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PostPosted: Wed Nov 08, 2017 12:11 pm 
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Koa
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Drawing a circle around what work needs to be noted and discussed with a customer quickly is something I'm always trying to improve. Despite being involved with building and repair for a pretty long time, I rely too heavily on my eyes and experience and still occasionally get blindsided by something I overlooked but shouldn't have.

What I'd like to do, is come up with a concise list of checks to perform EVERY TIME. Before someone walks out the door and I have to track them down and ask about this and that.

I frequently have the urge to get them out the door so I can"really" take a look. A "cheat sheet" to counter this urge has been a project I've put off too long. I'm sure if I worked with a list for a while I would no longer need it but so far, time alone hasn't done the job.

I though others might find the discussion helpful too.

Below is a start to a list. Any idea's on additions, amendments, or re-ordering would be welcome. I'm also happy to share and hear others techniques and methods for preforming some of these assessments quickly as well.

Again, the idea is not to come up with an exhaustive list but one that covers the checks that should be preformed every time, starting with the most important and working on down, reducing as much as possible, call backs for further discussions.



Confirm string gauges
Truss rod working?
Bridge loose?
Neck angle? Joint tight? Bolts tight?
Loose frets?
Height of fret pits?
ski jump exceeding minimum fret height
Room to correct nut slot angle?
Intonation issue?
Break angle ok?
Cracks?
Loose/cracked braces?
Loose binding?
String balls into bridge plate?
Saddle fit/ Arch ok? Existing shims?
complaints about electronics?


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 08, 2017 12:33 pm 
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Alternate tunings.... especially with many fingerpickers and metal guys, non-standard tunings are a MUST for repair folks to know before we begin work.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 08, 2017 12:38 pm 
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Old Growth Brazilian Rosewood
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Is the prospective client as looney best served going elsewhere. Not kidding, we look for it.



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PostPosted: Wed Nov 08, 2017 1:40 pm 
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I see I posted this new threadsimultaneously with these ideas from the other thread on subcontracting here.http://luthiersforum.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=10101&t=49918&p=657533#p657533

This seemed like a different enough subject to begin a different thread.

Freeman, maybe you could cut and paste your post about methods here. I think it's interesting and helpful.

Hesh wrote:
Is the prospective client as looney best served going elsewhere. Not kidding, we look for it.

beehive If you can come up with a short checklist to weed out looneys you'd really have something.

Chris Pile wrote:
Alternate tunings.... especially with many fingerpickers and metal guys, non-standard tunings are a MUST for repair folks to know before we begin work.


See, I forgot! Alternate tunings added. [:Y:] Thanks Chris.

Brad, I don't take pictures as a matter of course. I take them when I want to remember how I did something in the future, convey a problem to someone via email, or just drive the confidence nail home for a new customer with a problem not visible from the outside. I could have a guitar sawed in half as a demo or something. I've just gotten in the habit of snapping a quick photo for the purpose. I put them in the customer's word folder along with the receipt of what I did. This has the unexpected benefit of being able to use the word search function to bring up all pictures i have containing "Martin bridge reglue" for example

In general I've been slowly backing away from over the top confidence building measures since I started. I think this is as it should be. When I started, I need people to trust me. I was new. I fantasize about just being able to say, "I fixed a bunch of broken $h!t on the inside of your guitar. you just can't see it. Either you trust me or you don't"

One other thing about photo's that I'm sure other repairers can relate to. Every once in awhile, especially after cleaning up an instrument that has had a ton of work done, I'll see a ding or blemish and have mild panic attack that it somehow happened on my watch because I just never noticed it. Pulling up a before photo and seeing it there has let me start breathing again without further drama. Customers also sometimes notice blemishes after cleaning they hadn't before.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 08, 2017 6:02 pm 
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david farmer wrote:

Freeman, maybe you could cut and paste your post about methods here. I think it's interesting and helpful.



I divide the analysis into two steps - the overall condition of the instrument and the specific measurements that go into doing the setup. Obviously if there is some other fundamental reason the guitar has been brought to me (detached bridge, broken headstock, gun shot hole in the side) that needs to get dealt with before the setup. On a Fender I check that the neck screws are tight.

The condition part starts with a general overall look at the instrument - are there any obvious cracks, is the bridge loose, any obvious structural issues. The second thing I look at is the hydration condition of the instrument - are the fret ends sticking out, is the top sunken, is the finish wonky. I always feel better if I see some sort of hydration system in the case, I always feel bad if I hear the guitar is kept on on a stand. If a guitar is dry I will do one of two things - a very quick setup, usually just shimming the saddle - and I give the owner one of my industrial strength humidifiers (a car wash sponge in a big baggie with lots of holes in it) to put inside the guitar. I tell them to come back in a month and we'll check again.

Next I check the neck angle - on an acoustic its the old straight edge on the fretboard pointing to the bridge trick - might be something a little different on an archtop or an electric. Basically what I want to know is does the geometry permit me to do the setup? On an electric that boils down to having enough travel in the bridge/saddles to get the action I want plus having a little travel in reserve. On an acoustic I want to know if I can lower the saddle enough to get the action I want. An over set neck can be an indicator of a dry guitar - I factor that into the hydration question. If the neck angle is bad enough that I can't get the kind of action I want we discuss the options - reset, shimming a Fender, whatever it takes.

Assuming the guitar is structurally sound, hydrated and has an acceptable neck angle, I then check the frets. Basically two things - are there grooves in the frets and how bad are they, and second are the frets level. The groove question is a judgement call, how bad do they look. The primary way I check for level is the "next fret clearance" thing that I described in the other thread - I hold a string down at the first fret and find a thin feeler that will just fit under at the second - its usually 2 or 3 or 4 thousands. I then just move up the fretboard, holding down the string at each fret and checking the next one. I'm not really measuring the gap, I just want to see if the feeler will fit. If it gets tight at one fret then I mark that fret as possibly high (and come back with my fret rocker). If the clearance seems to get progressively looser that is all right - usually means the action is way too high. If it gets at one fret then that fret is probably low (pretty uncommon). If the gap becomes smaller as I go up the board I might have a high fret or too much relief or something funky at the neck heel. I'll note on my little spread sheet what I'm observing and usually do a little rocking to try to nail it down.

Based on the next fret clearance and a fret rocker I can tell the owner that the frets are good, or that one or more is high, or maybe that some or all need to be replaced. If we are talking about replacing frets then I also look at whether this is time to sand divots out of the board. But once again, if the frets aren't perfect the setup will be compromised.

All of that took much longer to type out than it does to check it and I'm happy to do it with the owner watching. It doesn't bother me a bit to say "I won't do a setup until we've fixed XXX". It doesn't bother me if they decide to take it somewhere else. I'll give them an estimate of what the reset or fret job will cost, or how long it will take to rehydrate.

OK - assuming it passed all of those structural tests, now I start measuring and filling out my spread sheet. The guitar still has the string on - just measure and record everything just as all of us have been doing for a long time. I usually just measure the two outside stings unless something weird happens, however on my final check I do measure all the strings.

- Relief, capo at one, hold down a string at the body joint (12, 14, 16, 18...) and measure the gap half way between (5, 6, 7..). I measure the nut action at the first fret with feeler gauges, I measure the overall action at the 12th fret with that little StewMac action gauge. For right now only the E strings is necessary. I check the intonation with a chromatic tuner and write down how many cents sharp or flat each string is. Sometimes (electric guitars, archtops, 1970's Martins) I'll measure and write down the actual location of the saddle break point (I've got a trick I can describe if anyone is interested). I learned from a painful experience to measure the diameter of the two E strings with a caliper or micrometer - it will spoil your day to do a setup on a set of 11's and then find 13's in the case to be put on the guitar.

It has taken me all of five minutes to take those measurements and fill out my spreadsheet. I'll fill in the "target" boxes altho some of them I know by heart. Tune the instrument however its going to spend most of its time. Set the relief. Changing relief will change almost everything else so do it and leave it. Now I do whatever I'm going to do at the nut - if I lower the slots by a certain amount I know it will lower the 12th fret action by half that. I also know that when I lower the action it will have hardly no effect at the nut/first fret, so do the nut first. Do each slot at a time with tension on the other strings, measure each string. I like to see the 1st fret action rising slightly as I go from the 1st string across the nut - maybe something like 0.014, 0.014+, 0.016-, 0.016, 0.016+, 0.018. I don't have intermediate feeler gauges so I just extrapolate.

One little check at the nut is to hold down the string between frets 2 and 3 and check the "back fret clearance" at 1 - there should be just a hair (2 or 3 or 4 thousands again, or tap the string and listen for a "ping").

Now do the 12th fret action by raising/lowering saddle(s). Depending on the guitar and player there will be different target values but like the nut what I want to see is gradual increase from the high E to the low, maybe 0.060, 0.065. 0.070. 0.075. 0.080. 0.090. By the way, I take all measurement is decimal inches and extrapolate between marks on the SM gauge. I have a hard time remembering if 7/64 is bigger that 3/32 or 1/8,

Once the action is set I do the "next fret clearance" again on every string at every fret. I can promise you that if it plays clean on the first fret with 0.003 clearance at 2, as long as I have 0.003 at every fret it won't buzz. It doesn't bother me if the clearance increases as I go up the neck, it just tells me I don't have the lowest possible action. And on most acoustics it will increase from 14 on as the fretboard extension falls away.

Lastly I'll futz with the intonation. If its an acoustic I usually just do the generic B string compensated saddle but I still check it. If its an electric I do whatever it takes to get it right - I want to see 0 cents change when I fret at 12 (I have a jazz friend that asks for it to be set about 2 cents flat). I've left out pickups and tremolos - they are sort of special cases.

Pull the old string off, clean the fretboard with steel wool and everything else with a damp rag, put a new set up strings on it, fill out the last column in the spread sheet and give it back to the owner. Open the next case and start over again



These users thanked the author Freeman for the post (total 2): JSDenvir (Wed Nov 08, 2017 7:24 pm) • david farmer (Wed Nov 08, 2017 6:48 pm)
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 08, 2017 6:29 pm 
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david farmer wrote:
One other thing about photo's that I'm sure other repairers can relate to. Every once in awhile, especially after cleaning up an instrument that has had a ton of work done, I'll see a ding or blemish and have mild panic attack that it somehow happened on my watch because I just never noticed it. Pulling up a before photo and seeing it there has let me start breathing again without further drama. Customers also sometimes notice blemishes after cleaning they hadn't before.


Maybe you could make a generic guitar diagram similar to those rental car damage diagrams you fill out before driving away with the car to document dings, etc. You circle the locations of any blemishes and write down net to the circle whether they are dings, scratches, belt buckle rash, or other. Maybe do that with the customer there.



These users thanked the author J De Rocher for the post: david farmer (Wed Nov 08, 2017 10:19 pm)
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 08, 2017 10:19 pm 
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Wow, thanks Freeman.
I know that description includes the actual setup steps but thats extensive! Even after rehearsing the moves many times it's hard for me to imagine getting through those measurements quickly.
Over time I've moved away from a lot of numbers and replaced them whenever possible with one word descriptions like high, low, and uneven.
Feeler guages especially. I find them untenable in terms of time. Ironically, the only place I still use one consistently, is where you use judgment. Measuring pits in frets.I have trouble judging how much fret will be left when the're gone by eye. I hold a string across the two deepest pits and try and slide a .025" between the string and board. That gives me a sense of how much room there might be for a fret dress.

J De Rocher wrote:
Maybe you could make a generic guitar diagram similar to those rental car damage diagrams you fill out before driving away with the car to document dings, etc. You circle the locations of any blemishes and write down net to the circle whether they are dings, scratches, belt buckle rash, or other. Maybe do that with the customer there.


I can already see it's easy to make things more expansive. I think that's the slippery slope and having a customer stand there while performing something just about covering my own behind seems off putting at least.
I don't know if it's true but snapping a photo occasionally doesn't seem like such a momentum killer. Filling out forms and numbers and diagrams irritates me immediately. Maybe this is self deception because I like taking photo's and i find they always serve multiple functions down the road.

I'm interested in listing things that would cause me to have to stop, contact someone after the deal, and make a new plan. For example: I used to not put a wrench on the truss rod consistently while consulting with someone. The TR state and function is so central to set ups and other checks and fret work I now always try and do it before the agreement for work is made. Too many times I've agreed on a plan and had to call someone back and amend it because I didn't take the cover off and make sure it would flatten the neck as required to do the planned work. Likewise a rise on an electric. You can talk and plan all you want with someone about a fret dress and setup but if it would require taking the last fret down to .010" you may need a different plan. Now I use a gauge I made to check if it's doable before a simple dress is the plan. Again to avoid things that might require a call and another discussion about options.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 09, 2017 5:52 am 
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Old Growth Brazilian Rosewood
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When I take my Honda in for service I drive up to an overhead door and it opens for me at once. I slowly drive into the large, well lit, very clean space and before I've rolled to a stop I'm greeted by David my service advisor.

I roll down my window, the car is still on and David greets me and asks if I have any specific issues or if this is just normal maintenance. I never have any issues with my Hondas of Acuras it seems but I am picky about tires and inflation. I tend to drive like a maniac.... leaving the Death Star at the end of the day.... and handling is important to me.

Other than citing inflation requests I'm out of the car in 5 to 10 seconds, it's still running and in the lounge I go to use their WiFi. They use their own EXPERIENCE..... to perform the checks that they do and they document it all on colorful paper to hand to me when it's done. Documentation is used in the servicing of my vehicle but NEVER as an impediment to me handing the thing over very quickly and getting to that lounge to use the WiFi. I seriously doubt that if any detailed triage happens at all..... since they know their vehicles.... that it ever holds any customer up in any way certainly not while someone is completing a check sheet as if the client does not matter, is not important.... while made to wait for someone to fill in a spread sheet.

A triage approach with a detailed check list is not practical and would never be used by Dave or I. Nor is it used by any of the many pros that we know personally. Again if I am concerned that a client needs me to take pictures of every dent I won't work for them. Period - go elsewhere!

Instead we use our experience. We know that a Tacoma Thunder Chief is a POS that sheds braces commonly so we get out the inspection mirrors and look inside for 5 seconds. We know that some makers have truss rods that may not work so we check that on these. We know that Riks generally suck everywhere so we spend more time on them. Martins are always predictable and a pleasure by the way....

It's not unlike the ginned up complaints about American health care. Charging women for a prostate exam or men for coverage for mammograms.... We know from experience what the instrument is so we check it's own individual list (figuratively speaking...) of known defects and then go forward with the client. This takes often less than one minute.... to.... do....

Our clients are able to be our clients because they are often busy professionals who do not want to have to stand around for very long with their fingers up their arses.... while some Luthier puke takes his time drawing little circles around areas of a guitar shaped object on a sheet of paper.... They, the clients often are on similar schedules because of the work day and show up at times when other clients are in line to be helped by us already.

It's not uncommon for us to have three waiting clients, some with multiple guitars and only one of us present to help them.

You have to know what you are doing, be good with people.... and from experience not look at a D-28 to see if the Bixby is working well because the spread sheet lists a Bixby.... Instead you have to use your experience, your brain, your skill, and your hunches and get through it quickly and efficiently.

I'm not looking to catch everything that could possibly be wrong with the things. Our pricing has built in room for us to address other minor things that we do not catch coming in and that's how yours should be too.....

We will and DO catch any major things that would prevent us from doing our stated mission though nearly every single time. If we run into something along the way that we did not catch you phone the client, have a conversation and go from there.

Back to my Honda dealer. They can't tell by talking to me through an open window that my transmission is leaking..... But while I am in the lounge and they are under the thing they can. If that was the case, and it never is with a Honda.... do you think that they feel the need to do all manner of transmission repairs for free because the service advisor did not slide under my car when it came in?

Hell no.

As such STOP developing systems that are neither client centric, practical, or prevent you from ever becoming a busy shop because you are wasting too much time.... Also trust your instincts and don't be distracted from LISTENING to the clients..... It all works out in the end. Methodologies are best not developed for the exceptions but for the rules, how things usually go and usually in our world things can be dramatically improved with a simple set-up.

For the exceptions you speak to people, you be honest, concise, project that you are a "trusted advisor" and see if the clients want to take your advice. If not they can come pick it up. It's not my problem that they have a POS or won't accept my evaluation of it.

30 minutes later my Honda advisor takes my credit card, my car is clean, the seat has not been changed, the tires are topped off and Off I go Mr. Magoo causing utter carnage in my wake.

But..... no one ever made me stand there while they completed a spread sheet......


Last edited by Hesh on Thu Nov 09, 2017 7:27 am, edited 1 time in total.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 09, 2017 6:17 am 
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One other thought.

Here is an actual review from a woman who came up the two flights of stairs to our shop and was by herself in our shop with two men that she knew nothing about:

"These guys are real artisans, you can tell. They welcomed me warmly and helped me immediately. Great experience!"

This review is on our facebook page if you want verification.

With this offered do you also need a spread sheet for how to relate to people? Not trying to be an a-hole here but I am so very opposed to any overhead or boilerplate that dulls my senses to the needs of others, you know.... our clients..... yeah.... those people that I really want to drive the point home here.

You also have to pass the smell test with not neglecting the human bags of mostly water that are attempting to trust you with their valuable personal property AND often in a hurry.

Consider being decent to them, conversational, notice something about them (positive.....) and comment (appropriately...) about it. If they are a gigging musician ask them where they are playing who they play with, how is that place to perform, are they opening for someone else that we work for?

How does anyone do this while ignoring a client completing a spread sheet?

At the end of the day that instrument will not be paying you, the human bag of mostly water will be and you had better inspired some confidence in them that you are where they wish to bring their business.

This is yet one more reason why I am categorically opposed to any notion of check lists or spread sheets for triage coming it. Know what you are doing, use your experience, don't neglect the client and even explain to them what you are seeing and why, they will appreciate it.

Lastly.... the best work in the world may go both unnoticed and unappreciated if the client has reservations about.........You. Be there for them AND the instruments and everyone will be better for it. Like it or not you as a person ARE being judged at least on some levels. That's why you need to be "present" in the transaction and not with your face in a COW (short in hospitals for "computer on wheels" AND something patients hate because the nurses are no longer relating to the patients as human beings...).

Really lastly, not trying to offend anyone or put down anyone's ideas but I strongly believe that making a client wait while you complete some spread sheet is a very bad idea. I apologize in advance if I came across this way.



These users thanked the author Hesh for the post (total 4): JSDenvir (Thu Nov 09, 2017 1:07 pm) • david farmer (Thu Nov 09, 2017 12:00 pm) • Alex Kleon (Thu Nov 09, 2017 8:56 am) • Clinchriver (Thu Nov 09, 2017 7:27 am)
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 09, 2017 8:46 am 
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Hesh, I really appreciate the insights, but you’re talking Tour de France, and I’m talking training wheels :-)

The operative word in everything you’ve said is “experience,” and there’s a vast spectrum between you and me. And for those of us on the less experienced end, some of the tools that people have talked about could be quite handy.

I think you’re exactly right in terms of seeking to provide a seamless, engaging experience for your customer.

Me? Anything I can do to minimize my own screw ups is something I’m interested in.

But thank you and thanks to everyone else. The responses to my question have been hugely illuminating.

Steve



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PostPosted: Thu Nov 09, 2017 9:23 am 
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I like checklists too becasue I forget everything. Especially when face to face with a customer when we go on talking about unrelated things. But I do my best real quick, get them to fill out a tag and either give an estimate on the spot or tell them it's coming. I always mention that there is often times the unforeseeable thing that will potentially increase the cost of the repair. Even with a good checklist you miss the gotya's.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 09, 2017 10:47 am 
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Kinda echoing Hesh, but with many fewer words, I certainly have a routine when I take in a guitar, but it doesn't involve a checklist. I've now looked at enough guitars "cold" that I spot many things pretty quick. No replacement for experience here -- having the seen that brand and perhaps even that model multiple times, you know what to look for. But as important is to "listen". Like Hesh, I ask the client about his/her complaints and observations, what strings they prefer and what tunings they use -- the answers for any given guitar are all over the map, so they're really important. Finally, I make sure I've got preferred contact information and assure the client that if I spot anything that I think needs attention (by no means a rare event), I'll be in touch -- no surprises, even when the client tells me "do whatever you think is required".

Once I'm alone with the patient, I have my own routine that I go through to document the job using Evernote -- I've tried notebooks, Excel, etc., but Evernote is freeform, fast, searchable, allows you to attach stuff and synchronizes automatically on all my devices -- I got the idea from my cardiologist in Kenya! I follow a pattern of documenting the complaints and the instrument as presented, then go through the job. I include at least one photo of the guitar as a reminder for the future, and I record all settings as completed. I generally send my invoice by email (as I only take cash or emailed funds, no cards or cheques), and I also send a copy of the Evernote note as a courtesy -- clients seem to appreciate it.

Doing this whole guitar-repair thing efficiently takes a lot of practice, and things go much faster once you get a certain number under your belt. Meanwhile, if you want to offer a competitive price on routine jobs, you'll find the hourly rate is pretty poor.

Currently, I'm finding that repair is much more lucrative than building, although the latter is where my passion is. Most of my build enquiries now come from repair clients. Doing repairs in a serious way has made me a better builder, no question.



These users thanked the author Tim Mullin for the post (total 2): Hesh (Thu Nov 09, 2017 3:47 pm) • david farmer (Thu Nov 09, 2017 12:00 pm)
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 09, 2017 12:15 pm 
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Hesh wrote:
When I take my Honda in for service I drive up to an overhead door and it opens for me at once. I slowly drive into the large, well lit, very clean space and before I've rolled to a stop I'm greeted by David my service advisor.......(clip)



I do all the work on my classic cars but my modern ones I don't touch. However every time I take one of them to the dealer for something as simple as an oil change I get a one page sheet of all the stuff they have checked - all the fluids, the lamps, tire pressure (they always ask if I want them rotated, brake pads, any fluid leaks or anything wonky. I believe that we have avoided a lot of problems by doing this

Every time I go to my personal physician for a checkup they check my blood pressure and listen to whatever is going on inside of me and take some blood out and test my cholesterol and PSA. I believe that we have avoided a lot of problems by doing this.

I'm not a professional at setting up guitars but I think I do darn good work - far better than I see coming out of a lot of factories and better than I seen from some other "professionals". My spreadsheet is something that helps me be systematic - I know a lot of you don't need that kind of tool. I'll add that I obviously don't always use it - a guitar came recently with a broken nut, I asked the owner if the rest of the action was OK, he said yes and all I did was duplicate the nut. I've also had beautiful instruments where the fix should be simple (make a new saddle for it) and turned out to be very complex.

I watch the pimply faced "luthier" at Guitars 'r' Us grab a truss rod wrench to lower someones action and I shudder....

Oh, excuse me, the serviceman is done with my car. Seems they found a little coolant leak and I have to schedule it for a head gasket - dang thats going to be expensive but I'm glad they found that before my vacation next week......



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PostPosted: Thu Nov 09, 2017 1:53 pm 
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Koa
Koa

Joined: Sat Jan 19, 2013 7:33 am
Posts: 550
First name: Willard
Last Name: Guthrie
City: Cumberland
State: Maryland 21502
Zip/Postal Code: 21502
Country: United State
Focus: Repair
Status: Semi-pro
Documentation takes time, which either must be billed to the customer or eaten as an overhead expense. Five minutes worth of time spent documenting 'checked and found OK' items costs a customer $8 at current shop rates...in many cases more than they will pay for a set of new strings. Instead of documenting normalcy, we focus on finding and noting the exceptions to 'OK', and relying on a broadly applicable structured inspection process (e.g., body exterior, body interior, neck & peg head, electronics and other systems, playability & tone) to help assess where to go with setup work and any repairs.

_________________
Action indeed is the sole medium of expression for ethics.
- Jane Addams (Author and Nobel Laureate)



These users thanked the author Woodie G for the post: Hesh (Thu Nov 09, 2017 4:17 pm)
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 09, 2017 4:16 pm 
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Old Growth Brazilian Rosewood
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Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2007 9:49 am
Posts: 9841
Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
First name: Hesh
Last Name: Breakstone
Country: United States
Status: Professional
Freeman wrote:
Hesh wrote:
When I take my Honda in for service I drive up to an overhead door and it opens for me at once. I slowly drive into the large, well lit, very clean space and before I've rolled to a stop I'm greeted by David my service advisor.......(clip)



I do all the work on my classic cars but my modern ones I don't touch. However every time I take one of them to the dealer for something as simple as an oil change I get a one page sheet of all the stuff they have checked - all the fluids, the lamps, tire pressure (they always ask if I want them rotated, brake pads, any fluid leaks or anything wonky. I believe that we have avoided a lot of problems by doing this

Every time I go to my personal physician for a checkup they check my blood pressure and listen to whatever is going on inside of me and take some blood out and test my cholesterol and PSA. I believe that we have avoided a lot of problems by doing this.

I'm not a professional at setting up guitars but I think I do darn good work - far better than I see coming out of a lot of factories and better than I seen from some other "professionals". My spreadsheet is something that helps me be systematic - I know a lot of you don't need that kind of tool. I'll add that I obviously don't always use it - a guitar came recently with a broken nut, I asked the owner if the rest of the action was OK, he said yes and all I did was duplicate the nut. I've also had beautiful instruments where the fix should be simple (make a new saddle for it) and turned out to be very complex.

I watch the pimply faced "luthier" at Guitars 'r' Us grab a truss rod wrench to lower someones action and I shudder....

Oh, excuse me, the serviceman is done with my car. Seems they found a little coolant leak and I have to schedule it for a head gasket - dang thats going to be expensive but I'm glad they found that before my vacation next week......


Freeman I just finished my sixth guitar today, not all set-ups some more than that such as replacing bridges on Jazz basses, bad pots, etc. This is the first time that I got to sit down and check in. Dave has been as busy as me or more so, combined we billed well over $1,000 today and this is not unusual for us these days.

The point that I am making about the spread sheet and I get the checklists from my Honda dealer too with brake wear, fluid levels, etc. is that this is not done during triage. No check sheets are used at our business when something comes in and we really could never do this with the volume of clients that we service and again often multiples of them at the same time.

I'm an old Enterprise Software guy who would license software systems that did everything and anything within a corporation. SAP was a competitor if that sheds any light. Luthiers are WAY too small for the level of documentation that you do in my experience which is considerable but it's also a personal opinion that I harbor.

When Dave and I were setting up A2 Guitars he asked about accounting software, IPads to enter spread sheet data, etc. I would always ask the same question. Do you think that using software and an iPad will make us more money or cost us more money?

Now many years later we use generic sales books that don't even have our names on them. A set-up that a client asks for may be annotated on the form in two characters not unlike the cheese burger special at the corner diner....

We found that we are spending most of our time working on guitars and anything extraneous such as copious levels of documentation is now very undesirable to both of us.

Regarding customer service I've taught people about this subject all of my life. I once estimated that I've taught over 10,000 professionals how not to offend a client. Seems a bit strange coming from me doesn't it...;)

Any way my argument with the levels of documentation that I see proposed here, check lists, spread sheets is that it has absolutely NO place in a client interaction with the triage process. If you want to keep this stuff after that and when the client is gone no problem. I wouldn't do this either because even if I've worked on the same guitar before I don't give a rat's arse I want it to play and look a certain way now and what ever it takes to get me there is what I will do. Referencing when it was in last time can also be a question asked to the client when they drop it off if we are not too busy entering data into a computer.

Please keep all the information that you see fit. It's not for us though and the reality for any Lutherie business that has to stand on it's own two feet without the principals having any other source of income is that you learn quickly to shed anything that ...... does..... not.....make.....you.....money.

Lastly for the folks who may turn up your noses at the thought of how greedy Hesh here may sound this is the reality of working for most small businesses. You have to be lean and mean and very client centric with all things specifically engineered to provide the most winning customer experience, the utmost value to the client, the highest quality work AND what ever it takes to make the show go on tonight, literally!

It's not about greed but it is about........survival.

Freeman I've always been very supportive of you and will continue to be so, I'm not upset and I hope that you aren't either.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 09, 2017 4:18 pm 
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Old Growth Brazilian Rosewood
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Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2007 9:49 am
Posts: 9841
Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
First name: Hesh
Last Name: Breakstone
Country: United States
Status: Professional
Woodie G wrote:
Documentation takes time, which either must be billed to the customer or eaten as an overhead expense. Five minutes worth of time spent documenting 'checked and found OK' items costs a customer $8 at current shop rates...in many cases more than they will pay for a set of new strings. Instead of documenting normalcy, we focus on finding and noting the exceptions to 'OK', and relying on a broadly applicable structured inspection process (e.g., body exterior, body interior, neck & peg head, electronics and other systems, playability & tone) to help assess where to go with setup work and any repairs.


Great post!


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 09, 2017 5:33 pm 
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Koa
Koa

Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2010 1:46 pm
Posts: 868
First name: Freeman
Last Name: Keller
Focus: Build
Status: Amateur
Hesh wrote:

Freeman I've always been very supportive of you and will continue to be so, I'm not upset and I hope that you aren't either.


I'm not the slightest bit upset - this is what works for me, I don't expect to work for anyone else (but maybe it might). I just sold a 1975 BMW that I have had since '76 - I put 140K miles on it, a new motor, interior, lots of stuff. Its been in concourses and on the race track. When I handed the keys to the new owner I also handed him the log book that had, quite literally, every piece of maintenance and tune up information that had ever been done on that car. He asked me to date and sign the next page in the book - I wrote "This car has given me 40 years of pleasure and satisfaction, now its time for a new chapter".

My other little anecdote - I'm a 70+ y.o. hobby athlete - I've run and raced bikes all my life. I get a physical every year - yes, my doc fills out a spread sheet (called My Chart) with a lot of numbers that I'm pretty proud of - BMI, BP, resting heart rate, yadda yadda. There is one number that we've been sort of watching the past few years - last year it just shot up. We took another little test, the score on that was an 8 which really doesn't seem like much, right. I mean 8 is a pretty low number, that must be OK. Only the rating system goes to 10. I still look healthy as hell, I can hop on my bike and spin out a century almost as fast as I did 30 years ago. But that one number changed my life.

Image



These users thanked the author Freeman for the post: Hesh (Fri Nov 10, 2017 5:39 am)
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 09, 2017 11:56 pm 
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Koa
Koa
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Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2008 9:13 pm
Posts: 772
Location: Durango CO
First name: Dave
Last Name: Farmer
City: Durango
State: CO
Freeman wrote:
I still look healthy as hell, I can hop on my bike and spin out a century almost as fast as I did 30 years ago. But that one number changed my life.


Hey Freeman,
I'm sorry to hear of your health issue but totally impressed you can still knock out a century ride. I'll think of you next time some young rider is making me hurt and I'm feeling sorry for myself because I'm old!


Woodie G wrote:
........a broadly applicable structured inspection process

Any groups of things to check in there?


I don't have a customer wait while I check a box or turn a wrench, I do what I suspect most do, look things over while I'm talking with someone.

Old dopy here, typically lifts his head from an hour of fitting a sound post because Rocker Dude is at the door and needs a fret dress on his Fender. I take the instrument in but half my brain is still stuffed in a violin f hole and I haven't seen or thought about a Fret dress on an electric in a week.

More often than I like, I have a forehead smacking moment because I spaced something like string gauge, Prompting either a crappy reception cell phone call to Rocker Dude or making a note to call him later.

Either way, it feels like a waste time that could be avoided for both of us and I doubt it's confidence inspiring.

If I steal a glance at something that shows the most important checks while a customer is filling out contact info, it might jog my head out of the f hole quick enough to catch something. Perhaps I should have asked for suggestions to pare my list down.
Maybe I'm still be headed for hail Marys :D

Thanks to those that contributed.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 10, 2017 5:53 am 
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Old Growth Brazilian Rosewood
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Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2007 9:49 am
Posts: 9841
Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
First name: Hesh
Last Name: Breakstone
Country: United States
Status: Professional
Thanks Freeman I have a strong feeling that you will approach that "8" number like I've seen and admired your approach to jumping in with repair work for some years now here on the OLF. That number is no stranger to me about 12 years ago and it all came out OK and remains that way so far if I can send any positive energy your way.

Not to belabor the documentation point here..... but it's my experience and this was not a scientific study but one I've been asking people about for years now that most guitars never see a Luthier. The more important statistic that I've been asking players about in the hundreds for some years now is that most customers of Luthiers will only visit a Luthier once in a lifetime.

Now we all have the groupies and we've got about half or so of our client base who we see frequently and many of them are professional players and some famous stars. But the striking number is that keeping data for all but maybe 5% of our client base would be keeping records for something that we will never see or work on again.

Time is something that we don't have and as Woodie rightly mentioned keeping records costs money and sucks time. When you consider that 95% of it will never be used again we don't bother.

People don't bring us stuff if everything is OK. Fix it right the first time and we never see it again except, of course for perhaps upgrades.

We do take measurements of interesting instruments, rare stuff for their fret spacing but not as a "CarFax" record of our interaction with the thing. For our famous players I just know what they like from conversations with them and I make a point of remembering it so that I can just do it for them when they drop off. Remember Melany? We just worked with her band this week, Mavis Staples last week.

It's kind of a funny thing that some clients are all over any detailed explanations that we provide about their instruments and the work that we do, others not so much. We benefit from being in a community with a booming economy but the price that we all pay here is that people have little time and are in a hurry much of the time. As such we just need to fix things and even with over 1,100 instruments served annually (reminds me of McDonalds.... maybe we need crossed golden Ov*ations....) we tend to simply remember what we need to know for the repeat clients.

Dave I'm still thinking about what we can do.



These users thanked the author Hesh for the post: david farmer (Fri Nov 10, 2017 8:21 am)
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