IT IS NOVEMBER, and that means it’s transformation time; time to transform your Service department by taking advantage of the slow winter months to revise processes and procedures, create a new workplace culture and transform customers’ vehicles so they stand out in a crowd.
Starting with the customer, we all know that “downtime is show time” in Service. When the mercury falls, Service slows to a crawl, which opens up the capacity needed to perform major projects that transform a mundane motorcycle to a higher plane of powersports performance.
Engine rebuilds are the norm when the snow flies, but we should also consider transforming stockers into bobbers — converting a standard into an expert dual sport machine. Or serve the needs of your local “Chromo-sexuals” and “Dark Knights” with a full complement of chromed or powdercoat-painted accessories.
“Speed Demons” shouldn’t be ignored either, and unless you’re doing business in the restrictive state of California, I suggest cranking up the big bores and letting your freak air fly with performance cams and cylinder heads that wake a motor from the dead of mass production redundancy.
It’s no secret: If you’re doing business in the Snow Belt, the magic key to profitability is vehicle storage. I’ve written about this before, but simply put, if your customers park their vehicles for two months or more when the weather gets cold, turn the heat up on profits with a vehicle storage program offered in at least two options: storage for a monthly fee or storage at no charge when the minimum service order fee is achieved.
No room to store bikes? Offer a storage prep service. Pick the bike up, prep it for storage and deliver it back to the owner. In every case, create a portfolio for each vehicle involved in the storage program; include outstanding service needs (determined by your walkaround inspection) plus transformational customization ideas. Meet with the owners to discuss their dreams and consider offering a payment plan for customers who got themselves caught up in the Great Recession and ruined their credit.
RE-WORK THAT FLOOR
But transformation time doesn’t stop at customer service. It’s much easier to transform the Service department’s layout when you’re not drowning in work. Now is the time to transform the physical layout of the Service department so vehicles enter and leave with little extra porting and so techs walk the shortest distances to commonly used equipment like the tire changer. Reducing wasted movements like these can be huge time-savers.
It may also be the time to remodel the Service entry and writeup area to make it more inviting, demonstrative of professionalism and comfortable and convenient for consulting. Most importantly, it’s time to create or rejuvenate your Service merchandising displays, which is the easiest way to increase add-on and incremental sales.
AND ABOUT THAT ONE GUY…
Finally, now is the best time to transform employee performance and attitude. Over the last few months, managers should have been keeping track of employee performance and should know which ones to invest in (send out for training) and which ones need an ultimatum. During the busy season it would have been disastrous to fire less-than-ideal employees because it was usually better to have a warm but cantankerous body than no body at all. Now, with Service traffic slowed to a crawl, Service managers are back in the driver’s seat and can weed out the thorny bastards that made life miserable.
But let’s not be heartless in the process of sending the skills-lacking, lazy schmucks packing. No reason to humiliate anyone, but it does make sense to identify an individual’s shortcomings, set 30-day deadlines for improvement and let go those who are on their fifth “second chance.”
New hires should be brought onboard at least two months prior to the ramp up of next season so you can assess their performance and condition them to your culture.
Transforming the culture of a Service department is no easy task; you’re talking about changing human behavior here. It’s probably easier to change a spark plug in a running motor.
One strategy that gets results in changing workplace culture for the better is to improve communication. It starts with daily manager meetings and continues with department huddles every morning. I’ve been writing about morning huddles for years now, although most dealerships still aren’t doing them. I guarantee that if you get in the habit of holding 10-minute huddles with the Service staff every morning to discuss the ROs for the day, the carryover work, parts-ordered status and to share tips between techs you will at the least reduce the crap that falls through the cracks.
More importantly, routine meetings strengthen personal relationships. Communication is the hub that turns the wheels of progress. Give it a spin when business is slow and maintain the momentum when that springtime rush hits.
This story originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of Dealernews