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Episode Description

From a tech’s perspective, going digital can be a big change in process. With that in mind, having a savvy tech who can grasp the digital inspection process can make the world of difference when capturing the most out of the RO at your service counter.

In this week’s episode of Digital Shop Talk Radio, Tom Dorsey welcomes Nick Fabian, Senior Technician from Russ’s Wrench in Clinton, NJ, to discuss what going digital is really like from a tech’s perspective and how he has learned to embrace what it means to be a Digital Shop. He will be joined by the owner of the shop Russ Crosby, who will talk about how he managed going paperless with his techs and how to strike a good balance between the front and back of the house.

Episode Transcript

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

– Good morning and good afternoon! Welcome to this week’s edition of the Digital Shop Talk Radio, I’m Tom Dorsey and I’ve got the good stuff. No more snakes and sparklers. We’re talkin’ technician adoption. It’s somethin’ that you guys have been shoutin’ for and we listen. And I’ve got two great guests, man. Couldn’t ask for a better group to have on for this show. We got Russ Crosby, welcome back Russ, from Russ’s Ranch in beautiful Clinton, New Jersey, it’s the Garden State .

– That’s right, thanks for havin’ me man.

– And we’ve got his senior technician, Nick Fabian. Nick, welcome to the show. First time.

– Yeah, it’s an honor, I love it. Thanks for havin’ me.

– So we brought Nick on to do exactly that. We just wanna, you know, pull back the curtains and hear it directly from a technician about how the digital change, the transition to bein’ a digital shop, doin’ digital inspections, digital communication, the whole ball of wax, how it impacted him, right. And as you can see he hasn’t jumped out a window. It wouldn’t matter ’cause they’re a one story building.

– It’d be more of a challenge to try and jump out.

– Yeah, right. The step stools are all hidden, so. But tell us, Nick, how did it go? You were there from the beginning. I remember I came out and did a workshop in the shop there. And you guys were brand new at that time.

– Yeah, definitely. No, it was awesome. It was a complete 180 from paper inspections and just the way that whole system is ran. So when I got to it and had the opportunity to go digital, it was a game changer. It changed everything. Me personally on how I look at vehicles. I love the thoroughness of it. It’s a good system, I love it.

– And he isn’t paid to say that. Well actually he is. But let’s, but now seriously, from a, now that you’ve adopted, right, now that you’ve gotten used to it, let’s just talk about some of the challenges. What were the hurdles to get there? How many times did you wanna just Frisbee that thing across the shop?

– Not too many. Y’know it was, I went into it with an open mind. I’m always one for adapting to different things and, y’know, I knew what I knew, coming in, startin’ here with Russ. And it kinda left an open platform for me to just start with a whole new slate here. So once we went, once I started gettin’ to know it and usin’ it.

– Offering recommendations too. I mean, we had, y’know you start with the system and it’s laid out for you, but I think with the help of Nick and my other guys, we’ve molded the inspection so that it’s really tailored to us and how we, not really just how we want to do it, but how it makes it more efficient for them. I listen to ’em every week and we’re tweaking it constantly, makin’ these little adjustments to try and make those inspections faster and more thorough. We don’t wanna give up one to gain another. So input from Nick has been crucial, and I think that also helps with buy-in. I mean, what do you think? Bein’ able to make a change like that.

– Yeah, definitely. I mean, being able to customize the layout to be efficient but still have a level of being thorough enough. But tailoring it to our way is the best. I love how we can do that, it just, it helps out with all the variables mixed in there where we can just go in there, we get into a rhythm with it, and we feel confident when we submit that up front to the desk and they can take their part and so there’s the job.

– Yeah, it’s gonna turn into some hours. And you hit the nail on the head, right? You said you knew what you were gettin’ into, right? Because they don’t call Russ the King of Culture for nothin’. And so that’s a big part of it, though, right? Is that you got to, you gotta have a plan, you hafta be transparent, you hafta say, hey, here’s what we’re gonna do and we’re all gonna pull the rope this way together. And then listen, y’know, is really critical when Nick and the other techs, and your techs to folks listening, from inside their shops, is constantly tweak and improve. Once you get the basics down, once you got the floor built, start to tweak and design it the way you like it and the way it works for your system. And depending on what your volume is, how many vehicles a day are you seein’? Are they on a quick lube pit versus some other situation inside the shop? And you tailor that inspection in the process to that situation. And then, y’know, what’s a good tech lookin’ for? A good tech just wants to know what’s expected of his job, what’s the process and how to do it successfully, and get outta my way, right? And make some money.

– I think’, y’know, by utilizing the digital inspection, talking to your team, y’know, there’s probably guys out there, or gals out there that have an issue implementing this in the shop. Push back, right?

– Yes.

– And I totally can see why when we’re creatures of habit, all right, as automotive technicians. We know that this works, why change it? Referring, y’know, to like paper and pencil inspections. But the reality is it doesn’t really work that well when you have to run back and forth to your office to drop that off and then your writer can’t read your handwriting ’cause we’re much like doctors, we’ve got chicken scratch, most of us, can’t read the writing. And then runnin’ back and forth. You can’t take pictures and you can’t really dial in on what it is that you’re trying to sell so you’re wasting time. And I think when you explain it to your technicians and get them to help you build this process, you get the buy-in from your team. Because it takes a little while to get it set up. But, y’know, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but I’m pretty sure that’s still standing so.

– Parts of it.

– Yeah, so some of it.

– I think the urine is eroding it, but y’know.

– So yeah, digital inspections, buy-in. But, and then coupling that with, y’know we’ve talked a bunch of times about the B-C-P and y’know when numbers are a little down or something. You can see exactly where your inspections are and hone in on what we have to focus on to improve hours per ticket or A-R-O or whatever. I mean we talk about that almost every week in our shop meetings and we can dial right in, right?

– Yeah, definitely.

– Yeah, that’s the way to get it done. So Nick, let me ask you this. About how long did it take you, do you think, remember back, all the way back to, y’know, a year and a half ago, two years ago. And how long did it take you to get kinda comfortable with doin’ the digital inspection?

– Ahh, not that, it didn’t take too long. I kinda just, y’know, being in a new place, it was a lot of different variables happening at the same time. I was, I came here, started digital inspections, and I basically, there was a point where I had to clear my mind of everything that I knew from the past and, y’know, not start over completely, but have an open mind about this kind of stuff. ‘Cause that’s the toughest thing, is a lot of the shops, at least the ones that I was at, were all paper inspection, and all the repair orders were pretty much, they’re all the same layout, their multi-points are the same. Y’know, you become adjusted to, or accustomed to just that way of inspecting a vehicle. So I adapted pretty quickly, though. It wasn’t, it was really good. The layout that we were using at the time was really good. And I got used to that and I quickly realized how much more thorough I could be with inspecting a vehicle, especially, y’know. And it builds your confidence up too. Like pushin’ that repair order to the end. Because you’re not, y’know. There’s times when you would second guess y’know, well should I take more time and look at this? But having a layout like that for you takes the guessing out of it. It’s like, okay we’re gonna inspect this, we’re gonna look at that, we’re gonna go through all of these things, y’know, And that was just, that was the game changer, y’know? And that took a lot of questions that I had and second-guessing moments out of the equation. Now I just, now we get to get to the nitty-gritty of it and fine-tune it and tailor it to the way we want it to really go even further and be even more efficient with it and thorough.

– Yeah, that’s the awesome part of it, right, is that as you just continue to tweak it and fine-tune it, you just get more value out of it and it pays you back better, and it treats the customer better and then they become more loyal to you and it really is just kind of a cycle of success, y’know, as you continue to adopt and to grow inside of the program. So let me ask you this Nick. So when you kinda got goin’, y’know, and you guys got it figured out, and like you’re saying, you’re in the process now of kinda tweakin’ it and refining it and makin’ it better, what changes did you notice? Let’s just say from a, and we can just ballpark it, it took me 20 minutes to do the inspection then and now I’ve got it down to 15 or. And, y’know, I was doin’ 20 minute inspections and I was gettin’ four recommendations sold, or I was pickin’ up three and a half four billed hours, and now I see this improvement from a time versus revenue perspective.

– Well I mean our, the time of the inspection dropped substantially. Like, we’re pretty quick. I mean, it took a while, it was definitely something we had to figure out and we got it down pretty good now.

– From my, watching those inspections, y’know, the guys would be in there like 40 minutes, 45 minutes, especially when they’re startin’ out, some of those inspections were takin’ close to an hour.

– Gotta move.

– Yeah, they, I mean they’re, it’s a lot.

– Mini series.

– Yeah, yeah, so it’s a lot to take in, but they’ve, Nick’s got ’em down, the guys have ’em down to like 15-20 minutes now. And they’re absolutely crushing it.

– And you see that on the back end too, though. Like the other variable is, y’know, the recommended work is being sold.

– Right.

– It’s not just gettin’ pushed to the side whenever we send an inspection report, we’re so thorough with it, where it’s not even, customers don’t even think twice about it sometimes, they just go for it, y’know. They see it and they’re like, oh, there’s the problem, here’s why, and then, it’s there, it’s a no-brainer.

– Yeah, yeah, that’s it. You just have to, y’know. And that’s the thing, right? If you get the open feedback and celebrate the victories, well then it’s just going to create that adoption curve, y’know it’s even greater, right? The techs will put more into it, they will be more thorough, they’ll have less push-back, less complaints, y’know, aww that stupid thing, or whatever it is, y’know, it takes too long, I need flash, or whatever it might be. Because hey, y’know what, it’s payin’ off, right? And it’s payin’ off quickly, and so then I put more effort into it and that increases the payoff, right?

– Exactly. Everybody’s drive went up once they saw y’know, that that’s happening. Everybody’s incentive was just motivated from there on out. And y’know now we’re just striving for that and we go 120 all the way.

– Yeah, that’s awesome, that’s awesome. And so what would you say is from a, I mean have you noticed an increase in the paycheck? I guess that’s really what all the techs that are listening want to know, right?

– Of course, definitely, y’know. We’re, it, y’know, it increased.

– It’s up! Talk to my accountant.

– I think that

– I’m gonna have to release my tax returns.

– The easier that you make it for your customers, or for your riders, we stress this, the easier we make it for our riders, the easier it is for them to sell the work. So y’know, AutoVitals really trains us to get that work order basically to the customer and let them pre-sell themselves on the information we’re giving them. So once the guys adopted that and understood that, it was like a game-changer. Like, look, the reason why we have to do this this way is because it’s gonna help, gonna help create more hours without really doing any more work. An extra minute here is gonna provide you with potentially two hours worth of work. And it happens all the time. Y’know, we saw this crazy influx in timing cover repair jobs because we got back from conference, from AutoVitals conference. Nick and I misjudged horribly to get to the airport, so we had like four hours to get to the airport after the conference. We’re sittin’ at the airport and we’re like, you know what, I broke out the laptop and him and I started modifying our inspections and stuff and we got back and all of a sudden we’re selling these big ticket items because we, listening to the other shops that were at the conference, we learned a lot of tips and tricks on how to change certain things in our inspection and got back and, y’know, we’re sellin’ all this crazy work that we weren’t doing before because now we knew how to make those adjustments and we got the input. We called one of our techs, he was laying in bed I swear, and we’re like, hey, what do you want to see on this inspection? And he’s, y’know , it was just. Yeah, I know, but that’s the kind of team that we have here.

– Yeah man.

– We get everybody involved in the process and then people wanna, they know that it’s gonna adjust their paycheck, which, y’know, that’s what everybody’s after. But also they really wanna do a great job, so we’re able to give them to, somebody just said LOL, Saturday night at the airport, that’s hilarious . Yeah, yeah it was. But y’know, we’re able to give them the opportunity to really modify these things the way that they want to see it so that they can make more money and empower them to do a better job. So, and I, y’know, Nick has been a huge proponent of that, and y’know, so has the rest of the team.

– Yeah, yeah, and that’s. So really for folks that are watchin’ this, and they’re thinkin’ and they’re in that similar boat, either they’re just gettin’ started or y’know they’ve been havin’ some tech push-back or strugglin’ a little bit, I mean it’s not, there is no magic button, right? There is no, I guess there’s no sharp enough bull whip, because then you’re goin’ in the wrong direction, you really have to start it from a cultural perspective to say here’s the big picture, here’s the game plan, here’s your part in it, this is what we need you to do, this is what we need you to commit to, and lay it out in a way that makes it rock solid simple, right? You’re gonna make X number of recommendations per inspection. You’re gonna take X number of pictures in that inspection, and you’re gonna do it from these angles with this lighting and however detailed you need it to be to get the material, the collateral that your service writers need to deliver to that customer to get them to go like this like the internet people do. Oh, I need to buy that. I don’t know why, but here’s a picture and it’s shiny and the video said so and so I’ll push yes, right? It’s literally what we’re trying, the customer experience that we really want to deliver or at least get them to ask the buying questions, right? Instead of the suspicion questions, you know, the Sherlock Holmes questions that they give you, right? And then they start to pull that, “Well I read on Wikipedia that y’know, “the spark plug gap is supposed to be,” oh my God, here we go. And so you can just eliminate all that stuff and get right to the buying questions through that process. And after that it’s just a machine, just do more of it.

– Well I think, y’know the other thing too is, not only do we get to eliminate those questions, but when we came back we talked a lot about edited pictures. That was the big thing that we wanted to work on, and continue working on, and the goal is to educate the consumer so that they don’t have to ask those questions prior to getting on the phone with us. Or so that they feel more empowered to ask the questions when they do get on the phone with us, they know what questions to ask and how to ask them. So we try to be as specific as possible with our arrows and the write-ups inside the pictures. And that right there was a huge game-changer. We watched our hours per ticket go up. We watched our A-R-O go up, we watched everything go up. And that was, that’s something really important to share with your team because it’s another way to get the buy-in. If I say hey do this, and you’re kinda like, “Why?” And I’m like okay, well let me show you a graph, right? Like that’s.

– Yeah, we do.

– I can, we show them the graph and y’know, it’s a game-changer. Y’know it’s tough to implement it, y’know as a shop owner it can be difficult to implement it sometimes. And goin’ through the growing pains of setting it up properly, right?

– Yeah .

– You ask how many times do you want to throw the tablet across the floor and there was plenty of times. Nick’s a pretty composed, he’s pretty cool under pressure, but y’know there’s other times when some of my other guys, they’re like ready to throw this thing out on the highway. And some of ’em left them on the hood of the car, just because, y’know.

– Darn, I ran it over again!

– It was an accident, really sorry .

– Slammed in the hood again. You need a better spot to lay it down. Workin’ on that, boss, workin’ on that.

– I dunno how it ended up under this tire, I dunno how that happened.

– Weird.

– Ghost in the machine.

– Well, you gotta, you can’t, you can’t back off, ’cause this is the way that the future is goin’. This is the direction the industry’s goin’, so.

– Oh, and it’s evident in the numbers, right?

– Right.

– Can’t argue with success.

– No.

– You can try, y’know.

– But it’s important to persevere and keep pushin’ forward and don’t get upset, but continue to empower your team to want to do it however you have to do, however that is. If it’s sitting down and havin’ lunch and talkin about it and, y’know, what training do you need, there’s tons of great training on the site and right in the system, so. I was, I mean that’s where I go to for a lot of my questions now. There’s so much good training, right? And it’s great.

– Yeah, yeah, and you know, the stuff that’s comin’ out with this next release, I mean from a, y’know we’re talkin’ picture editing, I mean the new functionality and power we’re gonna have in there for you to do exactly that is to be able to customize and tailor the experience to the customer, right? That’s one of the more important things that the flexibility gives you. You know, when you can place the focus and you know the folks a little bit and you talk to ’em and you say, hey, you know this person’s gonna need a little extra help understanding this kind of stuff. Or you know what, here’s somebody who’s really savvy about their car, y’know. And then I can put in a little technical stuff and make them feel, hey, y’know, I’m engaged, it’s to my level of understanding, and be able to place now in the images the text and the, it’s really gonna be another leap forward y’know, from both an efficiency perspective, but also a customer experience when they get the information right, so. And then some of the guided and the onboard training stuff and things like that and just a real quick access to, like Russ was talkin’ about is, how to get information to learn to do a best practice without havin’ to pull my teeth out or sit on the phone with AutoVitals or whatever it is. Bang, it’s right there on board and off you go, y’know. But get engaged, right? So Nick, are you in the Facebook forum? We should start a, we need to start a technicians corner in the Facebook forum.

– That would be a cool idea.

– You can standard bear and get out there and blaze that trail.

– Yeah man. Yeah, that’d be an awesome idea.

– Yeah, yeah I think so. Because, because there’s a lot of guys just like that. And as a matter of fact I’d like to have, y’know, we get shop owners on all the time, like to brag, this guy over here, right? And by the way, you know, I wanna give you a little homage to the, I mean it’s a beautiful set of hair on this show. I almost feel like I’m doin’ a shampoo commercial. And so for your mini-series I have a title I want you to consider. I’d call it Game of Combs. Game of Combs.

– I like it. I like that, yeah.

– That’s good. Next time I’ll have a fan over there so my hair can blow in the breeze.

– Beautiful. Yeah, that’s awesome. Well that, but no, exactly bein’ able to do that so that, y’know, you get that communication out there and then it just becomes an effective and expected part of that experience, y’know, and get that information out to the customer as fast as possible, right? And then the feedback that we get through that forum, y’know, is to be able to give input that, from a technician’s perspective, that helps us to build better tools, right? Build in your ideas and your experience into the tool, ’cause then it helps everybody, right? So you know, I don’t know how many hours I could get you on the payroll for, but . But it would be great, man, to carve out a little section for techs, and y’know you guys make it your own sand box, have fun.

– Yeah, it’d be cool. Get everybody on board with that.

– You just gotta scoop your own litter.

– No, so that’s awesome. So what’s the next big step? I mean, what are you guys workin’ on right now from a technicians perspective as far as improvements go inside the shop? You guys have a lot of, I know recent changes, you know from a accessibility perspective. You got some more cars runnin’ through the shop, so how is it to adopt to that when business gets busy, when it slows down? How, matter of fact, how involved are you, Nick, when maybe it is a little slow, bein’ able to maybe even remember some of the big tickets that you had written in the past, or y’know recommendations or inspections that you’d done, and maybe do some follow-up on if there’s a second half of that sale that you can expect here any time soon.

– Well it’s, y’know, being able to look at like, service history

– Yeah.

– And stuff. Bein’ able to go back and review that kinda stuff and also, but if you’re in a situation where it slows down, I don’t wanna say you tend to be, you are more thorough, but like, I mean, you’re thorough all the time, but now you’re really tryin’ to dig into different things. But being on top of like factory services, and the recommendations from whatever manufacturer you’re workin’ on, and including that into your inspections, that helps a whole lot too. Because that’s comin’ directly from the car maker, so.

– Yeah, sure, sure. Yeah, it’s got that built-in credibility. If they like their car or not, right?

– Yeah.

– It’s a Ford Aerostar, damn I don’t care. But, so let me ask you this then, do you have peace of mind? Does it give you peace of mind that, you know, if you’re noticin’ hey, it’s like you guys are sayin’, it’s a slow Monday or whatever the week starts off, does it give you peace of mind knowin’ that you’ve got a hundred probably inspections floatin’ out there that still have outstanding or deferred maintenance and you just sayin’ hey, it’s just a matter of time until they come on in and I’m busy again?

– Yeah, I’m pretty, it, I don’t, I’m not worried, like I’m pretty confident y’know we’ll. The time doesn’t get that slow for us, you know what I mean? It’s like, help me out Russ.

– So I mean, I think what Nick’s tryin’ to say is, by the using what we have, the tools that we have, we’re able to go back in that service history and our team is able to go back in the service history when those vehicles are being scheduled and we really drive in, drive home the, okay, well this vehicle, it, these were the recommended services last time it came in, let’s take a look at doing it again, doing it this time. We have some time, can we get you in? And we’re going through and seeing the great job that these guys are doing on a day to day basis. Their inspections are so thorough that we try to build plans for our customers.

– Yes, exactly, that’s what I was tryin’ to get at, yeah.

– Yeah.

– I’m sorry, yeah that’s.

– Nah, you’re good, man.

– So we build these plans and those plans ultimately help us in times where it slows down a little bit. ‘Cause you can call up the customer and say, hey, y’know you were here last month. We had, we did a bunch of work, we really appreciate it, how’s that workin’ for ya? Great. Can we get you back in to do the rest of the work? Or part of the work? Y’know, I know that whatever the reason was that they didn’t do the whole, all of that work at that time, discuss that with them, and it gives you another opportunity to check in on that customer. But that all starts with the technician and that’s kind of like an insurance policy for the technicians.

– Yeah, man, it’s an investment, right?

– They, y’know, in those times where we could slow up, we get on the phone immediately and start makin’ those calls to fill that schedule with the work that they’ve already done.

– Yeah.

– I see it as, there’s a check question here how to make your techs use it. Y’know, I think right, they asked, y’know there was one to two tech benefits. I think one of the benefits would be right there, that insurance. You have your guys doin’ those thorough inspections, or ladies doin’ those thorough inspections. You’ve got work for a rainy day, you follow up on that. And another benefit is you don’t run into, when you’re doin’ these inspections, everybody’s on the same platform, it’s a lot easier to hone in on how to do inspections, so we’re able to do similar inspections between each technician. That way you don’t have one guy writin’ up tires at this, at like 5/32nds, and another person writin’ them up at 2/32nds or 7/32nds or whatever you’re doin’. It really makes it a consistent playing field. Which also helps with filled hours. Because you always, there’s always that challenge, there’s always that one guy in the shop that’s able to crank out and bill out a ton of hours, and then the other guy’s in the corner like, well how the hell is he doin’ that? Well he’s doin’ that because he’s doin’ thorough inspections. You know if it was a situation where that person is trying to take advantage, we’d know immediately, because we can see the history of what they’re doing in the office, right, when we’re lookin’ back at service history. But it’s not that case, so it puts everybody on a level playing field. Everybody has the same inspection, and we can work with each person individually to help build them a better inspection if maybe they’re not hittin’ their hours per ticket that they need to hit. We can see specifically where they need training. So that’s a huge benefit right there, is really how to dial in on what they need help with, so.

– Yeah. Yeah, because then we fix things systemically, we fix the root cause, stuff gets better. And when it’s better you make more money. People are more productive, they’re happier. They’re more, they have a better expectation of what’s expected of them so they can deliver. And that makes happy folks, y’know . Happy folks make more money. I love workin’ it like that.

– Absolutely, absolutely.

– That’s good stuff, man. Well I gotta break. I could go on for days with you guys, and I gotta get out there. I think it was nice out in Clinton right now,

– It is.

– Spring time is comin’.

– It’s pretty nice out, y’know. It’s not that cold. I’m sure it’s much warmer where you’re at, but it’s pretty nice. Y’know, one thing you did ask, you said what are we workin’ on right now. Well right now we’re sitting in this, you see all the studs behind us.

– Oh yeah, yeah.

– We’re building a training room for our team so that we, when we’re on-boarding, or we’re lookin’ to improve different things in the shop, whether it be inspections or whatever, we’re able to have a nice quiet space where we can do that now.

– Yeah, that’s awesome.

– That’s what we’re workin’ on. That’s why there’s open studs behind us right now.

– That is awesome. That’s investin’ in the culture right there. That’s how you do it, nails and wood.

– That’s it, and splinters.

– Yeah, sure! Get a little O-T. But y’know, whatever, man, it’s all good. So all right, man. Well thank you guys, thanks Nick, it was awesome havin’ you on, man. I’m gonna follow up with you about that Facebook note there. And then, y’know, I had to make I wanna make one more joke before we go. You said somethin’ y’know earlier, you said you know you had to approach it with an open mind, and so I’m wonderin’ if you guys are doin’ like, if you hybrid now your book club now into a yoga book club, are you doin’ yoga poses and reading at the same time?

– I dunno, should we look at that?

– I dunno, we might have to do some calisthenics in the morning. Y’know, we’ll do some group stretching.

– I’m gonna work that one out at the gym.

– Well I’m lookin’ forward to that follow up show then.

– All right.

– Definitely. Thanks for havin’ us.

– Yeah buddy, no thanks for comin’ on. It was awesome, I really appreciate it. I know a lot of people are gonna take good stuff away. So tune in next week. Next week we’re gonna have, who we havin’ on Dustin Mic Button? We’re gonna be talkin’ multi shops stuff. So if you have aspirations to have more than one shop, you’re not insane if you’re a digital shop with AutoVitals ’cause you can manage that circus. Or, y’know, you’re an existing multi shop owner, there’s gonna be some great perspective from Mike Button. So we’re looking forward to next Wednesday, same time, same place, 10 A.M. Pacific, one P.M. Eastern time. Until then, get out there and make more money in 2020.

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