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The service department tends to be the busiest place in a dealership, and service managers must stay in tune with what’s going on. While meetings and discussions can be useful, at times they only result in vague ideas the service staff never acts upon. Just like in any organization, a service department is only as good as its leader. Sometimes, you have to get in the trenches to really understand employee problems, obstacles, and frustrations.
To get on the employees’ level, service department managers may find it helpful to visit with their employees in an active and participatory manner, one-on-one. I’m not talking about individual meetings. Rather, I mean managers should shadow employees in areas integral to efficient operations. Service managers can learn a wealth of information from shadowing employees, as well as stay in tune with departmental operations and dynamics. This helps to spot problem areas, and increase efficiency, productivity, and profitability.
For example, if you have a service receptionist, perhaps spend a few hours listening to how they take field calls. Listen to the types of questions customers ask and how your receptionist handles them. You may find that customers get frustrated when the receptionist can’t get a service advisor to come to the phone. You may also discover frequently asked questions that you can train your receptionist to handle on their own, rather than simply transferring the call.
The same concept could also apply to any BDC. Sit with them as well. Watch them schedule services. Are they overloading appointments for extensive repairs? Perhaps they are over-scheduling your quick services, such as oil changes. Any of these activities could lead to a crowded shop with advisors and technicians who can’t keep up, resulting in upset customers.
Take a little time and spend it with your service advisors. Work alongside them as they check in customers, write up RO’s, and deliver service recommendations. Observe how efficiently they work and how consistently they give recommendations and offer upsells. Do they do a good job of explaining necessary services to the motorist? Or are they simply presenting an itemized list and accepting whatever decision the customer makes?
Perhaps watch the advisors’ interactions and communications with the technicians as well. Sometimes small problems grow into big ones that you could have easily solved with a tweak in a process or some additional training.
Don’t forget your technicians and parts department. See how efficiently they work. Do they perform consistent inspections? How do they present their findings to the service advisor? Observe your parts department as they interact with customers—both retail and wholesale—as well as the service department. Are they favoring one group over another?
Shadowing might sound like a simple exercise, but it works. Give it a try and you may well find that your service department operates more efficiently, with happier and more productive staff.