By Tim Berman
One of the most unique and exciting places in Main Street America is the service department in an OPE dealership. It can be chaotic as heck, or a well-oiled machine (yes, yes, pun intended). One thing, however is certain: An orderly shop does not happen by accident.
Small shops are often maintained by the gut and with pen and paper. But anybody trying to actually make money in a service department has to use software and solid processes. I hope you’ll find this checklist useful as you evaluate your service workflow. Feel free to adapt it to your specific business and improve upon it!
At the core of every good shop is a culture of communication – internal communication as well as communication with customers. Everybody’s expectations are managed. When (not if) there are roadblocks, they’re uncovered in the weekly standup with the service writer(s).
Clear the parts logjam: Parts are undoubtedly the biggest delay in work order cycle time. Be sure that you Parts team is using the built-in aftermarket cross-references in your dealer management system, as well as any built-in or OEM parts locators.
Manage by the numbers: Reports are totally not the sexiest part of the business, and yet, where would we be without them? They give us points of the business to improve. After all, the famous Peter Drucker expression applies here: If you measure it, you can manage it. If you have one service advisor outselling the others, what are they doing differently? Perhaps they’re actively upselling, while the others are simply “clerking” (read: order-taking).
Are we bleeding more than usual on warranties? If so, why? Did we fail to send in causal parts? Did we file claims late? Are we doing non-warranty work for free? The quality of the data we enter into the DMS will make or break the quality of the reports. For instance, a warranty clerk who is three weeks behind on reconciling warranties causes the accounts receivable (or contra-payable, depending on your accountant) balance to be skewed. The system says we have more dollars in the pipeline than we actually do. Make sure you’re tracking the right service-management metrics (see here for tips on this).
Update work order statuses: To maintain that culture of communication I referenced earlier, we have to be sure to update the status of each job on each work order. Whether we are automatically texting customers these updates or manually reaching out, all statuses need to be updated at minimum daily.
Weeks 2 and 3
Weeks 2 and 3 are similar to Week 1. Keep an eye on the goal, and watch the reports that are the building blocks to a high-performing shop.
Perform monthly safety standup: The safety class is a refresher. Maybe it’s a reminder not to run equipment across the lot in high gear. Maybe it’s about how to secure loaders into the air (and drop those that are quick attach). Maybe it’s grabbing everyone to do a quick pickup of extension cords, air hoses and other minor hazards that may or may not actually pose a threat but would certainly get an OSHA ding in the unfortunate event of an audit.
Make sure you’re billing correctly: I can’t underscore enough the opportunity that comes from properly billing the non-parts and labor line-items on a work order – freight being one that is seldom charged on WOs, and yet it can be a substantial amount.
Walking around goes a long way. It’s a great way to think and process information, and you can see what the customer sees. Pick up any trash and cigarette butts you see. If you pick up the trash, it communicates to the team that cleanliness and professionalism are important. They will do it too.
Make sure WIP is marked correctly: Service advisors should own work in process (WIP) and should make sure everything is clearly marked and in the right place. The last thing you need is technicians hunting for units and statuses, so be sure to stay on top of work order status and the respective flagging tape.
Review service sales: At the end of the day, this is a business. Is it making the kind of money that it should? Some might say that significant absorption isn’t possible in this industry, but it is something that could be measured and improved.
Each week, we are updating a leaderboard of technicians so we can get some internal competition going on, and top performers can be rewarded.
Keep things moving on the WIP. Make sure none of the WOs get lost in the shuffle and don’t get actual time logged on them. If techs are actually punching in and out on WOs, then this is unlikely to be an issue, but if they’re always manually updated with labor, then it could easily go by the wayside from time to time, or even have somebody overbooking labor (or forgetting to log something).
Stay on top of your inbox: Watch your text inbox(es). If you stay on top of this, your phone lines will have much less activity, which is a good thing. More time to work on things more profitable as customers are texting with status updates and service approvals, rather than clogging up your phone lines and tying up your team.
Check daily reports: If the team stays on top of the texting and data entry on WIP, daily and weekly dashboards and reports will give a clear picture of the dollars in the pipeline, and it will be much easier to keep customers apprised of their service jobs.
A cash cow
The service department is a cash cow, so be sure you’re treating it as such. If it isn’t today, it can be! For some of you reading this, maybe half of these checklist items seem farfetched. If that’s the case, pick one or two to change now and master them – then add another. You too can run an organized and profitable shop!
Tim Berman is innovation manager at Ideal Computer Systems, c-Systems and Charter Software, where he creates apps that helps dealers grow. Tim has a passion for equipment dealerships, having spent nearly 20 years in his family’s dealership. Visit www.idealcomputersystems.com to learn more.