he had a lot of very important work to do. So my friend went to the office and while being given an earful as to everything that was wrong with the system, how incompetent technical support was, my friend quietly reached around and plugged this fellow’s mouse back into the computer. “You kicked the mouse cable. Try not to do that again,” he added.
Most technical service calls turn out to be something simple. My friend trains his staff to look for the simplest things before digging deeper. It is surprising, he said, how often what looks like a major problem turns out to be something as simple as an unplugged monitor or cable. I thought of this conversation after the recent CTV W5 story about service shops in Toronto and Calgary (http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/TopStories/20110408/w5-the-mechanic-110409/). W5 teamed up with the Automobile Protection Association to see if service shops could spot and fix a relatively simple set of problems in perfectly working and well-maintained vehicles. In one case, the test involved loosening a battery connection. The results were not impressive, with many shops doing unnecessary repairs, recommending expensive work that was not needed or replacing such things as sparks plugs that were in good working order.
I’m not going to defend the shops that failed in the W5 report. In almost all of the cases, their approach to the W5 customer was cringe-worthy and the work of the technicians embarrassing to the whole of the automotive service industry.
Thinking about the report, I began wondering if part of the problem, besides what seemed in some cases outright price gouging, is that we are not doing enough to tell technicians to look for the simplest things first. A hard or intermittent start could be as simple as a battery wire that is not tightened. All good technicians know to check that first; but sometimes we forget. In the W5 report, the problem should have been quickly identified, fixed and the customer told to keep an eye on the car. If problems persist, then dig deeper. The same goes with scanning the vehicle. You want to do this first to make sure the problem is not something that can be corrected quickly.
It might seem that I’m being a bit harsh on this. I’m not. I’m guilty of it as well. I always have to remember that when my stereo system does not work to check that my young son has not switched off the power bar instead of running to check, as I often do, the various cabling behind all the components to see if he has pulled anything out.