My favorite mechanic
Friday, February 17, 2017
"You really have to see my doctor, he’s the best."
The reason we feel free to endorse our physicians is that we have faith in in their competence. After all, if we did not, it might call our personal judgment into question. Think about that the next time you ask for a recommendation for a medical professional.
I think this applies to the mechanics we choose as well. We'd like to think we know the difference, but most of us are at the mercy of dynamics well beyond our knowledge or control. We do our best to evaluate the options, but more often than not our selection is a toss of the dice and often based on hearsay.
But before you make an important decision, consider that the law of averages dictates we can’t all have a mechanic (or doctor for that matter) who is statistically above average — it’s not numerically possible. As much as we'd like to think otherwise, practitioners of both medicine and machinery fall equally to the left and right of the proficiency midpoint.
This got me to thinking about how we choose the specialist responsible for the care of our beloved Porsches. I imagine that for new car purchases, we generally allow the dealer to take care of warranty items because it makes sense for them to. After all, it’s built into the price of the car. But beyond that, we are free to pick from a wide range of alternatives.
What criteria we use for selection, and to whom we award our business is an interesting effort. Let’s assume for a moment that we have some basic mechanical knowledge (so we haven’t just picked our guy off a dartboard). We typically rely on references of some sort, and perhaps have researched into the history and satisfaction of other customers.
We will sometimes accept mediocrity when cost or convenience is at play, as long as the risk is comparatively low. Conversely, we become increasingly particular as the degree of complexity rises. Not many of us will bring your Porsche to the neighborhood "Quickie Lube" for a valve adjustment.
What qualities do we expect in the ultimate technician? I personally don’t want to spend too much on something I could do myself, so cost is certainly a consideration. But I think a search for the ultimate Porsche mechanic goes well beyond price.
Facility condition is a common gauge. That can go both ways — some of us like a shop with character (meaning messy). Much like a cluttered desk, we assume an active business. But a well-equipped and clean shop with plenty of room to spread out is a huge influence to others.
Overall employee experience of Porsche mechanics and current certifications are important. How many years they have been in business is also an important measurement. Service turnaround can be a factor — no one wants to be without the use of their car, so we expect a reasonably timed completion. Location isn’t always a deal breaker, but convenience is often a consideration.
But there’s one dynamic I sincerely believe outweighs all others in choosing the ideal mechanic — one that trumps just about every other element, is a projection and outward appearance of confidence. Even more than technical prowess and the facility condition is an ability to convince us that they know what they’re doing, and that they’ve done it many times before.
Since by earlier definition we are average in mechanical knowledge, our perception of skill is often all we can go by. Mix in a conveyance of honesty, integrity and reliability, and you have the perfect automotive technician. Amazingly, this abstract quality is what provides us the most self-assurance.
We'll accept that they are first-rate because (so far) they haven't proven otherwise, and will return to them until and unless they really mess up — and even then, we’re likely to give them a chance to redeem themselves. And why is that? Because to admit anything else, is to acknowledge a failure in our own judgment.
So we'll make excuses due to the embarrassment of having selected a substandard professional in the first place, and then finally move on to another qualified expert that someone else has recommended as "the best" — and the process starts all over again. Oddly, exactly what we do with our physicians.
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