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Being a digital shop allows them to recruit young technology-oriented technicians and keep the promise of the highest transparency to their customers. Join Bruce Nation an ATI Mastermind Member and owner of Westlake Independent, to discuss best practices with Bill and Uwe.

Episode Transcript

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

Bill Connor (00:00:06):
Good morning, good afternoon. I’m Bill Connor and you’ve reached the Digital Shop Talk Radio where we meet on Wednesday afternoons to discuss things that are going on in the industry today. I’m here with Bruce Nation, owner of Westlake Independent Automotive. Welcome Bruce. Or I should say welcome back. You’ve visited us before, so we certainly appreciate it. And we also have Uwe AutoVitals, very own Chief Innovation Officer, ready to go ahead and share with us today. So today we’re going to be discussing with the introduction to digital shop methods that are now available to recruit both technicians embracing new technology and new customers, valuing a high level of transparency. So these are our two topics for today, and we’re going to cover the methods that are used to recruit customers and additional staff and what plans to continue leveraging the digital shop on this very important topic for your business. You’ll take away solid information to put the digital shop to work for your shop, and as always, you’ll learn from our great panelist operating shop just like yours. So Uwe, if you’d like to go ahead and get us started off and fire the first shot, if you wouldn’t mind, I’d certainly appreciate it.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:01:12):
Thank you. Yeah, we went into this right away in our prep meeting yesterday, and so I want to really have everybody join. Everybody talks about tech shortage and it has been going on for a while now, but we also hear the feedback from the market that recruiting techs who have a certain affinity for technology makes it really easier to recruit because it’s exciting to use the tablet and other information technology they’re used to as young people embrace this and it dominates their day. So Bruce, from that perspective, is it just enough to look for young techs and how they play with their tablets and bingo, we have a new hire.
Bruce Nation (00:02:24):
Well, I wish it were that easy, but it’s really not. First you have to find somebody who’s interested. If this person’s not interested, if we’re talking about the best hires really right now, trying to pull somebody from another shop, it doesn’t help the industry really. It just helps you, which is okay. I mean, that’s fine. That’s what we do. We compete, but at the same time, we need to bring in new blood and in order to bring in that new blood, we need to be able to show ’em that this is an industry that we’re not grease monkeys. We’re not just fixing cars, we’re providing a service that’s going to be well-respected, and this is part of how it becomes. And it also gives ’em the opportunity for all the things that you talked about as far as, yeah, they get to play with a tablet of course, and it really sparks interest.
It really shows ’em that they do know something already about what they’re doing because let’s face it, anybody, any 18 or 19 or 20-year-old coming out of high school or junior college right now knows how to use a tablet, they probably know more about it than we do, and we need those people. And at any rate, I think mostly the industry needs it. We need this to demonstrate to the public that we are not grease monkeys, that we are a good industry, a good profession worthy of people’s children’s interests. I think that a, people get, a lot of young people get pushback from family, especially parents, that this isn’t really something that they should aspire to. And I think that by having our digital inspections go out to the public by seeing how we handle the public and seeing how we truly, I think it raises the whole industry, raises the whole industry in a manner that makes us, well, more like computer technicians, more in the eyes of the general public, a more respectable industry.
Bill Connor (00:05:02):
Does your branding and your position in the market really go ahead and have an effect on your recruitment even before you place an ad because of the way you go to market?
Bruce Nation (00:05:13):
Well, of course it does. If you put an ad in for somebody, let’s put an ad in for a technician, and lo and behold, you’ve got a technician somewhere that’s gotten upset with his boss. Now he’s looking at a newspaper or not a newspaper. Oh my god, aging myself. He’s on the internet, he’s on Indeed, and he’s found your ad and he’s trying to figure out what he should do and what’s the first thing they do is they go to your website, they look around, see what’s this place about? The first thing they see is they look at your reviews. I can’t remember interviewing anyone in the last five years that has not looked at my reviews before coming in for an interview.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:06:01):
Bruce Nation (00:06:03):
And so when you generate the reviews, the great reviews that you get with a good digital inspection and a good shop process, it’s fantastic. And people mention it when they read the reviews, they talk about the digital process or they don’t talk about it like that. They talk about transparency, they talk about honesty, they talk about trustworthiness, they talk about all these things that come with the digital inspection and not just any digital inspection has to be a good one. I mean, I’ve seen digital inspections that really don’t bring that I’ve seen them, but you need a process and you need a good AutoVitals if you follow the recommended processes from AutoVitals, you get that, no question.
Bill Connor (00:06:53):
Just like you’re stocking new employees, what they’re going to do is they’re going to check your website, they’re going to check your reviews, they’re going to probably check your Facebook page. They might stalk an employee here too to see how they talk about your shop. And all those things all play together. So,
Bruce Nation (00:07:10):
And if you find somebody that did all of that, you need to hire ’em right now.
Bill Connor (00:07:15):
Yeah, yeah. We might want to talk about in the past we used to say slow to hire, quick to fire. I think that we need to flip that script.
Bruce Nation (00:07:24):
Yeah, yeah, that’s possible. Anyway, that’s, go ahead.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:07:31):
Yeah, I want to pick up several things You said, how do I say this? There are a lot of independent spirits in this industry. So the doing it my way, and I don’t mean that in a negative sense, just there’s a high degree of independence and that seems to collide with a process. So if you hire somebody who has been in the industry, service advisor or tech, and they did it their way, and then you lay out the process, here’s how we do that in our shop tablet or not, that’s a red flag for them potentially. Am I correct?
Bruce Nation (00:08:19):
Well, you are correct, but you need to counter that with culture, the culture within your shop and the culture that they see. In other words, when a prospect comes into your shop, I see it’s a service advisor. They come in and they’re going to sit in your office for a little while and they’re going to watch things that happen. Matter of fact, if somebody came in, I would not walk in directly into my office, into my front office and say, okay, we’re ready right now. I would let ’em stew for 15, 20 minutes, ’em watch things, let ’em see what we’re doing, let ’em see how we do it, give a minute, give us a little bit of time there to impress ’em. Then in the interview, if you get to that point, you’re going to show ’em what your processes are, how those processes work with the digital inspection, with shop flow, with how all of it works, and you’re looking for their reaction.
Some people don’t want to do it, they just don’t want to do it, and they know they don’t want to do it. And you can see it, you can see it, you can hear it. Even though they may say they want to do it, they really don’t. And that person is probably not somebody you want to hire because you’re not going to be able to change them. They’re going to be resistant the whole way through. You’re looking for somebody who’s been working in their processes but sees your process and sees an opportunity to do it better than they’ve been doing it in the past. And you’re looking for somebody who’s going to bring processes also. So doing it their way may not be a bad thing if their way is better than yours. So we have to be open-minded that way also. But it’s really about culture. It’s about the culture you have in your shop and how you can introduce that culture to the person. And how do you determine whether that person fits that culture during the interview
Bill Connor (00:10:18):
You find in the past, a lot of technicians, they come in, they’d be talking about how many hours they build and they want to make sure they have enough hours to go and replace what they’re losing do you find going ahead. And they don’t really, they’re not used to somebody explaining to them how you’re going to help them get there, how you go ahead and they’ll set a daily goal, how many hours they want. You make sure the service writer’s got enough hours available and it’s up to them to produce ’em. So I know that interviewing a lot of technicians over the years, they weren’t used to hearing that it was all about what they were going to do for the shop versus what the shop was going to do for them. Does that kind of make sense?
Bruce Nation (00:10:58):
Yes. That’s definitely a different angle that we’re proposing. They’re looking at things differently from the moment they start to interview. And you’re exactly right. When you’re interviewing a technician, a lot of times that’s all they want to do is tell you what they know. This is what I know, this is what I can do. This is how many hours I can produce. And there’s so much more to it than that. And trying to get that out of ’em in an interview can be challenging, but we do it. We figure out how to do it. We figure out each individual what needs the questions you need to ask, and we do need to turn the conversation to how do you fit our shop? How do you fit in this shop? How do you fit this culture? The last two hires that I’ve made, I believe the turning point for them was whenever I said, I believe that everybody that works here is nice. I just told him that flat out in the interview. I believe everybody that works here is nice because I got from that person that he wasn’t happy with the people he was working with.
So we walk him through the shop, you wave to, everybody smiles and says hi, and they get that from everybody right from the beginning and you tell ’em, Hey, nobody here locks their toolbox. I just had a guy on go on vacation for 10 days, didn’t even close the front of his box, just walked out, went on
Bill Connor (00:12:23):
Vacation. And that’s a definite culture statement there. When somebody can walk in and you walk around, they see a nice clean facility, everybody’s smiling and happy, the old grumpy guy isn’t back in the corner, stick their nose up and turn around and walk off and things like that. And also they can see that the current staff that you have has no fear for their job because you’re adding another person.
Bruce Nation (00:12:47):
No, they’re happy to have ’em, happy to have ’em because that they know we need them and they’re happy to have ’em because they know I’m going to take care of ’em no matter what happens.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:13:03):
So how does transparency play a role in the interview or later? Because I will never forget it now, years ago, how one tech rode into the AutoVitals website and said, you allow my boss to monitor me, I quit.
Bruce Nation (00:13:27):
Well, he probably waited too long.
Okay, so when I went into AutoVitals, I knew going in, this was in 2016, I knew going in that there were going to be people that weren’t going to make it. I was going to, of course I didn’t know this for sure, but I suspected strongly that these were the people that weren’t going to make it. And I looked at those people and I looked at other things about those people, not just their ability to get along with AutoVitals, but what else were they doing? How else were they bucking my processes already? What other processes had I tried to implement that I couldn’t because they were bucking the system. And I made the decision that, you know what, if these people can’t conform, then they shouldn’t have been here in the first place. It’s not just about AutoVitals, it’s not just about the DVI, it’s about their being able to conform to your culture even before that. So they probably shouldn’t be there anyway.
Bill Connor (00:14:39):
Do you define when it comes to culture, it’s your job to go ahead and define that culture, and if you don’t as a shop owner, doesn’t your staff define it for you?
Bruce Nation (00:14:49):
Yes. And the person in your staff that defines it is usually not the person you would want to. It’s the person with the strongest personality.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:15:02):
So back to my initial transparency question. Is there a portion of the interview where you show them what KPIs are used and how they’re being determined? Do you use the BCP or whatever else that you are to make sure they know crystal clear? It’s not just performed hours in case of attack, it’s inspections done, it’s completeness, quality, whatever your main KPIs are.
Bruce Nation (00:15:48):
Well, I share my main KPIs with them, but I don’t go into the BCP. It’s too much. That would be too much for an interview. You’re looking for somebody that wants to know that you’re looking for somebody that wants to see that. We do have that knowledge and they do have the capability to see it, but you don’t want to, if you try, it would take overwhelm
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:16:10):
Bruce Nation (00:16:10):
It would overwhelm ’em. It would be, first of all, to do it correctly. You’d be in that interview all day.
Bill Connor (00:16:19):
What are the things you introduced to ’em? You introduced to them that you’ll be doing everything on the tablet, your work orders there, you’ll do your inspections there. You communicate with the service writer. They’re going to be using the today’s vehicle page to make sure you get the hours. What are the things you do introduce to him?
Bruce Nation (00:16:33):
Well, I introduce the TVP and how that’s used and the different markers I introduce. How we move it from to the different stages of the repair process through the TVP. What really impresses most of them is the fact that we don’t pass paper to the technician ever. They never get a repair order to look at. It’s all done on the tablet and how well the technicians adapted to that. That was the easiest adaptation I think I’ve ever done in my shop. Here’s a tablet, your repair orders are going to populate here. That was it. I mean, it was done in a minute. It’s fantastic. And the prospect that’s in my office looking at that, most of ’em haven’t seen it. Most of ’em have not seen it. And I have a theory about that. Also. I believe that the people who are
Bill Connor (00:17:39):
Doing this kind of scary when you’re not an early adopter, if they still haven’t seen it in you’re 6, 7, 8 years into this, that’s kind of scary what the condition the rest of the industry is in.
Bruce Nation (00:17:49):
Well, this is true. I can tell you that the best people are new people. The best people for this are people that are new to the industry. They’re people that you hire into a position that’s not even a service advisor or not a technician. For example, porters have made my best technicians, my two most productive vtechs right now I hired is Porters
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:18:15):
Bruce Nation (00:18:17):
And those are your best because they come up in your culture, they see exactly how you want it done. They don’t know anything else. I’ll also say that if you in the industry, you’re going to have more people apply for jobs as service advisors, especially that have not been using DVI. Because once a customer goes to AutoVitals, once a client comes into AutoVitals, they implement it into their shop. If it’s a person that can’t make it and quits or won’t make it and quits, they’re not looking for your shop because you do the same thing. So they’re not going to interview with you. And the people that didn’t quit are into that culture. They’re happier now. They’re more engaged in the shop that they’re at, and they’re less likely to be looking for a job. It also shows that the shop owner is more engaged. You can’t do this as a shop owner unless you’re engaged in what you’re doing. You can’t just walk into your shop one day and tell the manager, Hey, here’s AutoVitals. Go for it. Lemme know how it goes. You can’t do that. It takes a clear intention.
Bill Connor (00:19:34):
One of the statements you made there was really interesting, and that is employee retention. So after they get it and after they get used to it, they’re not looking to go anywhere else because their life has been a lot easier.
Bruce Nation (00:19:46):
Well, I don’t know about easier. I won’t say it’s been easier. I’ll say that it’s been more deliberate, it’s been more engaging, and I don’t think good employees, it’s definitely good. Employees are not looking for easy. They’re looking for something that gets results. I mean, how many things have we done in our lives that were hard that did not get results? Does that make sense?
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:20:15):
Yeah, no, I mean it’s so interesting. What you say reminds me of the early days of introduction of the DVI. Here’s a tablet, that’s what you use now, don’t break it. It’s expensive. That was the introduction to,
Bruce Nation (00:20:34):
I think I heard that actually
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:20:36):
To DVI and what it really is, if you want to take advantage of it, is allowing a transparent culture and a consistent process.
Bruce Nation (00:20:51):
Yes. Now that turning that the other way on retention, if your employees are engaged in automobile, they’re engaged in what we do, they see exactly what’s going on. They see their numbers, they see the numbers at the shop. You talk about it. We have meetings and everything else about it. If you do all these things and then your employee for some reason gets recruited, and I’ll tell you right now, recruiting has gone crazy. I have employees that are getting phone calls on their cell phones from recruiters while they’re at work right now. So if you’re not doing that, if you’re not doing all these things to keep your employees engaged in the culture that you’ve decided to have in your shop that they all like, they’re out there, they’re going to go interview somewhere else, you should count on that. And if they go interview somewhere else, that shot better not be better than yours or you’re going to lose. So really,
Bill Connor (00:22:02):
They may not be moving for more money
Bruce Nation (00:22:03):
Either. More money. No, they’re not moving for more money. They may think they are at first, but then when they get there and they see the difference, and I’ll say this, I’m fully staffed by the way. Well, I could use a service advisor, but technicians, I’m fully staffed. So
Bill Connor (00:22:22):
You find bringing a new technician in, it’s easier to go and introduce them to the wow of having everything on the repair order on the tablet. And so even before you start getting into the inspection on the tablet, they’re just happy with that part before you even get into the rest of
Bruce Nation (00:22:38):
It. Well, it’s not just the repair order on the tablet, it’s the repair order, the history, mostly repair, ordering history. So if they see a transmission fluid that looks like it’s starting to get to where it’s going to need to be serviced or flushed, first thing he want us to do, well, let’s look at the history. Have we done this before? When was this done before? How long has it been? Okay. That’s what we do. We look at the fluid. Same with brake fluid. Same with everything. Brakes, car needs brakes. When did we do brakes? Last technician gets to look at that. Okay, are these brakes wearing out too fast? Does the tire wear and the brake wear a match? I mean, are the tires wearing out fast and the brakes are wearing out fast? Or is it just the brakes? Is it just one that’s wearing out fast? Maybe this car needs calipers. I mean, there’s lots of things going on there. A lot of information that they get from looking at the history of a car.
Bill Connor (00:23:34):
Is there any pushback to ’em when they find out that they don’t have to carry around a paper repair order or stand and wait for the service rider to go ahead and get free to go ahead and communicate with ’em and things like that? Or do they go ahead and immediately understand that it’s going to be easier than having to go ahead and walk back and forth and
Bruce Nation (00:23:50):
Oh no, they know it’s easier. Of course, we also use walkie-talkies because I think communication’s important. Not just digital communication, but actually talking to each other and we walk out, the service advisors do walk out into the shop to see what’s going on. Where are you at on this car? Just to get their eyes on it to see what’s happening. It’s good for the service advisor to do that. It’s good for the technician to see it, to see that there’s eyes on ’em, not just the cameras, which we do have. I have cameras on. The techs I have, we do have digital communication. They text back and forth and all that.
One problem I do have is if a tech’s going to come to the office. In other words, they have to come to the office. They need to have a face-to-face conversation about a part or something. A car needs a question they have or something like that. And it happens. I have a rule in the shop that if you come to the office, you’ve got to bring your tablet with you because I want to see what you’re talking about. And I don’t get pushback on it, but they continuously forget. They all see why they’re supposed to do it, but they still forget.
Bill Connor (00:25:07):
They have a verbal communication. Do they still go ahead and enter it into tablet so they’ve got a date and timestamp and an audit trail?
Bruce Nation (00:25:14):
Bill Connor (00:25:15):
That seems to be a commonly adopted practice.
Bruce Nation (00:25:18):
Everything’s got to go in there. If you’re telling me, for example, I got a guy that said I had a telescoping wheel on an LX four 70 yesterday. Looked like somebody had, somebody had used JB Well to fix something, technician takes a picture of it and tells me about it. Didn’t put it into the DVI didn’t type it in. And then later on I’m looking at it and I said, well, what’s this? And he said, oh, well, I told you about it. No, that doesn’t fly because a week from now, I’m not going to remember that. He told me I fell a week from now, an hour from now. I’m not going to remember that. He told me that the customer’s not going to remember that somebody had tried to fix this thing with JV Weld and how could it be the customer’s complaining when I dropped it off, it worked. When I picked it up, it didn’t. Well,
Bill Connor (00:26:13):
So you followed the philosophy in your shop that if it’s not documented, didn’t happen.
Bruce Nation (00:26:17):
That’s right. And is not just a philosophy, that’s fact actually.
Bill Connor (00:26:26):
Do you go ahead and determine whether somebody fits in your shop culture by yourself or do you go ahead and get some feedback from the other members of the staff as they walking through and
Bruce Nation (00:26:37):
Well, I get feedback from myself and the management, the technicians, I don’t get from them. However, I do walk ’em through the shop and they say hi to everybody and I get, if you want to call that feedback, you get feedback that way.
Bill Connor (00:26:53):
They might tell you if they’ve seen ’em at other training classes they’ve been to or things like that.
Bruce Nation (00:26:57):
Yes, I’ve had that happen. Yes, that guy worked at a shop that I worked at 10 years ago, and then I’ll say, okay, what did you think of him then? Well, he was course 10 years. If you’re looking at a 30 5-year-old guy, he’s a different guy at 35 and he was a 25. But you still want to hear it. You still want to know.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:27:25):
Do you let them participate in a shop meeting as part of the interview process?
Bruce Nation (00:27:30):
I never have.
Bill Connor (00:27:34):
One of the things that seems to be growing these days is using your staff to go ahead and help bring in other people just like them. So do you have anything in place to go ahead and get your existing staff to go ahead and hunt down other people they know in the industry that they think would be a good fit?
Bruce Nation (00:27:54):
Yes. Now my atec for example, he knows a lot of people and if I get to a point he’s offered to me that if I get to a point that I need somebody to let him know and he’ll put the, he stays in touch with a lot of people and that he could probably have somebody. Now, I haven’t interviewed any of those people. I probably should, but I’ve already gotten my, what I call my bench. I’ve got a guy working right now as a porter that I’m going to put most likely. I actually have a class on Monday. I have a two hour class with a TI on Monday about a mentoring program that they have. And I’m probably going to move him into that mentoring program with the aec. That’s a pretty good class. It sounds good. Anyway, they’re going to train both the mentor and the trainee. They get ’em into mechanical classes, technical classes and mentoring classes. It’s a pretty good system. I think.
Bill Connor (00:28:57):
Growing your own, within your own shop culture seems to be your preferred method?
Bruce Nation (00:29:04):
Yes, a hundred percent. I haven’t had really good luck hiring people outside that. Oh, interesting. I have had some good luck with it. But the best have been people that come up within
Bill Connor (00:29:18):
Part of your policy to talk to about a digital shop career path, all the way from being a porter all the way to where they can go in the long run depending on where they want to get off. Your merry-go-round.
Bruce Nation (00:29:30):
Right. So I have six technicians right now. I have two strong bts, one B that would fill in as an A tech if the Atec is not there. And so really you could call it three Bs a C and a general service, and only two of those learned their craft in other shops. Of all those people, only two came from other shops. And it’s funny, the one guy’s been there a year and a half of the atex now has been there a year and a half, and he seems like he’s new. He just seems like the new guy still the rest of them. I got one that’s been there, I hired him in 1989. He was 18 years. 18 years old.
Bill Connor (00:30:29):
So growing trees takes a long time. What’s your advice for somebody that they lost somebody, they moved out of the state or whatever, and they need to go ahead and find somebody and bring ’em into their fold pretty quickly?
Bruce Nation (00:30:43):
That’s a tough one. My advice to them is get started. Get started on training. You need to have that. You need to have that for, so let’s say that you lose somebody. You don’t have anybody lined up. You don’t know anybody. You got to find somebody now. Well now it’s difficult. You’ve got to have your interviewing process set. You really need to know about that. You need to know what it is. You need to have it in front of you all the time. Study it and live it. What’s your process going to be? Then you need to get somebody to apply. And that’s not easy. There’s recruiting companies, a lot of ’em now that there never used to be. And let’s say that they bring somebody in and they get through your interview and you get ’em in there working and all that works out well.
If you’ve got, let’s say you’ve got four techs working for you, so this is one, and you’ve been really lucky and you’ve used a lot of skill and you’re pretty proud of yourself and you’ve got yourself a tech working, it’s probably going to be a year before he is fully acclimated. That would be, I think that’s right. A year. And then it’s going to happen again. Somebody else, especially in California, I listen to the conversations with guys at my shop. I got people that don’t want to vaccinate their kids. I got people that can sell their house and move to Texas or who knows, wherever else they want to move and pay cash for a house. I mean, they want out. The only thing keeping ’em here is their job, their family. The money’s telling ’em to go. So you got to have somebody lined up. You got to have somebody there. And if you don’t start training and start developing within your company now, you’re never going to have it. It takes patience and it takes a
Bill Connor (00:32:49):
Long time. Work time. Be looking for an employee is when you actually need one. You better have your ducks in a row way before that.
Bruce Nation (00:32:54):
That’s exactly right. You call the bench, right? You’ve got in baseball, you got a bench, you should have a bench. My AEC went on vacation for 10 days. I took a general service guy, put him on his two bays while I was on his two racks while he was gone. And I was able to produce quite a bit of work and through shop processes, we were able to do most of the diagnosis that needed to be done and survive without an atec for 10 days without really any problem at all, had actually a pretty damn good week. So
Bill Connor (00:33:38):
If you lose a technician that’s actually been following the process and they’ve got it down and refer them to another AutoVitals shop, another part of the country, that’s great. But the good thing is you already know that the replacement, you can say, this is the hours they were doing. This is the amount of vehicles they touch per day. This is the hours per repair order. So you already know the replacement model you’re trying to fit somebody into.
Bruce Nation (00:34:03):
That’s right. That’s exactly right. The problem comes in trying to, when you hire somebody new, they really, you may have shown ’em your process, but they don’t know it. They haven’t lived it, they haven’t made the mistakes. They’re going to test their boundaries. Of course, they’re going to see what does he really mean? Do I really have to consider all these details and touch all these buttons? And the answer is, yes, you do, but you got to go through all that. And it’s hard. I don’t care how good the hire is. New hires are difficult for probably a year.
Bill Connor (00:34:44):
You have a different recruiting process you’re using in the digital world for a technician than a service advisor.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:34:54):
Before we go there, can I just repeat what I heard? So you’ll binge basically starts with a porter?
Bruce Nation (00:35:03):
Yes. It not only starts with a porter, but it has in the past started with porters. It starts with who your technicians know. It starts with your contact list. It starts with your relationship with the instructors at the junior college. It starts with all of this. I mean, there’s your bench, okay, that’s really your bench. But the one that’s right in front of you is your porter. You know the guy. He knows how things work, work. All you really need to do is teach ’em how to fix a car.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:35:42):
Bill Connor (00:35:43):
With ambition is a good thing,
Bruce Nation (00:35:44):
Right? I have one right now and it’s just fantastic. I’m excited. I’m excited about it.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:35:51):
So did you notice you mentioned instructor or junior colleges? I was briefly involved with the one in Ventura and it turned out that most of those students are snatched up by OEMs because they fund the training.
Bruce Nation (00:36:11):
Yes, they do. In Ventura College. They do. They really do. But Oxnard is less and Pierce is less. However, the quality of their programs is also less. I’ll say it right here, I don’t know if anybody knows it, but I’ve hired a couple of guys from Pierce Pierce College that had degrees and they’ve been dismal. But the best you can say is you’ve got someone who’s interested. Those facilities fail. These people, they put their time, effort, energy into it and they were failed. So
Bill Connor (00:36:51):
You would rather intercept them before they spend the money to go into these trade schools and bring ’em up through your own mentorship program?
Bruce Nation (00:36:58):
Yeah. Well, these schools I talked about are not expensive. They’re almost free. It’s really the person’s time. They didn’t work. They’ve got daytime classes, they don’t have night classes. They have to basically put life on hold while they go through these programs. Pierce College is a two year program and you come out with an associate’s degree in automotive technology, but you have no clue how to work on a car. And it’s just that facility. It’s the staff at that facility that’s antiquated and it needs to be updated. And I think Ventura has stayed updated because of the OE money, right? Because of the manufacturer’s money that’s in that system. And they look at that system, they’re held accountable for that money, I think.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:38:02):
Oh yeah.
Bruce Nation (00:38:04):
Yeah. I took a class a few years ago, a smog update class at the Ventura facility. It’s fantastic. Really nice. Really good.
Bill Connor (00:38:14):
So if I was to ask you the top three things your technician would say about a digital shop that they would want other technicians to know, what are the top three benefits for a technician?
Bruce Nation (00:38:26):
Best benefits for a technician? Well, I don’t know if you could tell ’em this or not, but people like structure. People do. They’ve been, especially young people, they’ve been taught from kindergarten that you’re going to do this, you’re going to get this promotion, it’s going to happen at this time, and this is the structure. This is what time you’re going to come in. This is how you’re going to, they know exactly what to do all the time. They don’t have to think about or guess, is this going to make somebody happy or not? It’s a strong process and it makes ’em happy. Now as far as getting ’em in there and showing them, I think a lot of technicians, whenever they inspect a car, let’s say they’re doing a paper inspection, they’re just writing notes and they’ve got a little checklist, they’re going to go down.
They all tend to feel like the service advisor is not selling what they’re recommending. And there’s no way to track it. None whatsoever. So unless you’re recording and listening to every phone call, and if I was going to do that, I might as well make the phone call myself. So this way, there’s no way out. There’s no way out. That service advisor has to see and has to mention it’s in the DVI. If they take it out of the DVI, it shows up like a sore thumb. There’s just nowhere to hide. They have to sell it or they have
Bill Connor (00:40:06):
To talk about the transparency in the shop. Same with the between technician and service writer, the same as is between service writer and customer.
Bruce Nation (00:40:13):
That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. And it changes their relationship. It changes the relationship between the technician and the service advisor. You don’t have anybody complaining about that service advisor doesn’t sell my work. None of that. None happens.
Bill Connor (00:40:32):
So that leads to that positive culture that you’re talking about that’s so important.
Bruce Nation (00:40:36):
That’s exactly right.
Bill Connor (00:40:40):
And how about on the service advisor side?
Bruce Nation (00:40:44):
Service advisor side, every inspection, every car is inspected the same. I mean, it’s the same. They get the same things checked. It doesn’t matter which technician it goes to. Maybe one technician does it faster than another. But whenever we get an inspection in our computer in the office and we’re looking at that inspection and we’re editing and we’re putting the circles and arrows on and adding our notes and all these things that sell the job, we’ve got a pretty much uniform inspection from everybody. You don’t have favorites, right?
Bill Connor (00:41:25):
So there’s a real
Bruce Nation (00:41:26):
Comfortable service
Bill Connor (00:41:28):
Bruce Nation (00:41:28):
I’ve seen dealerships where they put everybody into teams where a service advisor will have three technicians that are four technicians on a team. And this team only deals with one service advisor. And imagine that what that leads to is that service advisor wants somebody else on his team. I want that guy off my team. I want this other guy on my team. Or same thing with the lead tech. It’s all kinds of problems arise from that kind of thing. The whole shop is a team. Everybody’s uniform, every job, every inspection is the same. So
Bill Connor (00:42:12):
The service writers are really comfortable in their job because the technician says something’s bent, folded or mutilated, and there’s a picture that goes with it. The service writer’s comfortable, they estimate it and then they’re comfortable when they talk to the customer about
Bruce Nation (00:42:24):
It. That’s right. They’re confident that they’re telling the customer the actual facts of what’s going on.
And they’re confident no matter which technician got the job. And I think the inspection’s really important. I think Uwe hit this yesterday and we talk about next service. When the customer comes in, we’re saying, when’s your next service? We ’em about what their next service is going to be, how we’re going to communicate to ’em when it’s time and so on. We need to change the word service to inspection so we no longer recommend the next service. It’s the next inspection because they still connect to that. I got to thinking about this more yesterday too. They still connect that word and they still connect that word service with a 30, 60 and 90,000 mile service. I had a woman call me yesterday, she’d moved out of the area, her daughter’s out of the area, excuse me. Her daughter is out of the area. She’s still in the area and she’s got a Subaru and she’s got 60,000 miles and she wants to know where to go.
What should I do? Should I go to the dealer? They want X number of dollars for 60,000 miles service. And the first thing I said was, well, what about an inspection to see if it needs those things? They’re going to put an air filter in your car, for example. How do they know it needs an air filter? I just put one in 5,000 miles ago or 10,000 miles ago. We just did a coolant service on your car 8,000 miles ago. They’re going to do a coolant service at 60,000 miles. How do they know it needs it? They don’t know anything, but they’ll bring it in and do it. They’ll throw that brand new air filter in the trash and put a new one in. No problem. Because that’s what it says on the repair order. So we really need to push the inspection and we do push the inspection.
And we’ve been pushing that for years now that we just don’t do those 30, 60, 90 services anymore. Every single oil change or minor service that we do, we have something we call a minor service that came up from Honda. So they have that terminology. And so we do a minor service or a B service that gets a full inspection. And I don’t care if the car’s got 30, 60, 90, I don’t care what it’s got on it. That’s what we start with. Everything else comes out of the inspection. And it’s really good, especially when you have companies like AAA coming out and talking about that, saying that there’s a lot of unneeded service done on cars. So they’re backing up. So
Bill Connor (00:45:17):
Your new best practice is when you exit schedule customer, you’re exit scheduling for their next digital vehicle health inspection.
Bruce Nation (00:45:24):
That’s exactly right. Not for the next service. Somebody says, well, my manufacturer says my car can go 10,000 miles without an oil change. My answer is yes, but it can’t go 10,000 miles without an inspection. We need to inspect that car and why not change the oil while it’s here?
Bill Connor (00:45:48):
And that goes back to what?
Bruce Nation (00:45:50):
It goes back to transparency.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:45:53):
And there are not enough sensors on the call to cover everything. So a human has to look at this stuff on a regular basis.
Bruce Nation (00:46:00):
That’s exactly right.
Bill Connor (00:46:01):
Yeah. I’ve never seen a sludge is forming warning light yet.
Bruce Nation (00:46:06):
No, I haven’t seen that yet either. The other thing I do, brake fluid. So we test brake fluid with a test strip. The BG test strip is what we use, and different people do it different ways. They’ve got electric ones that tell ’em, but I like the BG strips. It’s good. It looks good on the inspection report. And so Honda’s got a note on their notice that comes up on their dash as a number, A, B, whatever it is, six or five or I don’t know what it is. Even that tells ’em that it’s time to change their brake fluid. Or the dealer tells ’em, well, we need to do it every three years. And on some of the older cars, and I explained to the customer, if you live in the desert, if you live in Southern California for example, or you live in Florida, great fluid’s going to need to be changed at different times. It’s not cookie cutter. You can’t just hold the same standard to every car. If you park your car inside a garage or outside the garage at night, that’s different. There’s a different moisture level in the air. And so maybe your brake fluid needed to be changed to two years and not three, or maybe it didn’t need to be changed until four.
And so that’s a good conversation to have and a good way to sell the inspection process rather than the service process.
Bill Connor (00:47:39):
The actual condition of the vehicle, regardless of what the manual says, is what really has to trump.
Bruce Nation (00:47:46):
That’s exactly right.
Bill Connor (00:47:47):
And I would say condition based on a skilled inspection process by somebody that’s doing the same thing every time For every vehicle.
Bruce Nation (00:47:55):
Yes, exactly right. If you go in for a physical at the doctor, what are they doing?
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:48:07):
Vital signs first.
Bruce Nation (00:48:08):
Yeah, vital signs first, right? They do that first, right? They do an EKG or they do whatever their other inspection. We don’t want to talk about all the inspections they do, but it’s the same thing. You can’t just, well, it’s, Hey, you’re 46 years old. It’s time for a bypass surgery. You can’t do that. You got to inspect.
Bill Connor (00:48:37):
So time has been flying here. We got about 10 minutes left and we haven’t explored the customer. Do we need to go and hold that for another episode?
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:48:47):
I think we just started the digital inspection transparency to the customer. We just talked about how to extend that to the retention process instead of looking up some voodoo service in the wall, user manual stuff or the digital inspection, in my opinion, as Bruce said, is so transparent and we want to check your car on a regular basis to determine what’s needed. I think that’s really easy.
Bruce Nation (00:49:27):
I get phone calls. Easiest phone call to recruit to be a customer, to convert a phone call to a customer is the customer who’s at a dealership. Subaru dealership, for example. They’re the ones who haven’t gone away from it. Okay, my car needs a 60,000 mile service and the dealer wants $850 to do a 60,000 mile service. How much is it at your shop? I haven’t got a clue how much a 60,000 mile service is because we don’t do that here. But here’s what, I don’t tell ’em that, but I tell ’em that we do things differently here. We’re not going to do things just because your car has 60,000 miles on it. We’re going to do things because it needs it. So we’re going to inspect the car. We’re going to do it thoroughly and we’re going to do, unless there’s something like a timing belt or something like that, that’s actually due by miles and even that will come up during the inspection. So I’ll start you off with $109 for example, and for $109, you’ll get your tires rotated and your oils changed, and you’ll get a complete inspection of the car. From there, we will know everything that it needs and doesn’t need, and we’ll go from there. And it most likely does not need everything that they’re telling you it needs on a 60,000 mile service.
Bill Connor (00:50:54):
Based on what you just said, there’s no question in my mind when you said on our prep call we had the other day, trust is the main reason a customer chooses your shop.
Bruce Nation (00:51:04):
Yes. It lets ’em know that what they’re dealing with when they go to a dealership is a clerk, service advisor at a dealership is a clerk.
Bill Connor (00:51:14):
Bruce Nation (00:51:15):
It’s no different than going into the post office. You get a clerk, right? He looks at the odometer on the car and tells you what you need right there on the car. Doesn’t open the hood or anything. And that does not develop trust. What that actually specifically develops, mistrust or distrust.
Bill Connor (00:51:39):
There’s another interesting thing that you said that you do when a customer is brand new, they haven’t come to you before that you go ahead and email them something. Could you talk about that and how it works out for you?
Bruce Nation (00:51:49):
So when a customer calls to make an appointment, new customer calls, they’re asking questions, we want to convert that customer to an appointment. We transfer the call back after the service advisors finished with telling ’em what we’re going to do. We transfer the call back to our office assistant who takes their information, name, address, phone number, as much as they can get into our system. So it’s there when the customer comes in and then sends them an email, a welcome email, the welcome email says, talks about where to park when they come in, things like that.
It also sends a link to a sample of our digital inspection. So they get to know or they get to look at and the service advisor is supposed to prep them on that, Hey, we’re going to send this to you and it’s going to have this information in it. And then the service, the office assistant also says that, look, this is going to have this information. Click on the link and you’ll see what to expect. And it helps the customer get acclimated. They know what to expect when they come in and it changes their experience at your shop.
Bill Connor (00:53:00):
You’ve already started to develop that wow experience before they ever land in your front door,
Bruce Nation (00:53:04):
Right? Their experience at your shop. This is, yeah, there’s the quality of repair, yes, that’s important, but it’s not as important as the customer experience. Customer experience is really where you’re at all the way and quality’s in there. Quality is part of that because quality shows up, bad, poor quality shows up eventually, and it changes customer experience.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:53:35):
So did you just pick an inspection result, which was kind of a typical one, and use that as this welcome email example? Or is there, I assume there is red, yellow, green on it so it
Bruce Nation (00:53:57):
Wheel, I didn’t want to choose something that had that needed $2,000 worth of work. I wanted to choose something that, this is a car that we inspected. It needed a few minor things, but we caught it a few minor things that we caught, but here’s your measurement of your brake pads and your rotors and what’s coming next on that, how long they’re going to last. I think there’s something in the yellow in there that shows that you’re going to need breaks next service or next inspection or whatever, something like that. And then it’s got a picture of a spark plug that says, oh, your spark plugs are good. Things like that. It doesn’t have a lot of red in it. So
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:54:41):
It focuses completely transparent, educate you on the health status of your car.
Bruce Nation (00:54:50):
And it’s mostly just to let the customer know. So when the customer comes into your shop the first time, it’s not like they’ve gone to a foreign country. Right.
Bill Connor (00:55:04):
One other statement that you’ve actually made in the eyes of the customer. You view the inspection as removing conflict from the customer’s mind. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Bruce Nation (00:55:13):
Well, the conflict customer’s conflicted about trust, right? So they’re conflicted about whenever they go to that dealership, for example. And that dealership is, they’ve had that clerk sell ’em a 60,000 mile service. They know that. They talk to the clerk about it and they know that they paid for it, but they don’t really know that it got done. And it creates conflict that customer’s conflicted about it. They do it out of habit now they have to go to this place. And it creates conflict in their life every time they go or every time they think about going. And we want to remove that conflict. We want to remove it completely. And I think we do. And that’s the way that we do it is through the digital inspection and transparency. And they know exactly what’s going on all the time. And honestly, whenever you do that, price is just, it’s not whether they want to have it fixed or not, can they pay for it really.
Bill Connor (00:56:18):
We got about three minutes left, Bruce. What I’d like to see if you would do for us is out of the, we talked about today, what are the top three things out of that list that you would encourage somebody to go ahead and start working on today before the end of the day? I might add
Bruce Nation (00:56:34):
Before the end of the day, I would put together a, I believe that we all do. There’s a lot of good marketing going on out there. We do a lot of things that make our phones ring, but we don’t handle the phone call correctly when it comes in. And I think that if you want to do something today, start doing that. Put together an email that you can send to every new customer that’s coming in that includes an example. That includes where your car’s supposed to be parked, where to park when you come in, where we are, where to park, who’s going to greet you, what that process is like, and a link to the inspection so the customer knows what’s going to happen when they come in. That will change average repair order on new customers that will improve it, no question about it.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:57:26):
Very cool.
Bill Connor (00:57:29):
We got one minute. You got anything you’d like to add?
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:57:32):
It is just a perfect closing statement. Action.
Bruce Nation (00:57:37):
Action. Yeah. Take action. That’s an easy thing to do. That didn’t take, actually, it was really easy for me. I told my assistant to do it, but the delegate,
Bill Connor (00:57:47):
Educate and delegate. There you go.
Bruce Nation (00:57:54):
But it’s made a big difference. It’s huge. It really is huge. When people come in, they come in with a smile on their face, they’re ready to meet you. They feel like they already know you and they already trust you when they get there. You didn’t have to develop that trust trying to explain something to ’em over the phone that their car needs from somebody they’ve never met before. And they have absolutely no way in their mind to reconcile whether or not they should trust you. You’ve removed the conflict.
Bill Connor (00:58:25):
Awesome. So we’re at the top of the hour. So Bruce, once again, I’d like to thank you. Hopefully you’ll go ahead and let us invite you back another time. Lots of great information there. For sure. I would surely like to go ahead and invite people to go to and join us live or look us up on your favorite podcast platform by searching for the digital shop talk radio. So once again, I’d like to thank you, Bruce. Thank you Uwe. Lots of good conversation going on there. And I’d like to encourage people to go ahead and either find this episode and send it to another shop owner or somebody local, or refer them one to one of the hundreds of episodes that we’ve got from shop owners just like you that have taken their time to come and share the things they’re doing to go and improve the lives of their staff and while their customer is in the process.
Bruce Nation (00:59:13):
Well, thank you for having me. It’s been really a pleasure to be here and talk. It’s always interesting to talk to you guys. I gotten so much from AutoVitals over the years listening to you listening to Uwe. I’d love to hear Uwe’s take on things and how he gets to where his thoughts are, what his thought process is. It’s very interesting. Always. You
Bill Connor (00:59:35):
Don’t want to look in there.
Bruce Nation (00:59:36):
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:59:40):
Bruce Nation (00:59:42):
The gears are turning a different direction in there.
Uwe Kleinschmidt (00:59:45):
Yes, that’s probably true. But it’s all triggered by being around guys like you who have elevated the industry in an amazing manner. So thank you, Bruce.
Bruce Nation (00:59:58):
Well thank you.
Bill Connor (00:59:59):
Awesome guys. Thank you. And for everybody else, go out there and make some money and wow your customers. Thank you guys.
Bruce Nation (01:00:05):
Very good. Thank you. Bye-Bye
Bill Connor (01:00:07):

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