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Clarke Waldron

In a four-line car dealership service department, I was assigned to be their first dispatcher. All that I was told of my duties was to dispatch to the eight mechanics, the repair orders from four advisors. I had to concoct a system that was efficient and thorough to track the work being done so that all repair orders were evenly and timely distributed to all the mechanics. I drew up a paper spreadsheet (this was before computer spreadsheets) and had it printed into a pad. Each sheet was a day's work and work carried over to the next day was easily transferred. After the first month, I was told that the productivity of the service department had increased 15%. 

In an seven-line car dealership service department, the warranty clerk had allowed warranty claim reports to back up that they were six months in arrears; this was aggravated by poor documentation by the mechanics such that when the warranty clerk asked for clarification from the mechanics, so much time had passed that many details of repairs completed were lost to memory. I was put into place as the warranty clerk as the service manager was well aware of my organizational skills and ability to write clear and thorough reports as I worked as a mechanic. Within a month, I was able to get the backlog of warranty claims cleared, which resulted in substantial reimbursement from all manufacturers with whom we worked. From there on, reports were submitted in less than a week.

As my mechanic's stall was right next to the incoming cars for service, I came to learn that regardless that there were many vandalism repairs that came in for an estimate, none of the advisors were prepared to generate an estimate. Since I performed all the vandalism repairs, I knew substantially more than the advisors of what to include on the estimate. First of all, there was no formal estimate form to use; so I had to devise one. At the same time, I constructed a pocket cheat sheet of critical part numbers of common items to be replaced in a vandalism repair. When the service manager came to know that I had these items at the ready, I was appointed to be the one to whom all customers with vandalism repairs were referred. I continued my work as a mechanic and performed this new duty as the demand arose. The rate of insurance companies to approve our estimates approached 100% as a result of my extra effort. Vandalism repair jobs were highly profitable. And customers were very appreciative of the end result of the repairs that such an experience which started out so negative (windows were broken, dashboards torn up, and radios stolen) ended up so positive (all the broken glass was removed from all nooks and crannies of the interior, new dashboards were installed, and often their replacement radio was an upgrade from their original).

Beginning in a seven-line car dealership as a mechanic, I often encountered situations that would be useful to communicate to the manufacturers. I expressed my concern to the service manager and he dug out unused report forms for exactly that purpose; no one was using them. As time went by, I authored over 100 of these reports, often reporting on behalf of mechanics who could not waste their time on paperwork. One of my reports was so thorough and detailed that it was placed on a display board at Subaru of America's office as a good example of a technician's report. I was the most prolific technician report writer for both SAAB and Subaru for several years. One of my reports was key to a manufacturer's service bulletin distributed to all Subaru dealers in North America. (I had deduced that a Code 10 trouble code would always be preceded by a Code 4, thus rendering the Code 10 useless except to prove that the Anti-lock Brake Control Module itself was at fault.)

I was on the freeway to work at my Subaru dealership, when I saw a relatively new Subaru pulled over to the shoulder. I was able to carefully pull over and then back up to the car. I got out and introduced myself (I was in my technician's uniform). I asked what was the problem. The lady reported that her car was overheating and had wisely pulled over. Due to my many years of experience, I knew that I could, regardless of the overheating problem, drive her car to the dealership about three miles away without damaging her engine. I suggested that she drive my car while I followed behind in her car. She agreed to this arrangement and in short order, we had arrived at my dealership. I saved her the trouble of walking off the freeway (this was before cell phones), finding a tow truck, and getting towed to the dealership, which would have easily taken hours to accomplish. She was just astonished such a large problem was handled so quickly and easily.

When I was a student auto body and paint technician, the instructor had me organize his notes from a factory tour into a report on how their procedures could be changed to produce better products. This freed the instructor to conduct classes while I ghost-wrote his report.

While I was the dispatcher, a lady called in with a problem in her brand-new Subaru. She was at a coffee shop and had left her car running and had absent-mindedly locked her keys in the car. And she was on her way to work. While I had her on the phone, I brought up her car in our system and luckily, her vehicle's key code was in her file. I told her that I would be sending someone to the coffee shop in short order with a key. I cut the key (having learned the skill as a technician) and sent our gopher with the key to the nearby coffee shop. I took care of her problem in a very little time and with very little trouble on her part. She said that she would most assuredly remember our helpful intervention.

When I was a service advisor, we were having a rather full day's work come in with appointments. A new customer came in with a problem without an appointment; she had placed something in her center console directly under her dash. This object had somehow slid forward and into the inside of the console where it didn't belong. We honestly had no time in our schedule to take her car in even for something so simple. Having been a technician, I knew that merely pulling free a pop-out panel would allow me to get to the inside of the console in mere moments. I proceeded to the right front passenger compartment, pulled the panel loose, retrieved the lost object, and snapped the panel back into place. She had expected to at least leave the car all day for the object to be retrieved; but instead, her problem was resolved while she waited less than a minute. She was astounded that her problem had been solved so quickly.

After I had been a dealership technician for some months, it dawned on me that I could take care of information shortage about work which I had done in the past by keeping my own record of repair orders with notes on each. This bit of organizing, where there had been none before, allowed me to account for actions taken or problems encountered; I was able to in moments answer questions about repairs or parts ordered far back into the past. This proved very useful in complicated cases when documentation I couldn't include on a repair order was needed. I made this a practice for my entire working career as a technician. It came in very handy countless times.

Our Cadillac service customers were used to the service that our dealership provided Cadillacs from the car rental agency that was next door to us, while their car was in for service. However, one day was particularly full as a critical safety recall was bringing in cars in unprecedented numbers, exhausting the car rental agency's supply of Cadillacs. So we attempted to send one customer out in our dealership's rarely-used Chevrolet loaner car. The customer was outraged that he would have to drive a Chevrolet that day as he was to meet his ex-wife's new husband and that “image was very important to [him]”. He threw the keys back on my desk as he pronounced his displeasure. It occurred to me that perhaps another branch of the car rental agency might have a Cadillac that could used to solve the problem. Twenty minutes later, a Cadillac arrived from another branch of the car rental agency and whisked our angry customer away. Later that day when he returned for his car, he apologized for his outburst; and we all lived happily ever after.