Reminders, appointments keep service departments running smoothly

Dave Koshollek
Publish Date: 
Apr 2, 2012
By Dave Koshollek

Given today’s market and economy, you can’t get away with allowing time drainers and money wasters to take control of your service department. If you do, you’ll never make a profit — and the additional stress is a killer. With the spring riding season upon us, here are some ideas to help your cause.

Start by reducing no-shows. When customers don’t show up for their appointments, your daily schedule is thrown into disarray. Service advisors have to scramble to find work to keep the technician busy or profits will suffer. No-shows are a pain in the ass.

You can reduce their occurrence by making reminder calls the day before and using the customer’s preferred means of communication. Ask customers during the appointment call how they want to be contacted — phone, text, fax or email. There’s no sense leaving a reminder on a system the customer doesn’t monitor, and leaving a message with a 10-year-old in the house doesn’t count as getting it done.

When setting appointments, inform customers to plan on 10 to 15 minutes to do a proper walk-around vehicle inspection. This allows time to identify outstanding needs via visual inspection and time to perform a thorough customer interview. If the vehicle inspection is rushed, you’ll probably miss something that the technician will identify and then you’ll have to chase down the owner to discuss what was found. This wastes your time, and the technician’s, if they have to stop what they’re doing to wait for an approval.

If the tech has to switch bikes, it takes approximately two-tenths to three-tenths of an hour to swap one out for another. If that happens on a regular basis, just imagine the cost if you extrapolate over a year. For example, if swapping a bike out occurs an average of two times a week for each of three techs in a shop that works 50 weeks a year, with a $75-an-hour labor rate and a $90 parts-to-labor ratio you just flushed $14,850 potential income down the drain.

Daily schedules created by the service advisor electronically or on paper should be made available to other service advisors, parts and sales personnel so they know what’s going on. This reduces calls and chase-downs to check service capacity, verify appointments, etc. Of course, only service advisors should create and revise the daily schedule or the whole shebang comes crashing down.

Before the motorcycle arrives for appointment, it’s a best practice to check the vehicle’s history for outstanding safety recalls, current warranty status, recent maintenance or repairs and vehicle age. This may identify opportunities to recommend products such as a new battery or services such as a brake system flush. And, the day before arrival, fill out the vehicle inspection sheets. On the night before, assign the first one or two jobs to techs so they don’t wait around for directions the next morning.

To reduce technician confusion and the time wasted following up to clarify directions for known repairs, service advisors should properly and completely fill out the repair order. For example, it’s a good practice not to diagnosis intermittent problems in the driveway when the customer drops the bike off. A rushed diagnosis could lead the tech in the wrong direction. Instead, write “Customer States” along with their description of all symptoms noticed.

Staging parts is another way to save time. The needed parts to perform the scheduled jobs should be gathered up shortly after the appointment is made and staged in a bin identified by customer name or repair order number. That way, parts not in stock can be sourced prior to the vehicle arriving. Do your best to avoid special parts orders because they’re a time drainer for both the service and parts departments.

To improve productivity, employ a porter to move motorcycles to and from the work bays. This may sound like coddling the technicians but remember, technicians only make you money when they’re twisting wrenches, not moving bikes around. Likewise, parts liaisons save time by delivering parts to the work bay instead of technicians waiting at the parts counter for help.

When techs complete the work, someone experienced should perform a quality check to ensure the motorcycle has been properly repaired, problems solved and all work satisfactorily performed. If you don’t do quality checks some motorcycles will not be ready and that will result in comebacks, which are a time drainer and a huge customer loyalty killer.

You know, there’s more than one way to peel a potato. Doing what you’ve done for years doesn’t mean it’s the best practice. Identifying time drainers and money wasters is necessary to improving processes and profits.

Facility Layout
An excellent service department layout is one that eliminates backtracking as the motorcycle travels from check-in to delivery. A U-shape design with the service write-up on the entry leg and the wash bay and completed work parking on the other accomplishes this goal nicely. For more ideas on equipment placement, hold a service staff meeting to discuss ideas to reduce wasted time. For example, commonly used equipment such as tire changers and time clocks should be centrally located to all work bays.

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews April 2012 issue.