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December 25, 2006: Scrutinizing a service department’s processes

December 25, 2006
Filed under Archives

This series of articles recaps a portion of the opportunities that were uncovered by Gart Sutton and Associates’ powersports specialists during actual consulting visits. These opportunities are followed by recommended actions.
The goal of this series is to provide ideas for you to help improve your dealership.
The focus of this series was the needs assessment of a dealership’s service department. The goals for the recommended actions were to (a) increase the profitability of the service department; (b) create an effective service write-up area and scheduling system; and (c) improve technician time tracking and reduce comeback repairs.
The first step in this three-stage process, which was published last edition, looked at the dealer’s facility from the customer viewpoint. This second part looks at the processes in place in the dealership’s service department.
Dealership details
This multi-line dealership draws from surrounding communities and an established rural market. They recently moved into a new, highly visible facility, resulting in rapid growth. Their existing systems and procedures are not capable of supporting their increasing volume.
The processes in place
There are no written policies or departmental budgets for the service department. The service manager was a technician who was recently promoted. He has no management training or past experience as a service manager. There are no regular staff meetings for the service personnel. There is no service write-up process. No reception checklist is used to ensure consistency and thoroughness. No process has been created for scheduling. Units in for service are listed on a large pad and work is generally done in sequence. Many repairs have been waiting for more than a week. Repair orders (ROs) are generally current, but 23 are open over 90 days. No common services menu exists. First-service return ratios on new units are not tracked.
Technician time is loosely tracked (techs write it in on time cards). No time clock is used to verify technician hours (available hours) or time spent on a given RO (actual hours). Without these numbers, no serious analysis of productivity or profitability can be accomplished. Techs are not posting adequate notes on ROs to justify work performed or indicate additional services needed. Comebacks are not accurately tracked and are being handled by the same tech that did the original job. Techs are being paid to repair their own comebacks. Special tools have not been inventoried in the past 12 months, and there is no checkout, check-in procedure for these tools. Techs or service writers pull service parts.
Recommended actions

  • Provide management training for the service manager. Hire at least two more trained service writers.
  • Hold weekly-one-hour service staff meetings.
  • Require the time clock be used for employee hours and time spent on each RO.
  • Log efficiency, productivity and proficiency for each tech into the tracking spreadsheet daily. Report these numbers to the techs during weekly meetings. Provide performance incentives.
  • Use the service reception checklist on every write-up to ensure consistency and increase add-on sales.
  • Schedule all jobs to specific techs. Limit scheduling to 50 percent of available hours for walk-ins and other issues. Strive to under-promise and over-deliver on repair dates.
  • Develop a common services menu-pricing guide based on market price, not time. Post key services on a menu-selling board and display it in the write-up area.
  • Use the Comeback Log system to track comebacks.
  • Post the log in the technician lounge to encourage peer pressure to improve.
  • Provide incentives to drive the process.
  • Do not allow the comeback to be repaired by the same tech.
  • Debit the original hours and have another tech do the work to increase customer satisfaction and provide for a better attitude for the repairs.
  • Create a service parts position and have this person pull all service parts. This is much less expensive than having a $65 per hour tech pulling parts.
  • Inventory special tools monthly. Create a check-in and checkout log.
  • Post all technician diplomas and awards in the write-up area to build value to justify your pricing.
  • Establish incentives for parts sold through service.
  • Track first-service returns and utilize direct mail reminders.
    Author, speaker and educator, Gart Sutton has been retained by every major powersport manufacturer/distributor. He is a frequent keynote speaker for national motorcycle conventions and state motorcycle dealer association events. Visit www.gartsutton.com

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