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I am a little reluctant to even write this post. I try t be really positive about things that happen in the shop, and this is a story about something not so positive. I am also reluctant because I don’t want to talk junk about the people that I work with. When I make a mistake, I have no problem telling you guys about it, but what I am about to tell you is about someone else.

Yesterday, I worked on a customers car, this customer has been one of my best customers over the years. She is a little old lady, and is as sweet as can be. She reminds me a lot of my grandma, who is one of my favorite people in the world.

When she came to pick her car up, they service advisor called me to the front. She told me that the work I just finished did not fix her car. Based on the week I was having, I would not have been surprised. She smiled and told me she was just messing with me(a taste of my own medicine). About 15 minutes went by, and another advisor paged me. They told be that someone had rear ended the lady. The auto park I work in has an awful intersection at the top of a small hill.

I drove up to the intersection to see if she was okay. She was really shaken up, but physically fine. The guy that hit her was totally fine. As I looked at the damage of both cars, I knew that she didn’t get rear ended, she must have pulled out in front of the guy. Her Beetle took some damage on the right side. The Mazda the other guy was driving didn’t do so well. The whole front of the car was destroyed. I helped her call a friend to come get her. I was also able to nurse the car out of the intersection and into a parking spot at the Porsche dealer. The cops came and did what they had to, and when her friend showed up, I went back to work.

30 or so minutes later, I get another page to come up to the service drive. The customer was there to pickup some info about where to have her car towed. We chatted for a minute, I gave her the information she needed so she was just about set.

This is where the story gets bad. I am writing this  and I know my blood pressure is gonna be sky high! This poor lady was just in a car accident, she was visibly shaken up, and asked for some water. Now, we have 2 drinking fountain in the waiting room, we have a vending machine in the waiting room, and we have FREE drinks up stairs. My service advisor looks her dead in the face and says “There is free water just up the stairs if you want that’. Guys, my jaw hit the floor. How the hell are you gonna tell this poor lady to walk up the stairs and get her own drink????? Thankfully, my service manager was standing right there and went to get it for her.

Now, I don’t pretend to be a customer service expert or anything, but what type of person does that? How would you feel if that was your mother or your grandmother? I didn’t say anything to the advisor, because what would be the point. Someone that would do that will never get why that is so bad. Really, how can you call yourself a man if that is how you would treat someone in the situation! I hate to admit that someone at my dealer would do that, but I have told you guys before, I will always be 100% honest with you!

Today, I went up to take some pics of the car. It honestly might total her beetle. The car is a 2000, so it wont take a ton of money to total it. It will most likely be better to just scrap it and for her to get a new car.

I have worked really hard over my career to try and get rid of bad customer service stereotypes at the dealer. This like this really set everyone back! So, what do you guys think? Am I just blowing this WAY out of proportion? Should I have said something to him about it? I would love to know your thoughts!

Today we get to know a little more about being a service manager. I know “technically” he is not behind a wrench, but Rusty has a pretty cool view of the industry.
If you would like to be featured in this interview series, please email me.
NAME:
Rusty

How long have you been in the Industry?
Holy Crap! 25 years. When did that happen?

What is your current job title?
 Dealership service manager
What were you doing for your first automotive job?
One of the coolest jobs I ever had. I was an assistant in a performance street shop that was associated with Team Highball. Team Highball was a racing team, in Raleigh NC, that raced in the old IMSA days. They built from scratch, and raced Mazdas with some factory assistance. They ended up winning the 24 hours of Daytona 4 years in a row. Amos and Bunny Johnson were some of the nicest folks I’d ever met. Heard some great stories there.
Do you currently work at a Dealer, or in an aftermarket shop, do you prefer one over the other?
See question 3. The independant shop that I did work at was pretty cool, but you can make a better living in a dealership. Depends on the mindset of the individual as to whether a dealership or aftermarket/independant is better.
Walk us through what you do on a daily basis.
There is not enough room on the net to list that. I was shocked, when I was hired, to see that my job description was 6 pages long. I will say that my job is equal parts psychologist, technical, accountant, ad-man, den mother, daycare manager, punching bag and “Lucy” from peanuts when she is sitting in the stand that has the sign over it that says “The doctor is in 5 cents.”
When you are not working on or with cars, what do you like to do?
Mainly been a family guy for a long time. My 2 girls played travel soccer, danced, swam and I’ve never had more fun in my life than the time I’ve been able to spend with them.
I’ve also been enjoying playing guitar and singing in a bluegrass band, turning my garage into a man-cave and modifying whatever I drive.
What kind of car do you drive?
Yukons, had an ’03 since new, just bought an ’08 Denali.
What was your first car?
1965 Mustang coupe. It was arrest-me red and slow as hell 6 cylinder.
What made you want to work on cars?
The real genuine love of cars. I genuinely like to interact with people and solve their problems. My mother loves to tell the story that the first toy I ever asked for, when I was a baby, was a police car….and it sorta grew from there.
What is the weirdest thing that you have found in a car, that should not have been there?
Would baby mice count? A snake in the “A” pillar? Shotgun pellets and blood? Cigarette tar like a gummy stalactite hanging from a rear view mirror?…..that’s probably enough.
Do you have much customer interaction?
Um….plenty.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Actually solving someone’s problem or teaching them something that would keep them from having problems in the future.
If giving the chance, what would you never do again at work?
Listen to someone complain about someone else. OMG! People have really lost the concept and the ability to get along.
The auto industry has a really bad rap, what do you say to someone who thinks you are trying to take advantage of them?
That’s a hard thing to do. Lot’s of folks really build up their defenses when they think they’re getting ripped off. Most of the time it’s becuase they are in a position of weakness. either not knowing what they are talking about or not knowing how to proceed. I just do the best I can to teach them what they need to know, so that they can make an educated decision from a position of strength.
Of all the maintenance that cars need, what is the ONE that will keep my car healthy the longest?
Oil, do it more often than they say you need to.
Check the air in your tires, change your wiper blades every six months, and clean your windows inside and out. Those things may not make the car last longer, but they will improve your enjoyment of the car. And never, EVER use armor-all on the INSIDE of the car.
How important is reading your vehicles owners manual?
Critical. You will learn something that you weren’t even expecting to learn. But you will know your car.
Have you read the owners manual to your car?
Oh yeah. Each car I’ve ever owned.
What tool in your tool box do you use the most?
Knowledge. With that, you can figure the rest out. Does that sound as corny as it feels?——-From HumbleMechanic YES 😉
Is there a brand of tool that you prefer?
The best one for a reasonable price. I think many guys, especially young ones, get caught up with the name on the tools. Start off with something like Craftsman. If you stay in the business, which is rare, then move on to the high line stuff. Do NOT bury yourself in debt early.
If you could only use 3 tools from now on, what would they be( and why)?
Does a Gerber multi-tool count? Is that cheating for one tool?
Vice grip pliers, and a good pocket knife.
Maybe, given what I do, I should have said a Bic pen.
If you were building a “James Bond” car, what is the one thing you would add it?
My grandfather converted his windshield washer tank to squirt moonshine under the dash to fill his cup. Now I can’t condone that but it was very creative. But James Bond? Jet pack I suppose.
You are sending your kid off to college, what car would you buy for them?
Started with a Passat variant. It was a great car for high school and would have been great for college except she went to school in the mountains and needed 4 wheel drive. Next was a Honda Element. It’s a driveable U-Haul trailer and was all-wheel-drive, but cannot withstand being crushed by a Mazda. Now she has a Jeep Cherokee XJ and she loves it. My other daughter is still on her first First Car. Honda CRv. All of them used. Never buy a young driver a new car.
What is the one thing that you want folks to know about your job that they might not know?
I’m proud of the people I work with and we really do put a great deal of energy into giving them the best product we can. We are human and many times make mistakes or don’t do things well, but most of the time there are very few that can compete with us.

Is that it, are the cameras still rolling? Am I done? I’m going to bed now.

What a great interview Rusty. I want to see some pictures of that moonshine dispenser your grandfather had.

Your inside look into the world of car repair and Volkswagen Dealer service

Before I start coming off like I am hating on the A.S.E certification program, I need to tell you that I am an A.S.E certified mechanic. 🙂 That stands for Automotive Service Excellence!

The A.S.E certification program is designed to test mechanics and show they are knowledgeable about fixing cars.  The way it works is, a mechanic has to pass a series of tests, and work in the automotive field for 2 years. Now based on that, its a great program. If nothing else, it shows that a mechanic has the motivation to be a top mechanic. Over the years, I have found that certification programs like that do not tell the whole story.

There are benefits to the program. I think that employers like it because it shows a commitment by the mechanic. If a mechanic is willing to take all 9 tests, which are NOT easy, they should have a high level of dedication to the profession. That coupled with the ability to say your facility has “CERTIFIED MECHANICS” can mean a lot for customers. When I worked at Carmax they displayed each mechanics certifications on a board for everyone to see.

I did a google search on the phrase “how to find a good mechanic”. In that search, almost every site says, “Be sure they are A.S.E. certified. The problem that I have with that is, it means almost nothing. The ability to pass these tests proves nothing about fixing cars. You can not use it to gauge a mechanics integrity. It doesn’t mean you can trust them, or the work that they do.

At the dealership level, the broad knowledge that A.S.E. test on does not apply. It is understood that a dealership mechanic should know the basics about cars. In addition to that they need to know that brand inside and out. That is why people take their car to the dealer in the first place. I think the brand certification carries much more value. There are only 206 or so master certified VW mechanics in the USA. That says a lot about the level of commitment it takes to be a master certified dealer mechanic.

I will say that no level of certification, even specific brand, will tell the whole story. Some guys are better at taking tests than others. Some guys just don’t care about a high level of certification. That doesn’t mean they are not outstanding mechanics. Here are a couple of quick tips to finding your great mechanic!

  • They should have some level of certification
  • Some experience is important, but not everything
  • Talk to the mechanic – Having a conversation with the mechanic will tell a much better story
  • Ask friends that drive your kind of car
  • Bring them cookies – I have said it before, bribery gets you everywhere

These are just some very basic tips. In fact, this is a topic that deserves a dedicated post.

 

Your inside look into the world of car repair and Volkswagen Dealer service

People tell me, almost daily, “I can just do that myself”. Normally, I laugh it off and think “good luck with that”. The truth is, lots of jobs can be done by someone with very little skills and just a few tools. I wont be teaching you how to do your our work, but here are some things that you need to consider when tackling a DIY repair on your car.

Price

I think that about 70% of people do not let a mechanic fix their car because of price. We all look to save a buck everywhere we can. Saving $25 by replacing your own air filter seems like a good idea right? If your time is worth $25 per hour, and it takes you 3 hours, NOT worth it. If you can do it in about 1 hour or less, do it!

TIme

You will see that most of these completely overlap! If you can pay a mechanic to do a job that take him, or her 45 minutes, but you take you 4 hours, pay for it. You will spend more time screwing around with it than its worth, pay it and go do something fun, or go back to work!

Tools

Some jobs, most on VWs, require specialized tools. This can be something as common as pliers to remove clamps or Torx drive bits. It a tool that is only used for 1 certain job on 1 type of car. If the repair in question MIGHT require on of these tools, consider paying of the repair. If you can justify buying to tools(this is something I NEVER have a problem with:)) then it might be something you want to consider fixing yourself.

Know-How

This one is tricky. There is so many great resources online to get repair information, that anyone can learn anything. A friend of mine Katie used a YouTube video to learn how to replace a filter in her car! The look on her face was a look of pure pride! The information is out there, don’t use that as an excuse.

Passion

This one is EASY. If you love working on your car, then DO IT! The cost of the tools, time, know-how will all be worth it. It will be worth it because you will enjoy the time working on your car.

Caution

There is a DIY caution that I want to give everyone. If you decide that you are going to work on your own car, I support that 100%! (I mean that is one of the points of this blog!) Just understand that if something gets messed up, it is NOT covered under warranty. It will most likely cost you more now. A mechanic will have to undo what you did, then fix the initial problem

Here are some really great DIY things that I recommend people doing(unless you are my customer)

  • Wiper Blades
  • Light Bulbs(some are a pain, ask me if you are not sure)
  • Cabin Air Filters
  • Engine Air Filters(some VW filters suck, ask me 1st)

There are other things that are DIY, but the the maintenance stuff is easier! I left off spark plugs because they need to be properly torqued( you need a torque wrench). I also left off oil changes. In my mind, its too much work, a big mess. My dealer charged ~$14 in labor for that service. WELL WORTH IT!

What do you guys like to do on your cars? Did I forget anything easy that people like to DIY?

Your inside look into the world of car repair and Volkswagen Dealer service

Happy Friday everyone!

I am writing this “unintensional” post today about customer service. See I actually recorded a podcast about this very topic. After fighting with it for about 3 hours(all while the carpet guys are banging away up stairs) I gave up and thought I would just write a post.  I will most likely record the podcast again and give it another try using something other than GarageBand.

Before I get going, I just want to thank everyone for the support over the past few months. I have been working on building the blog and getting some good content up. As you might know I am working with a buddy to rebuild the site to better fit what I want it to be, and to look cooler too!

When you think about the job of a mechanic, you usually don’t think about it from a customer serivce stand point. Most people think of it as a greasy dirty job, which it can be at times, but they don’t think about how much customer interaction that I have. I say I because I feel like most mechanics do not have as much interaction as the should.

I called this post “A dealership of One” beacuse that is how I work. I treat what I do as if the dealership was called “Charles Volkswagen”. I want to make it so that every customer that lets me work on their car knows who I am. I enjoy taking a few minutes out of my day and chatting with folks about cars, tools, weather, whatever it may be. It is actually a really nice break from wrenching on cars. The idea of running my business as in this way really helps set a customer at ease. For me its abuot building confidence, and trust in a relationship. I want my customers to know that if they need something for their car, wether it is a lightbulb replaced, an oil change, or something major repaired, I got their back. Even if we have to have that dreaded talk about getting a new car!

Its funny how just a little bit more “Give a damn” really make a world of difference. A prefect example is a quick story about a customer of mine named Lauren. I met her when my service advisor paged me up to talk to a customer. After a breif chat, she asked me a question that I would have never expected ANYONE to ask.

Who is the manufacturer of the oil filter you are going to use in my car?

I am sure that the look on my face was priceless. I knew that some of our filters were made by a company called MANN, but I had no idea the answer to her question. There are a few ways that I could have handled the situation.

  1. Tell her I did not know and move on
  2. Find the answer to her question

Here is what I did, I went and checked a couple of oil filter to see where they were made. Unfortunaly for Lauren, they were not the filters she was looking for (read that as a Jed:)). So did I really help her out, NO. Did I really do that much extra for her, NO! Did I use a moment to show a customer how much I really value them, and their car YES! Because I took that 5 minutes to help her out, I feel like I will have a customer for life. In fact, I seen Lauren last week, and after working on her car, I stopped and chatted with her about the next service. She told me that she wanted me to be her mechanic from now on!

Folks THAT is what this business lacks! Its actually what most business lack. I wish that more mechanics would just take the time to really understand things from a customers point of view. It costs a lot of money to buy and maintain a car. You should feel good about having someone that you trust to take care of you and your car!

If you are a mechanic and you DONT work this way, YOU ARE WRONG! I will say it again YOU ARE WRONG! You get paid well for working on cars, and customer deserve your BEST!

If you are a car owner and don’t bring your car to me,(It better be because you do not live near me) find a good mechanic. If a mechanic won’t talk to you, keep looking. There are some great mechanics out there, it just takes some work to find them.

I hope this gave you guys a look into another side of what I do. It is something I have not written about before, but it

Your inside look into the world of car repair and Volkswagen Dealer service

Just a few warnings before I get in to this post.

  1. This can apply to cars other than Volkswagen
  2. This is MY opinion. Officially, you must follow the owners manual for warranty purposes

This post is in response to a question that was posted on the Facebook fan page.  Rudy asked

I wanted to know if the recommend 10k oil change is a good rule of thumb to go by? I have read on VW blogs about people changing it every 5k to be safe. I have a 2012 VW Sportwagen 2.5L and I was just curious to know what your thoughts are? I want to keep my car in great condition.

That is actually something that I get asked a lot. Since 2006, VW has moved to a 10,000 mile service interval. Starting in 2009 they went to free maintenance. That is such a far cry from what folks are use to.  It was not that long ago that a car needed its oil changed every 3,000 miles or every 3 months. Now a days, there really is no need to service your car that much. Synthetic oils will hold up much better that older oil would. Also, engine oiling systems are much better than they use to be.

My issue with 10,000 mile service has nothing to do with the quality of oil, or filter material. It is more about the overall health of your car. There is a lot more to keeping your car in great (and safe) condition than changing the oil. When a customer goes 10k between services, here are somethings to consider

  • 10k miles between tires being checked
  • 10k miles without having brakes checked
  • 10k miles without anyone checked your light bulbs
  • 10k miles between fluids being checked/ filled

Lets take brakes for a PERFECT example. I check brakes on every car that I work on. If a car comes in and needs brakes, I can replace the pads and resurface the rotors, or replace the pads and replace the rotors. The pads and resurface the rotors costs about $275, replacing the rotors costs $525(those are estimates to showcase the difference in price). The rotors need to be replaced when the pad wears into the rotor. If a car is serviced every 5k miles, I would be able to catch the worn brakes before rotors need to be replaced. 

That is just one example of how waiting can cost more money in the long run. I also see lots of cars with no oil on the dipstick. Most people do not check anything on their car. This can lead to running a car low on oil (or other fluids) causing key components to wear out faster.

I personally change the oil in my Passat every 4000 miles. My car uses oil, about 1qt every 4k miles. I also know that the 1.8t engine likes to sludge if its not properly maintained. For me its worth 1 extra service every year and a half.  For how much a standard oil service costs, its more than worth it to keep your car happy.

One more thing to consider, it just popped into my head so it might be out of order or context. Everyone drives different, and under different conditions. Does someone in Seattle REALLY have the same wear on their car as someone in Phoenix? It is just not possible. I picture car manufaturers making those recommendations based on idea driving conditions, and ideal drivers. In my mind, none of us are in ideal conditions, and NO ONE is an ideal driver!

There you have it, that is pretty much how I feel about 10k service. Post up what you think. Do you follow the owners manual? Go by what the dealer recommends? Follow what Grandpa always told you?

One side note about the feature image on this post. I am currently working on getting a real logo and banner set up. I will be using this until I get a real cool logo!