The call, one of hundreds made every day, goes something like this:
“Hello. This is Billy-Joe-Bob, can I help you?”
“Yeah Billy, this is Hank with Smith Machine. I’m working on an F-150 with a 4.6 and I need some parts.”
“OK, Hank. I have several Smith Machines, do you know your account number?”
“OK, can I get your phone number?”
“Hank, now that I’ve got your account up, can you give me more info? On a 4.6 I need the year and the VIN number. You know the eighth digit?”
“Well, I think it’s a ’99 and he didn’t give me the VIN. Aren’t they all the same?”
“No, they’re not. Is it a Windsor or a Romeo? Single cam or dual cam? Oh, and for the timing set, I do need the exact year.”
“Windsor or Juliet? Err, Romeo? Really? Why do I need to know all that? How can I tell?”
“You need to know all that so I can get you the correct parts. You can tell by getting me the VIN number.”
The fact that this conversation mimics the one he had yesterday while trying to find parts for an import engine – an even bigger nightmare – still doesn’t dawn on Hank. The real fact of the matter is he could spare himself all this grief and waste of time by doing a better job of receiving his labor.
No, Hank didn’t lie to Billy when asked about the vehicle identification number (VIN) – his customer really didn’t give that to him. No one ever seems to offer the critical info. That is why you have to ask for it. Just as you have to ask for a name and phone number. What if your customer, say Joe’s Repair, doesn’t have the VIN? That’s OK. Just make sure that Joe knows you can’t get his job started until he gets that for you. If Joe is a smart man and wants to get that car done and out of his bay, he sure as heck will get that info to you quickly.
Let’s turn this around. Same conversation but this time Billy doesn’t do his job, doesn’t ask the right questions. Sure, old Hank doesn’t know and neither does he, so he’ll just choose the first part he finds. It was just an estimate, right?
So Hank gets a price on a mystery part and the snowball begins its journey down the hill. His quote to his customer is wrong, and odds are, it will probably be too low. Somewhere down the line, the go ahead is given and the mystery part is ordered. Now we’ve added shipping costs to all the time we’ve spent acquiring a quote and then the part.
We’ve all been here so there is no surprise when the part or parts are wrong. But we have time, freight and money tied up in the wrong part. Add in return freight, all for nothing, and we’re back to square one. Now you’re calling Billy-Joe-Bob and you’re mad. But let’s ask ourselves, who’s at fault here?
I personally hate fault. It accomplishes nothing and is only a defense mechanism to protect our own fragile egos. Resolve comes only when we move forward. And since this isn’t a waltz, let’s not take two steps forward and one step back.
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