Written by Randy Gerdin on July 1, 2016
About a year ago, I was at my son’s graduation ceremony from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management MBA program. The keynote speaker was John Stumpf, Chairman and CEO of Wells Fargo Bank. He was speaking about technology and the innovations to come. He made a statement that has stuck with me. “We are in the first five minutes of a yearlong technological revolution”. The first 5 minutes? That is crazy. Then I stop and look at the last year and what I have seen happen in the automotive repair world over this time. Even here at our small independent repair shop in St. Francis, we have had some major changes, mostly due to technology. We now track our tow trucks online from our desktop computers and through apps on our phones. We can tell where the trucks are, where they have been, how long they stop at a scene, and even how fast they are and have been traveling.
All of our technicians now have iPads they use to scan in the vehicles they are working on. They use the iPads to perform inspections, take photos, make notes, and access technical information for diagnostics. When they are finished with a repair, they send the information to our service advisors and we can pull it up on our computers. We then use this information to make estimates for needed services and repairs. All this saved in the cloud so we can reference previous visits and send the information to a client if needed. It’s crazy!
It seems that a lot of the world these days is, for whatever reason, not available to take a phone call. So texting has become a major way for us to communicate with out customers. It starts with an opt-in text. By law, a business cannot text you without your approval, so we ask permission first and with their authorization, we can communicate via text. Many of our clients now prefer this method of communication. In many cases, due to the complexity of the repair and the costs associated with them, we need to speak directly to them as some point. Yesterday, we had four different vehicles in that needed new computers. We have the equipment to handle most of them, however, there was an older vehicle that required a power train control module. I called many places and no one could provide one. I ended up taking photos of the vehicle identification number of the vehicle and the part numbers on the module itself and texting it to a company in Florida. They had a unit they could program and send to us, we would return the old one, and it would save the client about $400 versus a new one from the dealer.
We recently had a pick-up truck brought in with a strange noise going down the road. After some research, we found a manufacture’s bulletin describing the problem and informing us that a new updated program installed in the vehicle’s computer was the fix. We “flashed” the computer and the noise was gone. Somehow, the running of the engine caused a harmonic vibration in the exhaust system causing this strange noise. It’s crazy!
We now are in the midst of fixing a vehicle that runs very poorly once or twice per day. We have put about 60 miles on it today, and it acted up only once. The vehicle’s computer is setting erroneous codes so we have little to go on, it’s crazy. It is true that we do have much better diagnostic test equipment, but somehow, I think the manufactures are getting ahead of their own vehicles. It’s crazy! I Hate When That Happens!