Where do you go when you really need to get something done? Aside from fixing a truck, would you ever say ‘the shop’? Have you ever put in a 10-hour day, but felt like you didn’t accomplish a thing?
To paraphrase Jason Fried, the modern shop has become an interruption factory.
The typical manager is interrupted on average once every eight minutes. And when the interruption is over, you don’t just get back to what you were doing. It takes 25 minutes to regain your focus. By then you’ll be interrupted again!
Interruptions take on a whole new level of seriousness in a shop, where they can break a technician’s concentration and cause them to make a mistake that will result in a comeback. So not only do interruptions decrease the shop’s efficiency, they can also have a real financial cost.
So how do you eliminate interruptions? Here are three proven ways.
1. Train your staff
In our lab shop, we noticed that constant interruptions were a total productivity killer. We were designing software and running a shop simultaneously, so time was precious. We couldn’t go five minutes without a phone call, knock at the door, or someone just bursting in. And it wasn’t just us being interrupted–we were interrupting the techs and office staff too!
Of course some things justify an interruption. If it is truly urgent and important, it needs to be dealt with. But the vast majority of interruptions were neither truly urgent nor important. We felt that less urgent items could just as easily be put in an email or text message, and that way we could respond to it during a natural break in our activities.
So we trained the staff on de-escalating things that were not really urgent. We built the following pyramid as a gentle reminder and posted it around the shop. The goal was to minimize interruptions for everyone, which we hoped would make us all more productive and actually decrease mistakes and comebacks.
It took some time, but eventually caught on and became part of our shop culture.
2. Give your customers a portal
Our industry is a good 15 years behind on technology. That means when customers have a repair request, their only option is to get you on the phone and have you transcribe it for them. And when they have a question about the status of a repair, again their only option is a phone call. This accounts for a great deal of a shop’s incoming phone calls. And while these calls do mean business is coming in, they are interruptions none the less.
Customers don’t face this same problem with other services. For example, they can order supplies online, change their phone or internet service, and even do their accounting and payroll online. Why not give them the option to submit a repair request online?
Enter the online repair request. In Fullbay, customers can save their customer portal link to their phone, and it shows up as an icon with your shop logo. When something happens to a truck, it can be emotionally stressful, and that emotion stays with the customer until at least they can get the problem communicated to their shop. With the repair request just a touch away on their phone, they can put it in their own words and be totally confident that the technician will read exactly what they wrote. No telephone involved.
We have found that about 80% of repeat customers adopt the online repair request. They also use the portal to check the status of repairs. All this serves to dramatically reduce the number of phone calls coming in, but actually increases the number of repair requests per customer, because submitting a request is so much easier.
3. Set aside time to “get in the zone”
According to the founders of 37 Signals, you get your best work done when you’re “in the zone.”
When you have a long stretch when you aren’t bothered, you can get in the zone. The zone is when you are most productive. It’s when you don’t have to mindshift between various tasks. It’s when you aren’t interrupted to answer a question or look up something or send an email or answer an im. The alone zone is where real progress is made.
Getting in the zone takes time. And that’s why interruption is your enemy. It’s like rem sleep — you don’t just go to rem sleep, you go to sleep first and you make your way to rem. Any interruptions force you to start over. rem is where the real sleep magic happens. The alone time zone is where the real development magic happens.
Running a heavy duty repair shop is no different. Once you are at the shop, you are at the interruption factory. You need to set aside blocs of time where you can work without interruption. One way to do this is by working remote at least part of the day.
If your repair order software lives in the cloud, it doesn’t matter if you are physically in the shop — you can see what’s going on in the shop and make course corrections as necessary. This is a great way to make daily blocs of uninterrupted time a reality.
There are some common sense steps you can take to reduce interruptions in your day, like training your staff, giving your customers an online portal, and setting aside blocs of time to “get in the zone.”
We built Fullbay to eliminate most interruptions and allow you to get into the shop, get things done, then get out and have a great life outside the shop. Request a demo today.