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Today’s Service Advisors strive to say yes to as many customers as possible without creating chaos in the shop and allowing Production Managers to maximize production in the back shop. Brittany Schindler- GM of Rod’s Japanese Auto Care, and Sara Savio – Service Manager – Made In America – Made In Japan, join Bill to share with you how the precious tech minutes, worth $4+, can be put to more effective use. This results in a lot more customers enjoying a ‘Yes” from the Service Advisor.

Episode Transcript

*This transcript was generated using Artificial Intelligence. Errors may occur. If you notice an error, please contact [email protected].

Bill: Good morning. Good afternoon. I’m Bill Connor. And I’m here today again with Brittany Schindler, the GM of Rod’s Japanese Auto Care. Welcome Brittany, or I should say, welcome back.
Sara was going to be joining us today, but her voice has kind of left her. And if you know Sara, she likes to be heard [and] sign language wasn’t a possibility today, so Brittany and I are going to take this topic on by ourselves.
Today, we’re going to take a deep dive into how to say yes to clients without creating a lot of stress and chaos in the shop. I’m sure this is a topic that will be near and dear to a lot of service advisor’s hearts, for sure.
Today, we’re going to give you some really solid information to take three of the most common obstacles that a service advisor struggles with every day when it comes to producing finished work orders as they go through the shop and keeping the clients and staff both happy at the same time.
So, this is kind of a balancing act. I’m sure you’ve all seen the picture of the service advisor having to juggle about 20 different things at a time, but that’s the story of their life. So, we’re going to try and reduce that a little bit.
You’re going to take away some tips for shops just like yours. So, Brittany, if you’re ready, what I’d like to do is dive in and start going down this obstacle course that is service advisor dispatching.
Brittany: Absolutely.
Bill: Let’s start out by comparing some of the typical kinds of busy work [a] service advisor has and how effective communication between the front and back of the shop can really eliminate or optimize these things where we can recover some of that time and repurpose it for improving the customer experience.
Brittany: You had that key word there: communication.
Bill: Yeah. Communication is key.
Brittany: Yeah. Yeah.
Bill: Because you’ve been doing this a long time and you’ve actually been with AutoVitals a long time, I want to try and dig back down into your memory bank and get you to the time before.
And so, what I’d like to do is think about some of the things that a service advisor – that are repair order specific – that they would have to write down, and then they would have to get it right every time, hope that the technician understood it, and so on.
So, let’s talk about some of the things that are in that particular bucket.
Brittany: Communication, like you just said, helps so much with the flow of the day even.
So, let’s say even when the advisor takes in a customer, and let’s say that the customer has a concern of a noise. The advisor needs to ask very specific questions at the drop-off or on the phone and write all those answers down, and they should know what the technician wants to know too.
And you learn that over time, or you learn that from your team meetings. Hey guys, let’s talk about, if a customer complains about a squeak noise, what kind of information do you want me to get from the customer? We’ve had those discussions at our team meetings.
What kind of information do you want? OK, the technician said, I want the information. I want to know, does it happen warm? Does it happen cold? Does it happen all the time? Was there previous work done to the car? How long has the customer owned the car? Does it happen on a very specific spot on a very specific road and that’s the only spot where it happens? Does the customer park on a hill or whatever?
These are all questions that my technicians have told the advisors that they want the answers to, and they want them at the drop-off. What did that do? That saves so much time. Oh, the customer said it squeaks. How many times has a technician got that out in the shop? Probably a lot of times. Customer says there’s a squeak. OK. Well, I hear this, and I hear that. What do they mean as a squeak?
Getting all that information at the drop-off is going to take care of so much time. You’re going to interrupt your technician less. He’s going to interrupt the advisors less by already having all those answers. All those answers are written down on our work order.
Customer says it squeaks. It squeaks only when cold. Customer parks on a hill. No recent work done to it. They’ve owned the car for eight years, so they know it really well. And then, there you go. And then the technician has most of the information that they need to figure out exactly what’s going on with the customer’s concern. And they don’t need to continuously ask the advisor questions and the advisor doesn’t have to keep calling the customer and asking the questions.
I only like to call our customers once and one time only and then for pickup after that. That’s kind of our rule of thumb.
Bill: Let’s break it down in some of the things –. I know that in the shop environment some of the things that my technicians would flare up on a service advisor about [are] things like, does this car have a wheel lock? If it does, where is it in the car?
Is it a no-start where you should be telling me to take the jump box with me out to the car, rather than I get to the car and now I read the paper repair order and I’ve to go back and get the jump box? Was it a tow-in or is it a car that I shouldn’t even start?
We all know that a technician, when you give them a repair order, the first thing they do is read it from top to bottom before they just go out to the car, right? I don’t think that happens.
Let’s get into some of the things that have created bottlenecks and controversy in the shop, and then let’s talk though some of the visuals that we use today to solve those.
Brittany: We use the special markers for something like that. So, we have a little tow truck special marker for the TVP. The technician knows, alright, it’s a blue star, so the cars never been here before. Blue means new. OK, it’s been towed in. Oh, and it also says it’s not safe. So, all those things are on a special marker. Everybody knows not to drive this car.
You don’t just go, hey, don’t drive that car! It’s on the special marker, right on the TVP for everybody to see that it’s not safe to drive. Or, it’s a no-start, so you need to bring some sort of equipment out there with you. It was towed in and it’s a no-start.
That definitely helps cut down all that time and all that question using those, and there’s so many special markers already made by AutoVitals that you can pre-use.
Bill: We’re going to dig into some of them in a little bit. Have you ever had a technician get an approval to pull a transmission out of a vehicle, not knowing that the part’s not going to be there for three days and kill a rack? Are these things also we could use these markers to solve these problems?
These are some of the things that I know my guys got frustrated with and I’m just trying to see if in the past – I know you don’t have these problems today – but are these things that you’ve overcome?
Brittany: Yes. Of course. There’s been times where we forgot to put an estimate. We forgot to put the RO into the estimate. And everything we’re writing up on our side, the technician starts to do. Oh, sweet. They sold all this work really, really fast. I’m going to start doing it. I’m like, oh my gosh. No. No. No.
Every one of my advisors has a TVP up on one screen and it’s designated for that screen and nothing can go over it. You cannot click on any other tap. Nothing goes over that at all. So, they’re always keeping an eye on that.
We do have a rule here that we talked about as a team, that we learned from what you just said, pulling a tranny out. And, oh, that’s not going to be here for three days. Why did you do that? Well, I didn’t know. Communication. Again. And we have AutoVitals. You don’t even need to go out there to tell them that the transmission is not going to be here for three days. You either use a special marker or type to the technician, hey, customer approved that transmission. However, it’s not going to be here until Friday. So, why don’t you go ahead and put the wheels back on and pull it out and we’ll bring it back in on Friday to get it done once the part actually gets here.
So, there’s so much communication with AutoVitals that we could use that cuts down so much time. I think you have it in the title for this class today: How much is your technician worth per minute? Somewhere around $4 to $5 per minute. How many minutes does it take for them to walk all the way across the shop to go into the office, and then maybe even wait for the advisor that’s talking to a customer, that’s talking on the phone? How many minutes is that that we’re cutting down by just having that clear communication and using the tools like we have, like AutoVitals specifically to cut down on all that time? Just a quick, hey, part’s not going to be here until Friday.
It took less than a minute for the advisor to write that to the technician.
Bill: So, let’s take it a little bit further. We talked about parts a little bit. We talked about other different forms of communication, as far where the wheel lock key is, what do you take out to the car with you and so on? These are all visuals that both the service writer and technician can see at a glance, but there’s also in the past, there’s been times in our shop where a specialized piece of equipment is needed to do a job. Maybe a wheel alignment or a program or a stand tool or whatever.
And in the past, a service writer lines up five cars in a row and everybody’s supposed to working on the same time for a wheel alignment. Is there something we can do using job codes and the special markers to give us some good visuals there also?
Brittany: Yeah. The special markers. I use the tech view on AutoVitals and that has tremendously helped. I know exactly what time, and I can see how far the technician is. They do talk to each other. We do have a TVP screen out in the shop for the guys, too, so they can see those little alignment special markers too and know that another guy has an alignment to do.
So, that does cut down on time. Hey, oh, you’re almost done with that? I have few more hours to do. So, you’re good on the alignment next to get that done. And that’s definitely cut down for efficiency too.
Bill: And so, some other things that I see shops use, and I’m pretty sure you’ve got loaner cars. Do you assign a smart marker so you know who has what loaner car and maybe what ones are still available?
Brittany: Yes, we do. We’re like, who has it? We’re looking and we’re looking. We’re trying to go in our POS system, which is just name, name, name, name, and then over there. But if I just take a glance at the TVP, I have all my special markers for my loaners in different colors, specific colors, and it says what loaner. And that way the technician knows. I also have a special marker that says, hey, like for Thursday.
Again, with advisors trying to be the best that they can and trying to stay really, really busy and take in as much as they can because you want to, under-promise, over-deliver. There’s that saying. Take the car in. Yes, take it in, and then say, I probably won’t have answers til Thursday. And then get them answers on Wednesday because that’s when you’ll actually get them answers. Or maybe, you do have to do Thursday and it is still what you said. Under-promise, over-deliver, I can’t stress that enough as far as being an advisor.
Bill: There’s also another used case that I see quite often. I’m going to ask you if you run into this. There’s different types of customers that come into your shop. We’ve got new customers. We’ve got people that are VIP customers. We’ve got people that are what I call time bandits.
And so, do you use any kind of markers to define visually for anybody a customer type? A new customer might be handled totally different than a long term customer that you’re going to put flowers on their dashboard when they leave.
Brittany: Yep. I have a tile that’s for new customers. I have one for existing customers. And then I have one that says ASAP. I have to go through all my special markers that we have.
Bill: Oh, we’re going to do that in a minute.
Brittany: We do have special markers to make sure that they know. And then, on the tech view we prioritize it and make sure that customer’s really going to be really taken care of. And most people know by looking at the history of the work, because the technicians do like to open up the history tab and see what we’ve done, of course.
Bill: When you and I and Sara got together and had a meeting before this to prepare, we talked about trying to come up with a time in minutes on average per repair order that could be saved across a day, week or month to actually do this. And we came up with a number of visually saving about 10 minutes per repair order.
Is that a number you’re still comfortable with?
Brittany: Yeah. Definitely. Yeah.
Bill: I encourage everybody that’s listening to do the math on their own based on their own shop and their own volume and so on. But to me, if we take $4 per minute, and you’ve got 10 repair orders per day, that’s $400 in gross sale opportunity that’s available to produce. If you’ve got 50 vehicles that come through your shop in a day, it’s even more.
So, I encourage you to do some math for your own shop and maybe chat in and let us know what your number is in your shop and what your opportunity is to recover.
And that’s just using one tool that we’re talking about. We’re just talking about the visuals created to the marker. If a technician and a service advisor, anybody in the shop can walk over to the today’s vehicle page, the technician can see it on their tablet, those are all time savings and that’s where that calculation is of all the things that can go wrong that are prevented from going wrong just by using some visual clues.
And again, it’s simple and some of them can be automated, and we’ll talk about that a little bit later.
We also want to talk about technician interrupts. I’m going to ask you to go back into the past again and talk about things that would interrupt the technician going through the shop. One of the biggest ones that I see interrupting is updates on the vehicle. A customer calls and asks, how is my vehicle? Where are you at? How much more have you got to go? Can you fit me in today? Things like that.
So, talk about way back when and talk about some of the things that you are doing today.
Brittany: Well, one of my dad’s – my boss. His biggest best peeve is a customer calling in –.
Bill: The boss.
Brittany: Yeah. The boss. Is a customer calling in wondering what the status of the car is. He never wants to hear about that phone call or especially see a voicemail of it either.
So, there’s just these procedures that we put in place that there’s so many notes. We have so many notes everywhere. We have notes on our POS system. We have tasks on our TVP, which is so nice. I love that task manager on that TVP. You can really use it to make sure that things do get done, whether that’s you or one of the service advisors.
In the past, it was, I’m using a different type of oil on this car. Where’s the oil filter? What kind of oil filter? Oh boy. That’s another one that we need to just make very, very clear and in the morning get everything prepared and ready so that we’re interrupting the technicians a whole lot less.
Bill: So, those are communications as far as who, what, when, where and why. I need an oil filter and stuff like that. We handle that through the chat system now in different ways. But, how about interrupts that were just to find the progress on the vehicle? How far along are you?
Can you talk a little bit about what you used to do in the past about now how at a glance you can look at the TVP and see where they’re at? You had also mentioned that the red, yellow and green bars are your favorite. I asked you specifically, how long do you allow that red bar to say, not active in your shop?
Brittany: No activity is a big huge no-no. If I see it on there for even .2, I say, what is going on? Either their tablet messed up or something because they need to be clocked into something. We have those TE times, so if he’s cleaning the floor, it should say shop cleaning or something like that.
Before AutoVitals, which was eight years ago, we had the clipboards that that we’d go and dispatch work to, plus I was newer at the time. As an advisor, I was like, hey, how much longer do you have on this? I couldn’t just walk out there and judge by looking at the job that he was doing and knowing how far along he was. I wasn’t able to do that.
But now, with Tech View and seeing the green bar, green across the whole TVP is like, woo, we love to see that. We love to see the most numbers up there both for each technician and what they have to come. And then it starts to get yellow, and then I’m like, OK, let’s wait a little bit longer and if it starts to get further along. We’re going to find out if he’s almost done or not. And once it starts to get to red, we’re going to ask him what the issue was. Did we need to add extra labor? Was there an issue that you ran into? What’s going on?
And I recently hired a production manager, and boy, he is all over that. I ask my service advisors and my production guys, can you even imagine doing work and working on the customer’s cars without the TVP? They’re like, no. There’s no way I could go to another shop that didn’t have AutoVitals and be able to be a great advisor. This is such a special tool for us and a special tool for the customers, like, oh, sweet. That car is going to be done. It’s going to be done on time, or it’s going to be done early. The customer is going to be so happy. Now we’ll have time to clean it or wash it or whatever you have to do, quality control it.
Bill: So, in the past, we’d had do all this stuff manually. We’d have work order racks and we’d arrange them, and we’d hope the technician would grab the right one. And oftentimes, we’d look over there and the fourth one down was pulled out of the rack and gone. We obviously didn’t have the ability for the work order rack to update the amount of hours done or the amount of hours due at the top of it, so we used to use a white board or even a spread sheet sometimes and we’d used to have to manually do that.
What happened is we – and you tell me if you have experienced this – you found yourself having to walk through the shop constantly to ask everybody what’s going on. And that’s an interrupt for the technician that can lead to them missing a step on something, not torqueing a bolt down, whatever.
But every one of [those] interrupts – and talking with you and Sara, we talked about every time a technician is interrupted, [it is] at least being five to seven minutes before they can be refocused on what they’re doing. Does that number still seem appropriate?
Brittany: Yeah. Definitely. You’ve got to let your technician stay in that groove and get in that groove, and then some people might be thinking, oh, maybe AutoVitals can be a disruption because my guys go in and take pictures during the work and then after the work is completed too.
(Phone rings)
I apologize.
Bill: Speaking of interruptions.
Brittany: Speaking of interruptions. They can complete each job. So, they’re going to take their picture after they’re done because that’s all standard. But guess what? That is in their groove now. It’s not a disruption anymore for them to do those things. They’ve made that part of their job and part of what they’re doing.
It comes so naturally to them now, that when they’re doing a timing belt – they’re doing a timing belt and they’re pulling it off, they’re going to grab their tablet, they’re going to go grab some parts, take some pictures, put the tablet back and then go grab their parts.
It’s seriously now part of a timing belt job for them to incorporate the tablet into it. So, it’s not disruption anymore if anybody thinks that it might be.
And then that way, he can be like, alright, I’m 50% done now on the timing belt. He can do that while he just took that picture because that tablet is right there in his hand. And then the advisors get to see that. Sweet. He’s halfway done. Oh, sweet. Look at those pictures. And I can edit it or tell the customer, hey, everything’s going good. Give them an update that things are still going really well.

If you’re not utilizing AutoVitals fully to its potential, I highly suggest you do. There’s so much to it. It does take a while to get into the groove of doing it, and there’s so much to it. You don’t have to be like, ah, I’ve got to do all of it right at once. There’s steps that you take, and I highly suggest doing it as a team, too. We all agreed as team that this is best practice for our shop to do it this way, to take pictures during the job. It has actually saved our butts in the past sometimes. This wasn’t there when —
Bill: Butt-saving is always important, for sure.
We had talked about, between you and Sara, you estimated that your technicians throughout the day, they would average about one interrupt every 20 to 30 minutes. That’s a lot of interrupts, but I’ve been in the shop environment. I know that number’s pretty high. So, it creates a lot of room for problems to occur.
So, on an average day, that really adds up to a lot. So, if you do that in a shop if those are their numbers, we’re talking about two-plus hours every day that could be used for production. And right now, we’re just talking about the technicians. Getting them to where they could spend that time to produce more.
We talk a lot about the four dollars per technician minute, so that’s part and labor sales combined. It should be part of the hourly sales.
And what I’d like to do is go down and talk a little bit about the service advisor, because in the past, they had to run around and ask questions and blah, blah, blah. When they did that, normally it was at the expense of doing something else. So, they deemed it was more important to get these customers’ questions answered, keep things going through the shop. So, what they did is they kind of traded off and they didn’t do certain other things like maybe estimating everything the technician found. Maybe doing some exit scheduling to make sure the customer came back in and they didn’t have to keep trolling for new fish in the consumer pond and things like that.
So, can you talk a little bit about the past and what the visual communication is? I don’t want to get so much into the chat right now as far as the visual clues that you have on the today’s vehicle page to actually save that service writer some time. And again, you and Sara had talked about the average amount of time per repair order. So, if you would walk through that, and then how did you repurpose that time?
Brittany: So, to me, when a service advisor says that they don’t have time for something like that, that wasn’t a priority to them or they’re not utilizing the tools that we’ve given to them properly. We have saved so much time with the way that we operate now. So, so much time, where we actually get intimate time with the customer.
But it was a challenge at first. I had a paper inspection that we used to do and I used to have to try to decipher a bunch of checkmarks and the technician’s handwriting. And I don’t know what the control arm bushing – which one did we have to do? Which one do I have to write an estimate for? There was so much back and forth, back and forth. Oh, I use this type of fluid, not that fluid. There was way too much time wasted or not the right parts being ordered.
This has eliminated at lot of it, even on the inspection part where the technician says, hey, I’m going to need more time because it’s rusty. Or, he’s like, hey, I recommend this PCV valve, and then he checks off located underneath the intake plenum.
So, now we know to get the intake gasket too. We’re not going to just order the PCV valve and not order the intake gasket and then have him do the job and have it torn apart and be like, ugh, we also need that too.
Bill: That brings up a good question. I see a lot of shops [that] always depend on the service writer to know everything about the vehicle. The technician says, it needs spark plugs. They expect the service writer to know that it needs an auto body gasket, it needs a plenum gasket, it needs tube seals and so on.
So, do you use the technicians to participate in that? I noticed you said you have them give you information as far as extra time needed and so on, but do they supply a parts list also?
Brittany: They don’t need to supply a parts list. Say we’re looking at sparks plugs or we’re looking at PCV valve, the technician says, spark plugs due by mileage or spark plugs worn out, or we don’t have a history of it. And then he’s going to slow down just a little bit and say, this requires extra time, or this requires intake plenum removal, it also may require other gaskets.
And then the advisor can look it up while he’s doing the estimating and see what else he needs. Or there’s a really cool thing on WorldPac you do sold with. OK, what other parts are sold with spark plugs? Oh, intake gaskets and a throttle body gasket. Sweet. So, we’ll make sure that those are in the estimate.
And even when you might not need a throttle body gasket for all those cars that you need to take the intake plenum off or the intake for them, you’re still putting in your estimate, and guess what, you get to take it away and then it’s less. So, that’s been a huge help to the advisors as far as just one little check mark. The technician didn’t have to type anything. He didn’t have to write anything. Just bam, bam. Done. And the advisor saw it while he was editing the inspection and doing the write-up.
Bill: Yeah. One of the things we found in our shop all the time is when we got the technician to participate in giving us enough information where we make sure we get all the parts needed the first time, where if there is a question about a labor time, they did it.
We actually took the position and said, look; if you participate in your own destiny, then we can have a discussion before the customer is sold something and then we can’t increase the labor or whatever. Then the deal that we had made with them is, look; if you don’t participate in your own destiny, then you have no right to complain when things go wrong.
So, that really seemed to solve the problem.
Besides the communication through chat and the notes on the inspection sheets and so on, the service writer’s ability to answer questions about how far along the technician is on the job, to do all that stuff with the visual or the communication without ever leaving their perch, so to say, without having to wander through the shop, that’s actually helped the service writer. We talked about on average maybe 15 minutes per repair order that they can repurpose to focus on being a service advisor consultant rather than an order-taker.
Brittany: Absolutely.
Bill: Interesting.
So, let’s talk about the adoption a little bit, and this is going to go back a long time in the wayback machine. But you also recently changed the TVPX, so you’ve had to experience change once again. Change for the better.
Let’s talk about some of the struggles that you had to adopt the first time and then when the change was and, more importantly, how did you overcome them besides just saying, do it?
Brittany: It’s so funny. We all saw the demo of it, and we’re like, that looks really pretty. And we saw what the inspection looked like to the customer, and we’re like, yeah, let’s do it. And then the day came, and these guys are all super [inaudible] – eight years now or seven and half years. And then the day came and there was a few things different.
Can we go back, I heard. I was like, it’s 11 a.m. You have been using this for three hours. Are you kidding me? Come on, guys. So, I’m not saying we’re perfect. We’re not all for change. We are, but there were some struggles at first.
And I was like, guys, what do we need to learn here? We learned a lot during the demo. What do we need help with? Let’s figure it out. We figured it out together. Oh, OK. Oh wow. Look at all those new special markers that are already made. And then we can change the different colors and things like that. And then they started to get excited.
And then they’re like, OK. This is great. This works way better. It looks better on the tablets. It looks better on the TVP. It looks better to the customer. They just all around liked it a whole lot better.
But yeah, everybody has their challenges at first. And we just talked about it together [that] this is the right thing to do. This is the newest system. This industry changes. We have to change with it. We have to adapt and move on.
Bill: So, that’s your most recent change.
Brittany: Yeah.
Bill: And what I’d like to do is take you back to the first implementation, which is kind of, as we like to say, like changing the engine on a jet liner while it’s in flight.
So, maybe you could go through that a little bit.
Brittany: So, we only did the inspections at first. It was definitely a challenge, because we were building the inspection based off of just the basic one that AutoVitals already had made. And it was really basic, and I was like, guys, come on, I need you to take pictures. They weren’t letting the picture focus at first, and then they’re like, this is kind of dumb.
There were definitely battles at first. 100%. There was, I don’t know how to work that, or whatever issues there were. We didn’t have good internet all around the whole shop, so we just had to fix it. But we were willing to adapt as a whole, and then we talked about it all together.
My dad, what his idea was, have everybody inspect their own car. So, they inspected their own car, and then I would edit it. Did we edit it back then? I don’t even think we did. And then we would send it to them and then they could see what the customers were seeing. They’re like, oh, OK. So, we got more bought in that way.
But, oh boy. Yeah. It was a challenge at first. But once you start showing your team the results of why you’re doing what you’re doing and what you’re switching to, that was where it really kind of clicked with them. And then, once they were a part of, oh, can you add sway bar links under the strut line because those get replaced during struts too. Oh, yeah. Sure. I’ll add it to it. That was his idea. Is he going to use that? 100% he’s going to use that.
And then we talked about it as a team and things like that. When you have your team with you to make these changes or to make these procedures put in place –. And remember, this is a non-negotiable. We’re not negotiating whether we’re using AutoVitals or not. It was, what kind of changes are we going to make? And that was the discussion. There was no discussion whether we were going to use it or not.
Bill: So, the most important thing you just said right there is begin with the why. We are doing this to provide our customers with a safe, reliable and comfortable vehicle to drive in. We’re going to do that by doing an inspection. Now that COVID’s hit, we’ve got another one we can add there, to keep the customers out of the shop. We don’t want them to have to come back there and breathe on us while we’re doing a walk-around show and tell with them.
So, you start with the why you’re doing it, what’s in it for not only the shop, but what’s in it for the customer. What’s the customer experience you’re trying to create? That’s probably the most important.
And then the next thing you said that’s really important is, basically, you started getting them to come to you and saying, hey, I really like this here. So, that’s one of the things that I really like is when the staff starts participating and they say, look, on this topic, if there’s a fail, this is the job I expect it to produce, and this is the condition I’m seeing to actually drive that. When they start doing that, then it’s all downhill from there.
So, we went from in the past, eight years ago, you had to change the jet engine while you’re in flight, and now today, when you change the TVPX, all you had to do is train your crew how to fly a different airplane, which is a whole different mindset.
Brittany: Yeah. It was definitely different. It was funny, though. And it was fun and I couldn’t even imagine going back to the other, old TVP now.
I remember one time in the very beginning, our computers went down or something like that, and I had to go hand them paper work orders and what to do, and they looked me like, what is this clipboard and this piece of paper doing in my hand right now?
And that was only a year or two in to [using] AutoVitals. They didn’t even know what to do with a piece of paper.
Bill: That’s funny.
We had our issues when we implemented this in our shop and everybody’s like, we don’t like this. We don’t like this.
About six or eight months in or a year in, I’ve got one of the guys coming up – we had a vehicle hit a pole out in front of the shop and they knocked out the internet and other things. He comes up and he’s got the plastic sleeve we put the repair order back in and he comes up and lays it on my desk says, this is broke.
I said, what do you mean, it’s broke?
He said, I’ve been pushing this all day long and I’ve been talking to it, and it don’t type it in there.
I said, all right. I get it.
As technicians go, when they start torturing you, then they’re really starting to adapt pretty well.
Right now, can you go through some of the common things you do on a daily basis, do you have like a morning meeting where you’re dispatching and organizing things? Walk through your arrangement of that technician view and maybe I can actually share a screen here.
Brittany: So, I’ve always had technician view up. That’s the only one that I’ve ever used, actually. But I like to see the hours yet to be completed, billable hours for that technician. Yes.
And then I have on the far right column, is the no tech column. That’s usually cars that are here that we don’t know who’s going to work on it yet. And I don’t know who’s going to work on it yet because some of them are close to being done.
Why is my guy in red right there right now? I was just looking at that, and I’m not quite sure why.
Bill: Well, I know you’re going to find out.
Brittany: Yes, I am.
Bill: So, what you do in the morning is you arrange it from [the] top down in the order that you want your technicians to work on them, so just like you used to do in the old metal rack. And until something’s dispatched it just remains in the no tech column, so that way you can see everything that’s going on.
Brittany: Yeah. So we know it’s there. We know it’s here too. And we know it’s checked in. We know there’s a car over there that can go to someone else.
So, as soon as someone completes it and has a green checkmark, oh, hey, they need something. Let’s put it in his name because he’s the one that’s available now to do it.
Bill: Yep. You’ve got plenty of them.
So, as a service writer, you can make your decision based on availability, skillset, and also how far they’re going through the week. You can say, I’ve got this job; this person has the skillset to do it. His goal is 11 hours. He’s only got three hours approved. He’s only got 1.5 hours completed for the day. Therefore, maybe I can put this next up for him.
Whereas, this guy here, his goal is eight hours today. He’s got 24 hours approved and he [doesn’t have] anything marked approved for the day so far, but you can see, he’s well into this repair order. You don’t have any availability here.
So, you can start making these decisions without ever having to talk to anybody.
Brittany: Yep. I’ve thought about locking the door, because I asked my service advisors, why are you going out into the shop so much? You’re interrupting the technicians and you’re away from the front counter. We don’t need to go out there. We have this tool to use that we shouldn’t be having to go out there.
We actually talked about it because they know I was coming on today to talk about technician interruptions. They’re like, yeah, we do need to interrupt them less. I’m not saying that our shop is perfect, because it’s not. It does happen. We know it happens and we’re trying to get better. And my service advisors after the talk that I had with them a few months ago, they do go out there a whole lot less. I was like, why do you need to? I was bringing that question up, like, what was needed exactly?
Bill: It’s funny you actually said that, because I’ve got shops right now across the country that they have service advisors that work remotely. And the goal was let them to work from home to eliminate transportation, give them more time with families – a whole litany of reasons.
But the process was is when you are at the shop and you can work in a closet or whatever all day long without ever having to visibly walk out in the shop or verbally communicate with the technician, then you can go home. We’re going to use the metrics to measure and make sure that you’re staying on target as far as sales, gross profit and all these other things, and then you don’t have to come back to the shop to work in person unless your numbers start dropping.
And so, that’s how they’ve actually been training some remote service advisors. So, it’s pretty interesting, and I’ve got some that are using a remote production manager like that. Not to say that everybody can do that, but it’s just kind of one of those things you can do.
Brittany: With AutoVitals, it should be doable. We’ve talked about it as advisors. We’ve said, this is something that we could do from home. But we all like the social part of work and we do have a good time here, and maybe a little bit more productive here too.
Bill: So, unlike the metal rack that the technician used to go by and grab three or four tickets at a time, and you’ve have to go out there and look to see what repair order they’re working on. Are they working them in the right order?
Obviously we can look at the green bar and see that they’re marking tracks on what they’re doing. But this little icon right here that shows that they’ve got the repair order open, can you tell me how you use that in your shop to make sure they’re working on the top one or two repair orders in the order the service writers arranged to satisfy the customer’s needs?
Brittany: Right. Well, as you can see, all the cars are in order there on that screen. And as you can see too, on the top of his list, you can see the RO number that he’s clocked into. OK. That is the one at the very top, the 38357. Yep. He’s in it and he’s been on it for 2.4 hours and he’s got 9.9 hours of work to do.
Bill: Yep. So, the past, like I said, in the metal racks, if the technician had two or three tickets, we’d never know what they’re working on. Here, it’s just as simple as having the repair order open.
And what I’d really like is for a service advisor, when they’re looking at this, this next number here tells them the number of jobs not performed yet versus the total number of jobs. So, 15 jobs haven’t been completed yet out of 17 that were on there, and you can see that only .1 hours are finished out of 9.9.
So, there’s an incredible amount of information that’s here on the screen for the service writer to be able to see at a glance without ever having to leave their perch and go ask anybody.
Brittany: Yep. And it’s so nice that you can just hover over those things and find out what it means and what it is if you forget or [are] training a new advisor. Hey, just hover over it and you’ll find out what those numbers mean.
Bill: And so, when we’re talking about doing everything with visuals, you can see that a lot of them are being used in your shop. But what I’d like to do is hit this plus sign here, and you tell me some of these that you have here and how you’re using them to save time with the visuals.
Brittany: Yeah. So, cars here with green mean it’s been here before. Blue, third one down, blue is new is what we made a long time ago. It actually used to be a blue clipboard. That meant a new customer to the guys with a paperwork order. So, blue is new. Yeah, we know that customer has L1 if it has the purple tile on there. The waiter, I made it nice and bright, and I absolutely 100% use that countdown because I want to know exactly how long that they’ve been here.
Come back, obviously we don’t want to see that on the screen, but we always make sure that goes to our –.
Bill: Waiter. I see you’ve got it set at 120 minutes. So, you’re saying that your average customer, you expect them to be handled to a point where they’re communicated back within 120 minutes or less.
And what happens when that actually expires? Does a bell go off? What happens? What’s the visual clue that a service writer needs to find out what went wrong?
Brittany: It’s at the very top of the list of the TVP, and like I said, they don’t ever close out TVP on any of their screens. So, everybody knows to pay attention to that tile specifically, and we know that we have a waiter there, and they know how long that they’ve been waiting and that they need to be kind of a priority if you had them wait here and how much longer you have.
Like, it’s down to 60 minutes. That means they’ve been here for an hour already and I still don’t have answers for them. Let me at least give them an update and tell them, hey, the technician is done. I’m just editing the inspection, and I’m writing you up prices, and let’s go over it together shortly.
Bill: Cool. So, basically, whatever you set if for initially, it’s going to be there. That’s going to be your default. You can set it to whatever you want. So, if a service writer says, I’m going to have your information in 15 minutes, you can set this. It’s going to count down. It’s going to start flashing when that time actually gets there. It’s not going to take a hammer out of your monitor and roll up and beat you on the head, but it’s going to start flashing, and then it’s going to start counting up.
So, these are all good visuals to understand what’s going on. Here’s one that you have for the loaners that you have. I better uncheck that because it doesn’t have a loaner. Customer needs a ride. I think I [saw] a shuttle over here.
Brittany: Yeah. Then go into vehicle. Yeah. That’s our Leaf.
Bill: All right. What is a Leaf?
Brittany: That’s our Nissan Leaf. Our car. Our electric car.
Bill: OK. I forgot you guys are way up over there.
Brittany: And then I think there’s some special tiles under vehicle too. Maybe.
Bill: We’re going to get there also.
I see your one that says do not start, so they better bring Bubba from the back with them because they’re going to have to push it in. Your wheel lock locations. Your tow-ins, so they know it was dragged in.
No start. I thought I [saw] one here that said do not start, but that may have been somebody else’s store, so that’s letting everybody know. Oh yeah. Do not start, so that way, your junior GS doesn’t go out there and start it up when you only have one opportunity to hear that noise.
And then we’ve got the parts category here: expected in, expected at. Car wash, which I assume in your case is a sublet, unless you’re washing them in-house.
Brittany: Sometimes.
Bill: And then we’ve got a bunch of them in the work order section that, these are what I was talking about earlier, where we said they’re tied to equipment usage. You can have them here, and if you’ve got service packages or jobs in there that are for a wheel alignment or so, you can actually choose them, so any time that job is under repair order, it adds this marker automatically.
So, these are all real nice visuals to have there and be able to use. And then you’ve even got more of them down below here.
Brittany: Yes, these are what show up in the tech view. Someone just asked.
Bill: Yes, tech view and on the technician’s tablet. So, the technician, per repair order, they can see that without any change.
And I don’t want to save changes.
Brittany: What do you guys say is the best practice, Bill, for using AutoVitals in TVP as an advisor? Are you saying tech view or the other view or both, or —?
Bill: I actually use three different views, is what I recommend.
Brittany: OK.
Bill: So, I’m using technician view because I know that my labor inventory, if it’s managed properly, that’s going to make the most people in the shop happy and most money, revenue. And my labor’s my highest gross profit item, and the only thing that I have that expires every time that clock hits the next minute.
And I’m going to make my arrangements for my technician’s day here. Then I’m going to use workflow view. So, to me, workflow view is specifically to put the fires out for the service advisor because they can arrange this however they want based on the work flow, and they can arrange these in the order that they need to work with them without any effect on the technician’s order.
So, if a service writer has a whole bunch of them here they need to write estimates on, and they have one that they better get done before noon or they can’t get parts today, the service writer can arrange these in the order that they get them to knock out, and they can work down this list from here, and then I’ll also do one more that shows incoming appointments.
So, that way I’ve got today’s appointments, last week’s no-shows, and then the prior two days, so that way, my service writer, they’ll always work on the labor inventory first in the technician view, they work on the workflow view to put out fires before they flare up, and then when all the fires are under control and everything else, then they go over to the incoming appointments preset, and they can make sure their days are full for upcoming days.
So, I’ve got three different views that I typically work with.
Brittany: Gotcha.
Bill: Hopefully that answers your question.
Brittany: Yeah. Absolutely.
Bill: And so, to me, a smart marker should be used any time that something could occur over multiple workflow steps. So, a vehicle could be a work in progress and it still could be in waiting for parts, so it doesn’t need to be in parts ordered/on hold, but the technician really needs to know that the parts are ordered and are coming in.
And then there’s one other marker that we didn’t cover that’s one of my favorites, which is the one that says alert technician. And it’s probably down here. And what I really like about this is you can put up to 350 characters in here, and when it goes to the technician’s tablet, it’s going to pop up in a box and interrupt them where they could actually open it and read it or dismiss it, but if the service writer comes in here and changes this the least little bit, then it will update.
So, I have a lot of shops that will use this for, I ordered parts from so-and-so. I talked to Bubba. They’ll be here on a specific day, so that way the technician’s got really good information on it. But a service writer or anybody can go up to the today’s vehicle page, hover over that yellow icon, and be able to have that same information without asking anybody. So, it just saves a lot of time.
So, those markers are really important to use and sieve over time.
We’ve covered a lot of ground. You’ve shared a lot of information. So, I guess the question that I have for you because we’re running up [to the top of the hour] – we’ve got about nine minutes left – what I’d like to do is have you tell me the top three things that you would like to encourage somebody to use visually. And then maybe even, if you actually learned anything today, share with them what you learned.
Brittany: Visually, 100% use these special markers. And talk about it with your team. And even maybe make them with your team. I mean, look at them. Some of my guys made the little skull thing for a no start or whatever, like a little devil thing or whatever. We had fun with it when we did it. Make these changes with your team and then get everybody on board, like, oh yeah, and show them that it makes sense, because everybody wants to see results of the changes that they’re making. Everybody wants to see the results. So, show them that and that it works.
I would say that’s one of the biggest things and then really utilize AutoVitals to its fullest potential. And I’m not saying doing it all at once. Learn something. Get it down good. Get it down good as a team and have everybody bought in, and then move on to the next thing that you want them to start implementing.
Sometimes when you kind of overload them with so many changes, things get missed. So, let’s perfect things one at a time. We have this specialty awesome tool that you have. Use it. It’s so helpful. We’re in this fast, fast growing industry. We’ve got self-driving cars nowadays. We also need to stay up with [the] times and be the best that we can and utilize the tools that we have specifically too. Yeah.
Bill: So, if we had to break this down, the most important thing is when you start out with your team is the why. Make sure they understand most importantly what’s in it for your – and I’m not going to call them customers anymore. I always like to define the difference between a customer and a client. A customer is somebody that will come in, negotiate with you, use your time or whatever, and then it’s the service writer’s job to turn them into a client, which is somebody that comes to you, asks you to consult with them about their needs for their vehicle and go on.
So, the service writer’s job is to use the tools that turns customers into clients. And then the why is also not only what’s in it for the customer, but what’s in it for the shop. Reduce interruptions to the technician. Maybe they don’t miss torqueing a wheel back on or whatever. Give the service writer more time to focus on the customer, maybe more time to source better quality parts, whatever it might be.
And the last thing is to get them to work with you, the whole entire staff together, to start working on the how. We’re going to define this marker. This is when we’re going to use it. This is what it’s going to look like. This is what we expect it to accomplish for us and so on.
So, the why, the what’s in it for everybody, and then start working on the how.
And I think really when it comes to training, if everybody understands the why we’re doing it first and then the what’s in it for them, and then they’re asked to participate, it’s a lot more effective than Brittany going out there and saying, do this or die. Although they could be afraid of you. I don’t know. I think you’ve got some warm and fuzzy, but you can probably can be direct when you have to.
Brittany: That’s true. That’s very, very true. But yeah. Just like you said, having them be a part of these changes, you’re not negotiating with them whether you’re doing it or not. You’re negotiating whether you want to have a star or a square. Or you want it pink or red. Those are the negotiables that you’re talking about with the type of markers specifically.
Bill: So, according to Brittany, long term success is not negotiable. It’s mandatory.
Brittany: Yes.
Bill: Awesome.
Brittany: Take that negotiation to something else. Make them think that they’re negotiating. Oh yeah. Colors? Hmm. Let me think about it. Blue? No, let’s do red. That’s what they’re negotiating.
Bill: Well, I’d really like to thank you for coming in here and sharing with us today. I hope everybody will join with me in wishing Sarah well and hoping her voice returns because she’s got a lot to say, and I’d really like to hear from her, and sign language isn’t good.
Our chief innovation officer is out innovating today somewhere. I’m sure he’ll be back to keep me in line next week. After all, he did leave me unattended, so this is the result we get.
I’d like to encourage people to go to the Digital Shop Talk Radio and register and attend live. It’s always really good when people can ask questions live, although we didn’t have a lot of questions asked live today, that’s OK. That means Brittany did a great job sharing information.
And I’d also like to encourage you to go out there and find somebody else that’s a shop owner or a manager or something out in the marketplace and invite them to join. Send them a link to a recording or ask them to join live or whatever.
Take that time to go seek somebody out and help them get on board and start improving the industry. If we’ve got to do it one person at a time, that’s OK. But over the last year – I started out working with AutoVitals in 2013. We’ve had really strong growth and now it’s getting to the point where everybody realizes that this is where the industry’s going, so now we’ve got this exponential growth going on. The sooner you help prop up everybody else in your neighborhood, the sooner we can get rid a lot of the low price leaders.
Let’s use the technology to wow our customers, turn customers into clients, because there’s a lot difference between the two. I’m sure we can talk about that at length.
I’d like to wish everybody a great day, and go out there and wow your customers and turn them into clients.
You have anything else that you’d like to add, Brittany?
Brittany: No. Thank you for having me, though. Appreciate it.
Bill: Awesome. Once again, I’d like to thank you, and have a great day, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of you in the future if you’re willing.
Brittany: Absolutely.
Bill: Say hi to Rod for me.
Brittany: OK. I will.
Bill: I think he’s out viewing some faces carved into a mountain.
Brittany: Yes. He is at Mount Rushmore right now.
Bill: Awesome. All right. Be safe. Thank you.

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