Coaching Through an Issue
Since Scott Travers was a teenager, he’s found answers in broken machines: answers to repair questions inside the lawn mowers he fixed from his lawn mower repair business, to the cars that filled the shops for which he’s worked as a technician.
“I’ve always been in the thought process of, ‘How does this work?’” Travers says.
Before taking over as owner of Quality Auto 1 in Temecula, Calif., Travers worked at three separate shops as a technician, where he focused on finding the answer to repairs the long route, in contrast to relying on other staff for the answers. That mindset is present at his six-employee, $1.3 million per year shop today, he says.
“Coaching is like fishing,” Travers says. “You can either catch a fish for them or teach them how to fish.”
With efforts to transform employees into problem-solving technicians, Travers explains how his shop coaches employees to not take the easy route when finding the answer to a problem.
When we hire a new technician, we put that technician into the hands of the shop foreman. Here’s the thing: He’s not going to give the technician all the answers. It’s all about teaching them to think. You get guys that turn in applications saying they’re weak with diagnostics; well, that’s problem solving. We want to create problem solvers, not parts changers.
In the beginning, I let the foreman know what I was looking for in a technician, and from there, our foreman is able to go over the methods with new hires. The partnership works because when a new technician starts, the foreman gets more money per flagged hour of the technician’s time, but during this process, the technician is still in training. As he gets more flagged hours, we take it away from the shop foreman and the technician gets a raise.
A tactic we use is the “three choices” method: When a technician has a question regarding a repair, the foreman will ask the technician to provide three answers to what it could be. A lot of the time, we found that the technician will find the answer in the process, which pushes the technician to focus on problem solving.
The biggest thing we push is to have an open mindset when it comes to putting things aside to provide assistance. If you’re working on something and get asked a question, the way you respond will determine your relationship with that individual from there on out. If you give the answer right away, that technician is going to believe he or she can always get answers from you.
When a technician has a question, they’re more than likely going to be met with a question. We like to ask “why?” or try to understand what their thought process is in order to break down the problem and discover the answer. This method has been extremely beneficial because it gives the technician the chance to take a step back and look at the full picture of the repair. In the automotive industry, every car is different, and there often isn’t just a common answer. We want the shop to continue to grow, so we invest in giving back to the foreman who provides educational opportunities to the technicians.
When you focus on training your shop staff to be problem solvers, it alleviates the stress that the service advisor has to go through when he or she finalize a sale. Having a well trained staff instills confidence in everybody in the shop, but I believe it affects the service writer more than anyone else. If a service writer loses confidence in a technician, then, more often than not, the sale isn’t going to go through. We want everyone to be on the same page at the end of the day.