Friday, August 31, 2012

USA Today Speaks Out: Serious Shortage of Skilled Auto Mechanics Looming

It is interesting that USA Today thinks that this is important … even before Automotive News. Read it at

Here’s the gist of what they wrote: LOS ANGELES – Jonathan Hernandez figures if he is going to drive, he had better know how to fix cars. And he's well on his way to earning his degree in auto repair from Los Angeles Trade Technical College. “But the 23-year-old does not intend to put his community college credential to use as a career. He plans instead to become a tattoo artist. "I can do a tattoo in three hours and make $300," explains Hernandez, who says he isn't tattooed himself. "Tattoo money is a little easier." Such are the challenges for auto dealers and repair shops looking to recruit the repair technicians of tomorrow. A generation who grew up playing Xbox games instead of rebuilding carburetors doesn't seem to have the fascination with auto repair as earlier generations who grew up as shade-tree mechanics. … Many auto technicians are embracing how the job is evolving toward high-tech. A survey of 5,000 auto technicians conducted by consultant Carlisle & Co. on behalf of six automakers found that the second-biggest reason the technicians chose the profession was that they like working with technology — named by four out of 10. The only bigger reason, at six out of 10, remains having grown up working on cars. (Participants could give multiple answers.) But the same survey also pointed up the challenge: Top mechanics are getting older. Mechanics at the dealerships of General Motors, Ford Motor and Chrysler Group had an average age in the low 40s. "They are going to have to replace them more quickly," says Carlisle partner Harry Hollenberg. … Some students end up talking about a car as if it were a robot from another planet that they can understand. "It can talk to you and tell you what ails it," says Felipe Morataya, 32, of Los Angeles. "You can reason with it to tell you the problem."

Bottom line: Contrast this reality with the silliness of Right to Repair. It seems to say, “nobody really wants to get trained on how to fix a car, but, irrespective of this, they have the god-given right to repair all that stuff they have no desire to spend their time on.” Hmm. Maybe RTR isn’t really for the folks doing the repairs?

Friday, August 24, 2012

MyGuy – The Next Generation Service Advisor

By Charlotte Williamson

I was recently looking for a locksmith, so I turned to my usual online review site, Yelp, for advice. I typed “locksmith” near “Boston, MA” into the search, and the 2nd result had five stars based on 83 results (78 five-star reviews, five four-star reviews).

Hmm, this looks like it could be a good choice.

I clicked on the link for this locksmith, Star Locksmith in Brighton, and began to read through the reviews when the review below caught my eye. After spending the last 3 months researching “MyGuy” and what providers can do to create a “MyGuy” experience, I was surprised to find a review for a locksmith from 2010 that could sum it up so succinctly.

“He’s quick, courteous, professional, and inexpensive…add this to the list of people I will forever call ‘my guy’…’Hey you need a locksmith? You should call my guy.’”

In our last MyGuy Update blog on July 12th, we told you about the top 26 aspects that automotive service customers value the most. We took to Yelp and other online review websites to see how well the 25 participating dealership service departments are rated on these aspects by their customers. Nine of the dealer service departments did not “exceed expectations” in any of the top six aspects. Only four dealers “exceeded expectations” in three or more of the aspects that matter most to consumers.

Of the top six aspects we ranked the service departments on, this locksmith would “exceed expectations” on all of them (or the equivalent, as it applies to a locksmith’s services), based on online reviews alone. He lets you know when he will be arriving later than scheduled (and many customers report that he arrived early, after calling to make sure it was okay), charges reasonable rates compared to other local providers (especially for simple/quick repairs), and accurately informs customers of the total cost before beginning work (often charging less than his estimate in the end). No one complained about the work being done incorrectly, he clearly has a great reputation based on 78 five-star reviews (and no reviews less than four stars), and offered same day appointments to most customers, even when it wasn’t an emergency and required a night or weekend visit.

And after doing all these things, this locksmith is enjoying the reinforcing cycle of potential customers reading his great reviews, using his service, and posting their own glowing reviews about how they found him on Yelp. He is being called “My Guy” and the person they would recommend to any friends who need the service of a locksmith. He has more reviews on Yelp than all but one of the dealerships we researched (the median number of reviews for dealerships is just seven reviews and the dealership reviews include the sales department). Only one dealer has a higher score than this locksmith, but they have a single five-star review. That’s it.

“Has a Great Reputation with Other Customers” is the 5th most important aspect to consumers as they choose a service provider. “Has Positive Reviews on the Internet” is only number 23. But if it’s your online review writers who are telling their friends, “Hey you need a locksmith? You should call my guy.” then we should be devoting more time to our online reputations while taking care of the customers the way they want to be treated.

We have just completed a full deep dive into MyGuy behaviors, practices, and processes and are holding dealer and OEM workshops in next few months to share the findings and insights. Following that we will be embarking on MyGuy certification, auditing, and training programs.

Stay tuned for more information on MyGuy - the next generation service advisor.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

View From the Inside: Summer Interns and No Exit

What is consulting? It is the intense observation of seemingly reasonable processes to detect unreasonable, inconsistent, or obsolete components. The secret is now
out. Every year we recruit newly minted juniors from undergraduate programs (“interns”) to see if they can do this. This year’s interns came from U of M, Boston College, Harvard, and Bowdoin. Each year’s program consists of non-profit work combined with relevant basic research. The summer is a 10-week stress test, where we and the interns find out if there is a good fit. Harry Hollenberg and Lucy Pullen run the program, and they allow me some interaction with these folks – too much interaction and I become an uncontrolled disruptive influence.

During one session with the interns I was shocked that none had ever heard of Fred Astaire, never read Shogun, and never watched Casablanca or The Godfather. Some had read Sartre’s No Exit, but left that play with no lessons learned. I was concerned about balance – if they were in an elevator and sick to death of the business meeting, could they chat about something relevant and not superficial? So, I put them on a summer reading program. The text box is a lift from an email I sent them (but did not copy Lucy or Harry).

The summer went by, they worked on their non-profit assignments and MyGuy. Hmm, did they remember my assignment? They were released from work last Friday and reported out on their assignments. I got emails from each of them by the end of the day. Following are some excerpts.

“As you might have gathered, we struggled to find time to complete your suggested reading assignments. However, we were all appreciative of the recommendations …. As a math major, I continually seek to find other ways to balance the quantitative orientation of most of my classes. So, some quality literature suggestions are much appreciated. In response to your fifth question, the application of classic literature in my life is in furthering my written and oral communication skills. Classic literature is often a window into a style of speaking and writing that has been abandoned in this text-heavy era. Moreover, as much as society has changed in the past few decades, people truly have not changed that much. Emotions and connections are relatable across generations and it’s important to read literature to help further your understanding of people and the human intuition. I know that’s a lofty statement, but I truly believe that understanding how people think and what motivates them is a key to success in almost every aspect of life, business or otherwise. Even though “smart people don’t read”, perhaps the ambitious ones do. “

“I was honest when I said you would get a response, but I was also honest when I told you the quality of that response was up to interpretation. I am sure that while you are disappointed to hear that we haven’t all made a considerable dent in your reading list, you are aware that our time was limited this summer. I apologize for that failure, but I would also like to utilize the excuse that our hotels didn’t have copies of Casablanca or the Godfather. I did ask. With enough sparknoting/googling we could have cheated our way through your questions, but I’d rather read these books than the one-page online summary. NO EXIT: L’enfer, c’est les autres. As you know, I have already read this book (Huis Clos, as it was meant to be read!), but in relation to work, this book teaches us that certain places or people can be your hell. I have my own environments and personality types that give me that no exit feeling. Working somewhere where everyone is constantly in competition, where people are pretentious. We are taught to want to work in those 30 story NYC buildings where you can’t approach your CEO and have to wear a suit every single day, but is that really fulfilling? Long term, I think that that is a secret no exit. Regardless, my definition is constantly evolving. Part of this project was dealing with your no exit moments, and part of life is about knowing what no exit is for you and how to avoid it. “

“I have three very large books sprawled out on the back seat of my car and I just received three library letters asking me to renew those books…again. In terms of the extra credit, you set a high bar for us interns. It was so high that it became unreachable and when it became unreachable it vanished. I could sift through the internet in order to piece together bits and fragments of the answers you’re looking for. I could concoct a story and hand you a “bar.” Perhaps, I could learn to wave this bar as gracefully as Astaire would have. He’s quite the performer isn’t he? Then again, Erving Goffman would suggest that we all are. Yet, Fred is not just a mere performer. He’ll put on quite the show and then he’ll step back and let his partner shine as well because the show is only exceptional when all the players are moving harmoniously. Some would suggest that true brilliance is not born out of agency but out of well integrated community. Even if you’re trapped in a room with two others and conflicts are arising, you’ll break free if you transform the dynamic. You have to understand your peers’ strengths, weaknesses, aggravations, and delights. Only then you’ll realize that this room has resources that can be tapped into and your peers can see things you may not be able to see.”

Hmm. Even if you’re trapped in a room with two others and conflicts are arising, you’ll break free if you transform the dynamic. You have to understand your peers’ strengths, weaknesses, aggravations, and delights. Only then you’ll realize that this room has resources that can be tapped into and your peers can see things you may not be able to see. I never thought of No Exit in that way. I suspect Sartre was hoping we all would.

Bottom Line: I should not have been concerned. At the end of the day, the interns wowed me. For MyGuy, they developed comprehensive dealer report cards based on internet reviews and mystery shops. They went on the road and visited 20-30 dealers and observed seemingly reasonable processes. And, they were able to detect inconsistencies that we had not seen before. They thought, and thought well.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Dear AARP, I Don’t Get Your Mentioning of RepairPal As a ‘Great Way to Save'

AARP lists using RepairPal as a great way to save and find out what the “job should cost.” So, I thought I would give it a try on my iPhone.

It was easy to download the app and plug in the information for my Ford Escape. Acton Ford is a few miles down the road and has a reputation for best-in-class service; some people in my office take their Hondas there.

I plugged in a repair for front brake pads and rotor replacement and got back a wide range of prices that indicates what this might cost, but gives me no clue on how to save. The price ranges for both parts and labor are huge and I’m stuck scratching my head.

I asked RepairPal for recommendations on where to go. They want to send me to places that have lots of stars … but, almost no reviews. The top recommendation was 18 miles away (30-40 minutes), and if I wanted a “specialist” they wanted to send me to a car dealer 11.6 miles away … one that does not sell Ford products. Hmmm.

Ron Bouchard had only one RepairPal review, but six Google reviews. Six was not enough for Google to make a qualified recommendation on Ron, so I had to read the reviews. (RepairPal is not burdened by the messy laws of statistics.) Three of Ron Bouchard’s six reviews were pretty awful – a tad old, but still, 50% of the reviews were thumbs down.

My local Ford dealer was three pages down the list in digital “Siberia”, unrated, and only 2.6 miles away. And, he is pretty wonderful.

Bottom Line: So, AARP, did RepairPal give me even a tiny clue how to save money? No. They wanted to send me to repair locations that were miles away, had irrelevant or just plain bad customer reviews, and gave me no real help determining what the repair might actually cost. Sure, they gave me a mighty range of costs, but so could my Grandmother. Shame on you AARP. I wish I was less than 50 years old so I wouldn’t get so much of your junk mail and junk ideas.

Best regards,

David P. Carlisle

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Outbound Transport Flows and Measures

Despite countless efforts to have perfect outbound transportation systems, we still find room to make changes and improvements. After years of trials and errors, we begin to realize that there are so many correlated measurements within this “transportation Rubik’s cube” that improving one element tends to affect others. It’s easy to get one side of the cube complete, but once you move on to other sides you end up distorting everything (some of us can’t even do one side, but that is a different issue). So how do you solve this puzzle? You could certainly keep trying to rotate the cube and hope that it will miraculously match eventually, or you collaborate with others facing a similar situation. Sound familiar? From NAPB’s perspective, this is why we had a brilliant group of subject matter experts from 20 different OEMs identify and define transport benchmarks. Here are the takeaways from the discussion:
  • OEMs think cost and service-related metrics are most important measurements. Needless to say, Carlisle has benchmarked those metrics, such as on-time delivery percentages, freight rates, and carrier damage.
  • Although DDS service is a big cost driver for transportation, these trucks are not always cubed out efficiently, because there is no incentive to optimize the cube utilization. This could be a valuable measurement, but the “devil’s in the details” when measuring cube utilization.
  • Ten OEMs reported some sharing of DDS; many of them were satisfied, as it reduced cost and expanded their coverage, but also mentioned that it is harder within certain geographies (such as southern regions, where major cities are more dispersed).
  • Based on their business models and service priorities, companies’ DDS models ranged from fully dedicated, to OEM-manage shared DDS, to carrier-managed shared pseudo DDS.
  • OEMs spend a big chunk of their outbound dollars on air transport. However, some question whether the extra-large expense is fulfilling a real need, thus they are trying to figure out ways to avoid air volume and convert to cheaper modes.
  • There seem to be lots of uncertainties regarding transportation damage rates, which makes it harder to benchmark. Some OEMs think DDS damage is too small to measure while others think that LTL damage data is not reliable.
  • Many OEMs would like to see more benchmarks in order response times and freight rates, because they tend to show broad distributions in performance.
Bottom Line: Darwin once quoted, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Looking at the takeaways, there are some conflicting opinions and ideas among OEMs, which seems natural since not everyone’s business model is exactly the same. Nevertheless, in order to improve their transportation system, OEMs need to observe the issues and understand which methods work best for their business.