The Nature of Change

April 1, 2018
Change is inevitable; how you react to it is up to you.
I just finished putting together a presentation that talked about change. Specifically, the changes I’ve both witnessed and experienced in the 52-plus years I’ve been hanging out in this industry.

It was quite the walk down memory lane!

After all, when I started the technical side of the business was all about mastering point-type ignition systems, primary and secondary ignition theory, carburetor function, general engine performance and mechanical fuel delivery.

Soon thereafter, success could be measured by tracking what you understood about vehicle emissions and whether or not you could put that theory into practice.

The talk at industry association events was all about the technological leap we would have to make in order to survive. A leap that would take us from generators and regulators to alternators. After all, who would there be to do the work? To make the diagnosis and perform the repairs? The industry just wasn’t ready!

Today, the shift toward sophisticated vehicles ensured the flow of more sophisticated diagnostic tools and increasingly better training and education: a shift from dwell meters and diagnostic oscilloscopes, to four-gas analyzers and computerized engine diagnostic tools. It’s a universe that is still expanding almost as quickly as the technology it serves. And, there is no reason to believe that the demand for more understanding and greater knowledge is going to grind to a halt anytime soon. Not with telematics and autonomous vehicle technology just around the corner.

The conversations taking place on industry forums, chat rooms and bulletin boards today? What are we going to do to meet the challenge and how will we accomplish the seemingly impossible?

But, that’s only half the story! Why? Because, we’re still here, the vehicles are still running and the technological changes we face are increasing, not decreasing.

The change came whether or not we were ready. And, we could either meet the challenge or find another way to make a living.

The other half of the story is something I’m infinitely more concerned about, because it is a story without an ending. It’s the story of the changes that have taken place in our society: sociological, economic and cultural changes that are also the result of vast technological change. These are changes that have had and will continue to have a profound impact on our world, and, as a result, a profound impact on the repair community.

The wave of technological change that washed over the service industry was unavoidable. You could either rise up to meet that challenge or find yourself drowned by it. The sociological, economic and cultural changes that have impacted all of us, including the motorist, brings with it an imperative that is nowhere near as clear or obvious. And, yet, it is still no less imminent.

So, the obvious question is: Are we as prepared to meet the changes that have occurred in the nature and behavior of our customers and potential customers, as we were to meet the technological challenges we faced in the service bay?

Are we prepared to communicate more clearly and more often than we have ever been forced to communicate in the past? Are we prepared to interact using the technology our clients and potential clients are the most comfortable with?

Millennials are the future of our industry. They represent a marketing universe greater in number than even my generation, which was the largest in history until now.

They’re smart, well educated and not afraid to reach into their pockets. But, they value information, education and experiences more than anything else.

Is the industry prepared to meet that challenge?

The problem is we don’t have to. There is nothing forcing us to move beyond the obvious. But, the need is no less immediate.

Alternators appeared whether we wanted to work on them or not. So, did onboard computers, fuel injection and electronically controlled suspensions. We chose to raise the hood and take the challenge. And, we prevailed.

Now, the challenge is far more subtle. It’s a challenge that will require digital inspections, more intimate communication, transparency, more complete engagement and a partnership with the motorist that, until now, has been exceptionally rare.

Change is inevitable. And, it’s just as real, just as profound at the service counter and in the office as it was in the service bay.

It’s up to us to decide what we do with it. We had no choice out in the shop. But, we do have a choice at the counter. We can accept those changes or reject them. We can embrace them or ignore them. There are still those among us handwriting invoices. What’s it going to be?

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