Outcome based service work?

I took my car to the mechanic recently. It had a strange little annoying sound in the engine that only seemed to kick in early in the morning when I accelerated hard through 2,000rpm. It didn’t seem like a big deal but maybe it was an early-warning-sign of a larger problem. I thought it would make sense to have it checked by a professional rather than ignore it and one day have a more serious issue.

I explained the problem to the mechanic in great detail and even wrote down the symptoms for him. It was a strange little problem and I wanted to make sure he fully understood it.

After what seemed like way too many days, I received a call from the mechanic to come and collect my car. I arrived ready to hear that my problem had been solved and I could take my car. Unfortunately, my mechanic gave me the bad news. The sound was a strange one so they spent lots of time going over a range of problems. They thought it might be a simple belt or vacuum line problem – so they replaced the belts and hoses. They checked the liquid levels in the sump, the power steering pump and the radiator and checked the radiator cap. They thought the fuel might be the wrong octane level so they drained the fuel tank and refilled it with the correct octane fuel. They used feeler gauges to check the spark gap in all the plugs. The compression in each cylinder was tested. Still having no luck, they stripped the engine and checked the rocker arm and the valve seats. Carbon build-up inside the engine was investigated. In frustration, they checked the big-end bearings and connections between conrods and pistons. After rebuilding the engine they finally checked the catalytic converter and then crossed their fingers. They took it for a drive the next morning and the noise was still there.

They gave up!

They rang me to collect my car as they couldn’t solve the problem. I was disappointed that the noise would continue but at least I had some level of comfort in knowing it wasn’t a more serious problem. Unfortunately, my serious problem was about to begin with my heart. It skipped several beats when the mechanic handed me a bill for several thousand dollars. I said they hadn’t fixed anything. The mechanic again started telling me about all the hours of hard work he had put into the job and he started going through all the technical details again (which made even less sense the second time). I told him that I didn’t care about the chromed grease nipples of a catalytic converter – I just wanted to insert my key in the ignition and drive. “But I worked so hard on this job,” was all the mechanic kept saying over and over.

Not only did I not care but I don’t actually know how hard he did work. From an incredibly simplistic perspective, all I know is that I had a problem with a car and I gave it to a mechanic. He gave it back to me with the problem intact so why should I have to pay a bill.

This scenario is one that is played out over and over in the IT world. Computers are tricky. Some problems are painful. If you base all of your work just on hours there is no reward for efficient work and there is no safety net for a client.

When you base all of your charging models on achieving an outcome, it hones the focus of all of your staff to ensure the objective is to complete the work. If you occasionally have a situation whereby a problem proves too painful or time-consuming to rectify then it is simple. You don’t charge the client! Just as with the situation with my mechanic, a client simply does not care about how much effort you put into to solving a problem. They only care about the results. And if the result is that the problem is not fixed, they don’t like to pay the bill.

This really puts some pressure on your staff so if you have some staff who really struggle with such a customer-focused outcome scenario, tell them to eat concrete and harden up. Your customers will love the fact that if you don’t fix it, they don’t pay. And with all that additional income from happy clients, you will be able to afford even better technicians!

Tell me your most frustrating experience with a mechanic at [email protected].

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