Fixed Right First Time – by Greg Marchand

“Fixed right first time” is a key component to customer satisfaction in the automotive industry. The problem could be something as simple as the Maintenance Reminder Light is still on after the oil change or the noise they asked to have eliminated is still present the day after their service visit.. This might be no big deal to you or your technicians, but to a customer this represents a significant error. Generally they see a light on and know something isn’t right. Any reason at all for unexpectedly returning to the repair shop represents a negative experience. The components of Fixed Right First Time are: proper information gathering, complaint verification, strong communication, and technician skill.

There are many ways a repair shop can ensure a “fixed right first time” customer experience. Some ways are to: increase technician skill level, increase shop communication, and maybe refocus your service advisor play plans.

A tool I suggest providing your service writer(s) with is a Customer Problem Analysis Sheet. Utilizing a Customer Problem Analysis Sheet to gather information from a customer serves two purposes. The CPA is nothing more than an 8.5 by 11 inch sheet of paper with specific questions for the service advisor to ask the customer.

First, it gathers critical information for the technician who will be performing the service on the vehicle. Many times a service writer may not know exactly what information will be useful to the technician. Utilizing a Customer Problem Analysis Sheet will encourage the service writer to collect all of the information every time a vehicle is presented with a concern. This avoids spending time later in the day trying to reach the customer and gather information not previously acquired.

Secondly, it helps the customer feel heard. The customer gets to see someone writing down what they say the concern is, and gets to provide information important and relevant to the diagnostic or service process. With a service writer typing away on a computer where the screen can’t be seen, the customer doesn’t really know what information is being relayed.

By filling out a Customer Problem Analysis Sheet with the customer, or asking the customer to take a minute and answer the questions on the sheet by themselves, not only can valuable information be gathered, but it can help the customer feel empowered and a part of the diagnostic process.

“Fixed right first time” starts with information gathering. This is especially critical when it comes to intermittent problems. Your technicians are taught that the first step in the diagnostic process is to Verify the Concern. In order for the technician to legitimately verify the concern they need to understand: when and where the problem happens, how they may be able to duplicate the problem, and exactly what the customer is experiencing.Sometimes the customer’s concern is very apparent, while at other times it can be questionable as to exactly what the customer is concerned with.

Encourage your service writers to never assume they know what the customer is complaining about. Just because a problem sounds like something that came in last week, doesn’t mean it’s anywhere near the same problem. There are many times that the customer will need to show the service writer, or the technician, exactly what the problem is. This can be challenging because of time constraints within the shop, personnel resources, or the physical location of the repair shop lending itself to a quick and easy test drive.

Do what you can to create time for your service writer to fully understand the customer’s concern. This may mean giving the service writer the time they need to walk out to the vehicle with the customer. Put a process in place that will allow your writer to do this while someone else covers the desk. As inconvenient as it may sound to do something like this, it can save valuable time later in the day. It’s also one of those “personal touches” that can go a long way in creating happy customers.

Another critical part of “fixed right first time” is the communication between the service writer and the technician. There are many pitfalls that occur here. A service writer must be able to translate what the customer is saying into language that the technician can understand, as well as interpret what the technician is asking the service writer or customer. This is never an easy job. The Customer Problem Analysis Sheet can help with this.

On the other side of that challenge is interpreting what the technician is asking the service writer to find out from the customer. Many questions that a technician might ask are rather standard and can be listed on a Customer Problem Analysis Sheet, however every situation is different.

Taking time with the customer, actively listening to the customer, and not making assumptions are all part of collecting the appropriate information regarding the customer concern. Understanding exactly what the customer is complaining about can be difficult, but is critical to “fixed right the first time.”

Technicians play an important role in Fixed Right First Time. Here are my expectations for what technicians need to contribute: an appropriate skill set, a solid diagnostic plan, diligence in repairing the concern, and always confirming their repair with an appropriate test drive.

Doing your best to ensure Fixed Right First Time will ensure high levels of customer retention for your repair shop!


Greg Marchand, owner of AAT, Inc., has over 25 years of unique and extensive experience in the automotive industry. Throughout Greg’s career he has focused on bringing higher levels of customer satisfaction and improved customer management processes to the automotive industry. He currently designs and delivers curriculum for the Service Sales Academy in an effort to help automotive repair shops increase customer retention. Greg holds an MBA in Environmental and Organizational Sustainability. You can connect with Greg at his websiteLinkedIn, or email him at


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