Auto Service World
News   October 17, 2023   by Adam Malik

Your tech made a serious mistake. What’s your reaction?

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Your best technician forgot to put oil in a vehicle they were working on. That car’s engine blew just after it left the shop. How do you react?

Rick White, founder and president of 180Biz, knows what he would want to do.

“I want to scream. I want to go out there and give him what-for. What was he thinking?” White told attendees of his session Trust is the Real Currency at the Midwest Auto Care Alliance’s Vision Hi-Tech Training & Expo 2023.

“’We’re booked out three weeks. We got more work than we know what to do with. You know how much that engine is going to cost? Are you out of your mind? What are you doing?’” he gave as examples of things he’d be screaming at the tech.

But just because you want to say those things, that doesn’t mean you should. Take a step back and breathe for a moment. Then consider: How do you think your tech is feeling?

“He’s feeling horrible, would you agree? I mean, he’s going to look up to see the top of the curb. Does he really need me going out there and doing that to him?” White said.

You’re reacting to the issue and bringing on conflict. You want to confront the problem instead.

“What we want to be able to do is separate the person from the behaviour. And we’re going to attack the behaviour and we’re going to love the person,” White explained.

If you attack the person, that’s conflict. What do you think the reaction is going to be? White said it would be one of three things: Fight, flight or freeze. And who’s going to feel good after it’s all over? Just you. And even that’s a maybe.

“Now, in that process, did I push the tech away? Or did I bring them in closer?” White asked. “I pushed him away. He is less engaged with our business now than he was before.”

So think about your approach before you go out there.

“The first thing I’m going to do is get him to understand that he’s a good tech,” White advised. “We’re not going to let one event define how he sees himself. We are all bigger than one event.”

Did something happen that led to the tech forgetting that crucial step? Maybe he got interrupted by someone and that’s why he missed putting oil in the car. That’s a teachable moment to the team to not interrupt someone while they’re working on something, White said.

“Confronting behaviour is something you want to do immediately and without reserve,” he added.

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3 Comments » for Your tech made a serious mistake. What’s your reaction?
  1. Bob Ward says:

    It boils down to a procedural issue. If procedures are followed things like this wouldn’t happen. This would be an opportune time for a staff meeting to review all procedures. You also need to read the tech when you discuss the issue with him in private. Your reaction will depend on his reaction to the situation. The situation should be documented and put in his file.

  2. Dave Mellner says:

    You have the option to make it a teachable or terrible moment. We had a similar incident with a double gasketted spin on oil filter in an older high mileage vehicle. The twist was the owner upon seeing an oil leak elected to keep driving the vehicle to his house, several miles away in traffic.

    Responding to the phone call I retrieved the truck with our rollback and brought it into the shop for diagnosis. Upon finding the double gasket issues there was an aha moment. Instead of berating the tech my response was how can we salvage this vehicle and the customer. Calmly assessing the situation a resolution was reached that everyone found agreeable and positive. A procedure was put in place to verify the removal of the old gasket prior to installation of a new filter so that this seemingly amateur mistake could not reoccur. All’s well that ended well.

  3. I agree with Dave
    “Live and learn ”
    Make it a learning experience and discuss or put procedures in place to avoid it happening again
    No technicians like comebacks of any kind , losing your cool only aggravates the situation
    If you lead by example what kind of example are you setting by screaming and yelling

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