An Ethics Checklist for Shop Owners
By Bob Cooper
Every shop owner has a number of important responsibilities. First and foremost, they are responsible for setting the goals of the company and hiring the right people. They are also responsible for creating the plan, managing their employees and ensuring the success of the company. But there’s another major responsibility that every shop owner has, and that’s to bring ethics into every decision making process, and to let their moral compass guide them. This checklist is certainly not meant to be a complete list of all ethical considerations, but I feel this will give you a good starter-list to consider, and hopefully review with all of your employees.
1. Setting Customer Expectations. We are the professionals in all cases, so at the very first point of contact we have an ethical responsibility to set clear expectations for each and every customer. These expectations need to address the services that will be performed, the benefits of those services, the time they will take, and the cost of those services.
2. Performing Complete and Accurate Vehicle Inspections. In all cases, inspection services need to be clearly explained to the customer, and they need to be completed in professional manner that meets with industry standards. With the understanding that the customer’s safety is in our hands, beyond any operational reasons, we have an ethical responsibility to complete such services so we can better protect our customers. This means inspecting all the relative vehicle components, the customer’s hard copies of service receipts, and any vehicle history that is stored in our customer databases. All discoveries and recommendations need to then be documented in an easy-to-understand and legible manner for the customer to review.
3. Disclosing all Discoveries. The customers that turn to us for services and repairs depend on our honesty. There is an unspoken expectation that we will disclose all of our discoveries at all times, and do so in a manner that allows our customers to feel comfortable, and under no pressure whatsoever to authorize any additional services.
4. Selling Additional Services. As professionals, we need to ensure that each and every service recommendation is presented in a professional and customer-centric way that follows your company’s sales procedures. The sale should start by confirming the customer’s initial concerns, and then prioritizing the additional services in a way that builds customer confidence, and stimulates a conversation about the recommendations. In all cases we need to explain the benefits of the recommended services, and provide the customer with a copy of the estimate if they elect to not authorize the recommended services. As service providers, our moral compass should direct us to treat the customer as though they are family, and in doing so, we need to view the sales process as helping the customer make the right decision, rather than looking at the dollars and cents that are associated with the sale.
5. The Morality of Pricing. As business owners we need to live by a number of rules when it comes to pricing our services, yet the most important rule states that we need to treat people the way they should be treated. At Elite we certainly understand that no two shops will ever be exactly alike, and there are many things that need to be considered when establishing your pricing, yet one thing we tell every single coaching client is that there is always a point where pricing moves beyond generating a reasonable profit, and to the point of greed. One of our mantras at Elite is, “Just because you can charge more, doesn’t mean you should charge more.” Simply put, you can never put money ahead of people.
6. The Morality of Employee Equality. This is a subject in itself, so I will just give you one example of employee equality. Here at Elite we certainly understand that most shop owners have pay plans in place that they have developed, in many cases, over many years. This often leads to them having techs in their shops on different pay plans, and earning different incomes. Rather than taking this approach, you should have a pay plan in place that is transparent, and allows every tech to see what they can earn based on their ASE Certifications, their productivity, and the quality of their work. By taking this approach, every tech will be working off the same pay plan matrix, and your moral compass will tell you that you’re being fair to all.
7. General Decision Making. As business owners we are constantly making decisions throughout the day, and while in most cases they are not too difficult to make, we inevitably run into those decisions that are a little tougher than others. In many cases, those difficult decisions involve two things; people and money. To ensure we make the right call when faced with these difficult decisions, all that we need to do is ask ourselves, “What’s the right thing to do?”, rather than, “What’s best for us?” For years here at Elite we have used my “Grandmother technique” whenever we are faced with these difficult decisions. We simply ask ourselves, “What would our grandmothers say?”, and by the time we are done with that exercise, we inevitably feel good about our decision because it was made based on ethics; not dollars and cents.
8. Never Lose Faith in Ethics. By embracing the value of ethics, and consciously bringing them into your life, a number of things will inevitably occur. First of all, the superstars that you would like to have working with you, will want to work with you. Secondly, not only will you feel good about your decisions, but the people that work with you will feel good about them also. And finally, if you never put money ahead of people, if you consciously bring ethics into your decision making process, and if you never lose faith in your moral compass, you will be serving as a role model for all of the people that work with you, and you will be building a really great business based on principles that have withstood the test of time.
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