Auto Service World
Feature   January 1, 2004   by Auto Service World

Countertalk: 10 Surefire Ways to Reduce Electrical Comebacks

There is simply no debate: whatever your current level of comebacks, it is too much.

Statistics show that as much as 30% of the parts you deliver in some categories end up back in your store. Some arrive as a simple consequence of natural warranty rates, but too many bounce back as a result of other avoidable factors. Electrical components are a prime target for reducing these annoying and expensive situations. Here are 10 ways to help:

1. Track the worst offenders. Based on history, you will almost surely find that certain customers suffer from higher rates than others do.

2. Address the “worst offender” situations. It is simply not enough to find out who the culprits are; doing something about it, whether that be drawing their attention to the fact or considering directing training their way, are the next steps.

3. It may not be the most sophisticated approach, but you may want to consider a three-strikes approach for any specific jobs. This means, for example, taking the first returned alternator back as a matter of course, and even the second one back, but when the third one goes out, make sure the customer knows that it will not be accepted back as there is obviously another factor in play.

4. Wherever possible, consider specifying higher amperage options for an application. Many systems on older cars require more power than they did when new–we all need a little more juice to get going when we get older–and that extra draw may be overtaxing the original spec unit. This is of special note for older applications, where a customer may be looking for the cheapest option possible, but where the likelihood of the car’s electrical system needing more power than when new is likeliest.

5. When it comes to smaller electrics, such as wiper motors, blower motors, and electric window motors, try to select suppliers that provide parts with as many of the OE features as possible. Sometimes technicians simply send parts back because they can’t be bothered trying to figure out how to adapt a part to fit the application’s attachments. Annoying, yes, but it is a fact of life.

6. For temperature-activated items, like a cooling fan, ensure that the technician has checked the function of the temperature sensor; otherwise the new unit won’t work any better than the old one.

7. It may sound like a broken record, but an alternator is not a battery charger, yet not everyone remembers to check the battery. Technicians may need a gentle reminder; DIY customers may not even know this at all. Make sure that both get the information they need.

8. Starters in many cars, particularly Ford models, require a certain minimum voltage to operate. Once again, a failing battery can be at fault, but so can the cables that run power to the starter. Chances are that by the time a starter fails, these are less than perfect. Ensure that technicians check for voltage at the starter before declaring it unfit.

9. Make sure you advise customers when an alternator is equipped with a time delay-type circuit that keeps its output low after starting, such as Honda units. Otherwise you may find a perfectly good unit back on your counter when it would have checked out okay if the technician waited another minute or two before testing its output.

10. Double-check application information. Sending the wrong part is doubly annoying for you and the technician, causes delays, and it can be avoided. Many technicians balk at “will fits” and universal units too, so know who they are and do not send them a part you know they will send back.

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