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Learning from Measuring Mistakes

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When it comes to getting accurate measurements, sometimes there is just no substitute for good old-fashioned paper and pencil.

Over the course of several months, I became increasingly frustrated that the touch time data supplied by my management software was not matching reports from one of our insurance partners. I just could not figure out why they said we were doing below average on their touch time reports while my management software said we were doing 30 percent better than what they were reporting.

I started with the insurance company. Surely I must have misunderstood what the formula was they used for tracking. I called the area director of the DRP and asked him to clarify what the formula was. Well, that wasn’t it. We had the right formula. I called again just to make sure I understood. “Does that include weekends? What about holidays? When does the clock start if they drop off late in the day? How about tow-ins?” I asked him every possible question I could think of to make sure I wasn’t missing something. Turns out we were using the correct formula all along.

The problem was not on the insurance side, so I turned to my management software. I called the company and grilled them with questions as well. We verified that everything was correct and that the same calculations being used in the management software were also being used by the insurance company.

So if it wasn’t the insurance company formula and it wasn’t the management software, then that left me. It must be something on my side. So I dug in.

I printed off my shop’s report and the insurance company report and laid them side by side. Then I started looking at each and every job we did for this particular insurance company. One by one, with a calculator, a pencil and sheet of paper, I started going through job after job using the exact formula the insurance company used to measure touch time. I then compared that to what my management software was saying about each job. When there was a discrepancy, I noted it.

Someone had to be wrong and I was going to figure it out! Even if it meant I had to eat crow and admit it was me. Turns out, it was me.

On the insurance side, we were not reporting accurately what we were doing. The shop’s in and out dates were not the same as what we were uploading to them. That was an easy fix. We just added one step to our close-out process that verified we were giving the insurance company the correct data. It takes about five extra seconds per repair order and it took care of about 20 percent of the problem.

Next, I realized that my management software was measuring all the jobs that we closed in a given month on the repair plan. However, we did not always upload files to the insurance company that were closed on the last few days of the month. So, they were only seeing about 80 percent of the jobs we actually did for them. The others were getting pushed to the following month. Again, another simple fix. We just excluded those late jobs from that month’s data since the insurance company didn’t see those until the following calendar month.

All in all the biggest lesson here for me was that neither the insurance company nor the software was the problem. The problem was not even in how we were calculating touch time. We had the right formula. It had to do with what data we were feeding our software and the insurance company. And that had more to do with accurately reporting the in-and-out-dates to both places.

So, what were my takeaways from this little experience?

Well, it’s an old adage, but your data, and the software that produces it, are only as good as the numbers you feed into the calculations. It’s important to take the time to make sure the measurements are correct and consistent and that the right information is getting into them. It’s worth the extra effort to get it right on the front side so that the software can do what it does best: crunch the numbers. 

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