Smart Service Department Scheduling

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It’s spring, and your service department just went from tumbleweeds rolling past the lifts to a stampede of customers wanting their motorcycle serviced yesterday. It’s times like these that you need to be on top of service scheduling.

In a perfect world you’d make your appointments, fill your daily schedule and count the closed-out tickets at the end of the day, happy that you sold 100 percent of your available time. But life in the service area is never that easy, and scheduling will always be in a state of change — or worse, crisis. That’s why professional scheduling tools make your job easier and your service department more productive.

That leads me to wonder how many of you are still using a generic desk calendar to make and manage service appointments. If you are, you should ask, “Am I a masochist?” Using something as ill-fitting as a desk calendar for scheduling is like a technician using a hammer and screwdriver to do a 5,000-mile service. It doesn’t work well and it’s painful for all involved.

There are some excellent scheduling tools available that come in both paper and electronic variations. Paper scheduling sheets or logs work well for smaller stores running with minimal electronic systems and employing fewer than five techs. Electronic scheduling programs are quicker, update automatically and compute service performance numbers in a blink. Both variations have some similarities in general function and all require accurate data to be fully effective.

Inputting the data is the job of the service adviser. Most scheduling logs or scheduling programs will provide you with a formal place to write or type the following:

• Customer information: name, address and phone numbers for home, business, cell and fax, plus e-mail addresses. Purposes: to quickly contact the customer so you don’t have to pull the tech off a job when you can’t get the customer’s needed approval. Use the address when picking the bike up or for mailing service reminders.

• Year, model, VIN and purchase date. Purposes: for correct parts and accessories fitment, to track a vehicle through multiple ownership, for warranty status and for safety campaign checks. Also for the sales department to know the service history, which affects trade-in valuation.

• Appointment information: the day the adviser made the appointment, when the customer agreed to drop off the vehicle and when the vehicle arrived for service. Purpose: Some customers will be no-shows and some will be early arrivals. A record of when the vehicle arrived can reduce arguments and may aid you in Lemon Law situations. Tip: Call or e-mail the customer 24 hours before the drop-off to reduce no-shows.

• Job description: work, diagnostics or inspections to be performed.

• Allotted hours: amount of time in tenths of an hour estimated to finish the job(s).

• Remaining hours: number of service hours still for sale that day, calculated by subtracting allotted hours from available hours. This will change as work is completed or appointments change.

Summary: The service adviser’s goal is to sell all available hours. Additionally, we have to consider Bank hours, or Emergency Allowance as Harley-Davidson calls it, which is the time held in reserve for unplanned events like broken-down travelers and jobs that ran longer than expected. The adviser should reserve more hours during the busy months and fewer or no hours in the slower months.

A professional scheduling system can also increase sales. If the system is designed so service, sales and parts can see the workload for the day, it gives them the info they need to sell parts and accessories plus installation more successfully. When everyone can read the schedule the adviser no longer needs to answer redundant questions about the available time in service. That can save hours per week, not to mention the frustration of all those unnecessary interruptions. Note that only the service adviser is allowed to actually make changes to the schedule.

SchedulePower2

That’s an overview of general scheduling practices. Now what I’d like to share with you is a new electronic scheduling program I recently reviewed called SchedulePower2 by MotoAdviser. SchedulePower2 is in its final stages of development and has been extensively tested by A&S Powersports in Roseville, Calif. Along with the fundamental tools you’d expect in a scheduling program, it’s the ease of updating, tracking and number crunching that I like most.

As I’ve pointed out, changes are constant in the daily activities of service. Customers and techs can be no-shows, and customers can reschedule. Additionally, when the adviser is doing a good job of upselling, there will also be accessories to install that weren’t originally planned for.

All these situations cause revisions to the schedule on a minute-by-minute basis. With SchedulePower2, updating is easy. In many cases you just grab the mouse, point and click.

For example, in the “Check Availability” field, the adviser simply clicks on a calendar, and that day opens to display the appointments and the available time left to fill. Click on the “Tech’s Time Bar” and you can move or modify the appointments in seconds. If any changes are made that affect the time, the program automatically updates all relating factors.

In the “Time Machine,” the job tickets and performance numbers are automatically crunched so you can review them by department, tech, day, week or longer. A “Performance Dashboard” visualizes that data as a bar graph or round-faced gauge.

Lastly, the “Call Bank” is a useful customer relations management (CRM) tool that can be used to contact and attract the customer to upcoming maintenance, repairs, service specials, etc.

That’s a quick and incomplete look at the many functions available in this robust service scheduling system. For more information about SchedulePower2, contact Myra Hight, CEO at MotoAdviser at 800-988-5169, ext. 3, or myra@motoadviser.com. For paper scheduling logs, contact Donna Faber at Reynolds & Reynolds: 800-767-0245.

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews April 2010 issue.