In this post, we will document the work flow necessary to manage a job from start to finish. Thankfully, this process is essentially the same for all of us, regardless of what kind of cars you work on or what you do to them.
Below are 6 steps that should occur with every build. It is critical that each step be optimized to ensure the vehicle passes through the shop as quickly as possible. This means setting clear expectations and goals for the person responsible for each step. Think about which person is responsible for each step and make sure they have the knowledge and tools to perform them quickly and accurately.
Step 1: Field Customer Requests for Work
Technology has vastly expanded the number of channels for your customs to reach you. At first, it is up to the customer to decide which channel they will use. They may prefer calling you on the phone, emailing, texting, PMs on a forum, DM on Instagram, Facebook messages or posts, and even in-person visits. All of these methods feed into the sales funnel and it can be quite overwhelming trying to sort through all of the noise of these various channels.
We suggest trying to persuade your customers towards using one channel in an effort to reduce your workload. Usually, the best method is emailing since it is well organized, searchable, and available on any device. Once the initial communication is established and the customer is pushed to this one channel, you can begin making an estimate.
Step 2: Write the Estimate
The first thing you need to begin writing the estimate is to determine exactly what the customer wants. If they just need a driveline fluid change, that can be answered in one response. But, if they want a full race car build, you need to know the customer’s goals, timeline, and budget. You can even begin with a questionnaire that they can fill out.
- Name/phone number/email address
- Vehicle details
- Driving goals (street, strip, circuit, etc)
- HP goals
- Current mod list
- General information about what you want
Even for something as simple as a clutch installation, you may need some of this information. If you don’t ask what the customer wants to use the car for, you may end up installing a part that doesn’t suit their needs.
For larger estimates, you can also consider an in-person visit. This will allow you to truly gauge the interest/seriousness of the customer and give you an opportunity to show them some of the things you are currently working on. It will also eliminate some of the price shoppers who are just looking for a quote filled with parts that they can order somewhere else.
Once you have a clear picture of what the customer wants, you can begin creating the estimate. For specialty shops, these can be quite easy to do. If you do the same thing often or offer a limited number of products & packages, the prices don’t change much from customer to customer. At the opposite end of the spectrum are restoration shops who can strip a car to the bare frame and rebuild the entire car one part at a time with thousands of hours going into the car.
In our previous blog post, we detailed why it is so important to have a detailed list of tasks and parts you offer. This will significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to create an estimate for a customer.
If you repeat installations often, it can take mere seconds to create the estimate by using the Groups function in My Shop Assist. Since we perform a lot of clutch installations, I can select Evo 8/9 5speed Clutch Install and it contains all of the parts and labor needed to complete the job. Takes me less than 1 minute to create the estimate.
On new cars, estimating is even easier because the cars are usually stock and you know exactly what you are getting into. But, if the car is older, there is a good chance it has been modified before and may complicate your estimating process. If this is the case, it may be a good idea to have a physical look at the car before making a solid estimate.
Step 3: Convert the Estimate into a Job
Once the customer gives you the green light, what do you do next? First thing you do is transfer the Estimate into a Job/Invoice.
If you are using My Shop Assist, all you need to do is click the Make Job button, put the job on the calendar, and assign the work to the appropriate technician(s). Since you know how much time each task will take, you can schedule the car for the appropriate amount of time on your calendar. At the same time, you can mark parts as Need to Order if you don’t have them in stock.
You should never buy parts for a customer’s car with your own money. So, you need to take a deposit for parts. In My Shop Assist, we break down the invoice by Tasks and Parts so you know exactly how much money is needed as a deposit.
You also want to try and not work on a car until all of the parts have arrived. This means that you may advise the customer to drop the car off in the future so that you don’t have to worry about storing it while you wait for parts. The goal of any job is to get the car in and out as quick as possible and complete the work to the customer’s satisfaction. Having the car for the shortest period of time will help with this.
Once the parts have arrived, you can bring the car in and begin working on it.
Step 4: Work the Job
Now that you have the car, it’s time to get to work! All of the parts should be available near the car and all of the tasks should be expressed to the technician. My Shop Assist shows each task that needs to be performed as well as how long it should take. Before the work begins, take the time to discuss the job with the technician and make sure you are both on the same page.
As the technician progresses through the job, they should be tracking their time and marking tasks as complete. It is also a good idea to take pictures of anything unexpected that arises. And you can also take pictures of the completed work. Customers love shiny new parts!
If they need any additional parts for the job, the technician needs to get approval by the manager to install the part. This ensures that nothing gets installed on the car without it being added to the bill. As a manager, you can set a dollar amount that triggers this approval. You can tell your technicians that they don’t need to alert the manager for small bolts, zip ties, or rubber hose. But they do need to ask about AN fittings, fuel pumps, oil, etc.
If the job takes several days (or weeks), be sure to communicate progress to the customer. The goal is to be proactive with updates instead of reactive. Tell them how it is progressing and they will have more confidence in your work.
Step 5: Complete the Job and Finish the Sale
When the technician is done with the car, there are still a few items that need to be taken care of before asking the customer to come pick it up.
First, make sure all of the work was completed correctly. Make sure wheels are torqued properly, ensure all fluids have been filled, check intercooler pipes for tightness, etc. There is nothing worse than having an intercooler pipe pop off as the customer pulls out of the parking lot.
Second, make sure the invoice is up to date. Add in any parts that were added during the build and update tasks with any extra time that was needed.
Now that the car has been checked and the invoice updated, you can contact the customer and have them come pick up the car. Since you have been updating them with progress, there should be no surprises about the final price or how the car performs.
At this time, it’s also a good idea to put on your salesman hat for a second. Communicate to the customer what they can do next to make more power or any maintenance items that are coming up. This will further solidify them as a returning customer!
Step 6: Evaluate the Profitability of the Job
Now that the customer has paid the bill and taken the car, you should see if you made any money on the job. Take a look at the recorded hours for the job and compare that to the estimated hours.
If it took the technician more time than you thought, ask them why this happened. Maybe the car was rusty and the bolts were difficult to get out. Maybe the technician wasn’t proficient with the install and it took longer than expected. Maybe the technician spent the whole time texting his girlfriend.
Also think about any last-minute parts that were needed for the job. Do you find yourself needing these parts often on other builds? If so, maybe you should consider keeping a few of them in inventory so you won’t have to wait next time.
Lastly, are there any tools or logistical tricks that you can use to help speed up the install next time? Things like bolt bins, specialty tools, and dedicated work stations can all reduce the time spent on the install. This means you can complete more work in the same amount of time.
If you don’t think about these points often, you may not be operating at your full efficiency potential. We want people to look at their business from a very data-driver perspective. This will give you concrete evidence to make rational decisions to improve your situation.
If you work these 6 steps into your workflow process and assign each step to a specific person, you will be better suited to ensure a happy customer and a profitable business.
We have added a Flow Chart below that details the process.