Problem Solving for Today’s Shops
Aug. 29, 2022—Rising to the occasion doesn’t have to happen all at once. Sometimes it is gradual. Sometimes, it starts with a good foundation and the motivation to do better. Amid the changes, the challenges and all of the technology that is quickly developing across the industry, it is never a bad idea to strive for what comes next. It all starts with the first step.
That step, no matter how large or small, is an important one. It looks different for each person, and finding the right direction to head in can often be the trickiest part of it all. What makes the automotive industry so great in situations like this is that fellow shop owners and industry members can be a terrific resource.
Chris Cloutier, co-owner of Golden Rule Auto Care and Chief Executive Officer and founder of autotext.me, knows a thing or two about strategizing success based upon the needs of this industry.
Autotext.me is a digital inspection and digital workflow communication tool for the aftermarket. It is an idea that came about through Cloutier’s experience as a shop owner with Golden Rule, which has two shops in the Dallas, Texas, area.
“Before I bought auto repair shops, I was a little frustrated at the lack of communication whenever I’d take my vehicle to an auto repair shop,” Cloutier says. “I wanted to solve that problem. Once I bought a repair shop, I realized the problem is that. Things are a little unorganized. I like organization, productivity, and efficiency. If you know what is going on with the vehicle in your shop, then you can communicate effectively with your customers.”
Cloutier was able to recognize a need within the industry, and then went on to develop a solution that shops could implement through autotext.me.
“The problem is that a lot of shops...we fix cars. But sometimes the order in which we fix them is a little messed up,” Cloutier says. “Process and procedure are not necessarily something that auto repair shops focus on very well. We focus on the fix, and sometimes process procedures [are] very much needed in our industry.”
Now that autotext.me is a fully fleshed-out idea, he hasn’t lost his momentum. In fact, this is something that Cloutier will be exploring at the ADAPT: Automotive Technology Summit this fall.
The event will be held Sept. 24 and Sept. 25 in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. Cloutier will be speaking during the “Shop Solutions” section of the Summit, which will explore unique problem-solving initiatives from real people in this industry.
Cloutier plans to discuss baywatcher.ao, which is a real-time service bay analysis tool that he recently helped develop. The purpose of this tool is to help shop owners have a greater handle on what is happening in their bays from the moment a vehicle pulls in.
“I know what bay it's in. I know how long it's been in that bay. I even know the bodies that have been on that vehicle,” Cloutier says. “So, it starts helping me kind of dial in efficiencies and productivities within the shop. We can always hire a couple more technicians, but it's very hard to replicate more bays in our shop.”
Cloutier says that an example of the way this tool could be used is checking to see if certain promises are being kept across a shop in regard to service times. Cloutier says that the duration for a typical oil change at Golden Rule is 45 minutes. This includes 30 minutes to conduct the oil change and then an additional 15 to write it up.
Cloutier says that baywatcher.ao can be utilized to ensure that this timeframe is consistent across the board by using real data from the shop.
“So, it's about a 45-minute oil change. Is that getting met? Is that time getting met? A lot of times, what happens is we have these false assumptions [and] we say, ‘Oh, this person never does that in this amount of time,’” Cloutier says. “Or we use these absolutes. Well, [baywatcher.ao] gives the correct data to actually make these decisions.”
Cloutier understands that adaptations are crucial in this industry. By using a forward-thinking approach, Cloutier can problem solve in ways that make sense for the needs of today. For example, regarding retention in his shops, Cloutier says that he has allowed a service advisor to work fully remote. The service advisor had experience and was well-trained. He was contemplating leaving the shop, but Cloutier was determined to make things work in the favor of the employee.
“I didn't want to lose his experience. I didn't want to lose his ability to communicate very effectively with customers,” Cloutier says. It kind of forced our hand on creating this remote service advisor position. Has it worked well? Yes, it has worked extremely well because he doesn't have the pressure of the counter. He can do some things that sometimes he couldn't do at the counter. So, we're finding different ways to create new job opportunities.”
Cloutier doesn’t shy away from a challenge, but he also understands that navigating some of these areas as a shop owner can be difficult. But he says that if you take things one step at a time, you are heading in the right direction.
“I love the quote, ‘How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time,’” Cloutier says. “A lot of times shop owners get overwhelmed, and they don't think about eating that elephant one bite at a time and they try to eat it all in one sitting.”