Your service department bucket list

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For most service departments, the seasonal slowdown has begun. While bad for business, it’s an excellent time to create your service department bucket list. Like the movie of the same name, it contains things you meant to do, but life got in the way. I’m talking about projects and procedures that are easier to implement when you’re not overwhelmed. Unlike the movie, it’s not a life-and-death situation — but it’s important, and now is the best time to do it.

Some of the more popular P&Ps that service managers like to do when the shop goes into idle mode are:

• Create a menu of routine service charges

• Create a menu of the top 100 installation charges

• Create and hold customer seminars on topics such as winter storage preparation, design on a dime (where the goal is to maximize the customization for $1,000) or a performance seminar on how to do a good, better and best engine hop-up

• Relocate shop equipment for greater efficiency

• Install new shop equipment such as a dyno or motorized tire changer, and train all staff

• Cross-train service personnel

• Clean out and reorganize take-off parts and warranty hold parts • Remodel the service write-up area to make it more appealing to customers

• Merchandise the write-up area to inspire upsells

• Implement an interdepartmental daily huddle

All these may be of interest to you, but I’d like to emphasize three: menus, cross-training and the daily huddle. These will save you a lot of time by reducing repetitive actions, improving teamwork and reducing costly mistakes. The benefits are immediate, with real payback coming when the shop throttles up again.

What’s on the Menu?

Shops typically create two different service menus: one for routine service and repair and one for accessory installations. A routine service menu normally includes jobs such as 1,000-, 5,000- and 10,000-mile services, tire changes and fork oil changes. When you have a menu for these items, it saves time by reducing redundant questions from customers and co-workers. Service menus can be posted on the wall for all to see, inserted into the dealer management software for one-click access, provided in hard copies to staff, and listed on the store’s website. In most cases, the more locations the better. The exception is when a store has a ruthless competitor that seeks to undercut its posted rates to steal customers. In that situation, restrict the menu for staff eyes only.

An accessory menu saves the service adviser time by reducing requests from the parts department and customers for installation fees for popular items. Some shops, like Grand Junction Harley-Davidson, believe all staff should be able to quote installation fees. With this goal, Scott Lindsay, dealer principal, created an accessories flat rate program (see text in left margin) that can be used on a computer or printed out. It keeps the charges consistent and reduces lost sales by capitalizing on impulse buying. In a perfect world, the customer is attracted to an accessory, the salesperson builds that interest to where the customer wants it now, the store has it in stock, and the customer knows the total cost of parts and labor and thus can make the decision while still excited. Menu selling prevents extra steps like the destructive “walk of death,” where the customer is told to leave the parts counter and walk back to service to get an installation estimate. Some shops figure they lose about 50 percent of sales when customers are forced to do the walk.

Creating the menu is pretty easy. Most service advisers know these fees by memory, or at the worst, one can pull the last few months of R.O.s to see what past charges were. Put that info into print and share it with the parts department, and you’re ready to rock.

Cross-Training

Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, and you’ll understand their challenges and in turn have a greater appreciation for them and their job position. This is easily accomplished during the slower months by trading a service adviser with a parts counter person. The trade should last at least a week. A month is ideal. The benefits will be enhanced teamwork and a broader skill set, which comes in handy during vacations. Plus, if your parts-to-service-department relationship is strained, cross-training could be the easiest way to get it back on track.

Morning Huddle

Years ago when I used to run a dealer learning activity, I asked the question, “What’s the No. 1 challenge in your dealership?” The most common answer was “Lack of communication.” That’s where the morning huddle comes to the rescue. All it takes is 10 minutes to stand up and share what’s on the schedule for the day and anything else the techs need to know to do their job. Start morning huddles during the slow season so everyone can adjust to the routine before it gets busy again. Expect some resistance if you’ve never done routine meetings. Be strong and stay the course; hold a 10-minute huddle every morning no matter what. In three months, the huddle will become commonplace. When you hire workers, it will be just another aspect of their job, accepted and appreciated.

So what will go on your bucket list? Get started now, and you should be able to knock out your list before it’s too late. Spring is closer than you think.

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews October 2010 issue.