It’s not easy being a dealership service technician. Many must buy their own tools, pay for storage and get frequent training to stay on top of increasingly complicated and technical vehicles. Those things have helped create a shortage of service techs in the industry, making life harder for your techs who are still around.
The service department is one of your most important departments. Even as cars become more reliable, service still provides a key revenue stream for your dealership, accounting for almost half of your total gross profits according to NADA. Your technicians play a critical role in your dealership’s operations and success.
While the nature of the business emphasizes beating repair flat-rate book times, which in turn helps increase profits for the dealership, I’ve seen many dealerships where understaffed service teams are overwhelmed. This leads to rushed and substandard repair work and poor practices with customer vehicles. Processes that make life harder for service techs can cost you in the long run.
When it comes to your service techs, are you making their jobs easier or harder? Here are some ways you can make things easier while improving your practices and customers’ experience in the process.
Communicating With the Customer
What’s the difference between same-day service and a repair that will take a day? You might understand that the latter means a vehicle will probably have to stay in the service department overnight, but your customers might not. How your service advisors communicate that information can cause headaches for the entire department.
If a customer misunderstands the time quote they’ve received, they’re going to be unhappy when they come back later that day to retrieve an unrepaired vehicle. If they’re given an opportunity to speak with the service tech, your already overworked and stressed tech could be placed in the middle of a toxic situation that results in a lost customer and negative online reviews.
Better communicating with your customers about time and cost quotes sets reasonable expectations and helps keep your service techs from spending time dealing with unhappy customers instead of focusing on their service tasks. It’s a simple fix that can be addressed in internal training by offering tips on how to phrase certain things when talking to customers.
Managing Inventory and Customer Vehicles
Whether they’re going through make ready or need some sort of service, the new or used cars on your lot pass through your service department a couples times before they’re sold. You might even have a key security solution like lockboxes for these vehicles, but how do you manage customer cars that are there for service? Do your service techs leave the keys tucked behind a sun visor, sitting in a cupholder or even inserted in the ignition?
Cars in service drives are becoming increasingly popular targets for thieves largely because the keys are poorly handled and readily available. You might cite a lack of time for not securing keys, but is that worth the costs you’ll face when a customer’s car is stolen from your service drive?
If you practice superior key security with your inventory, are your customers’ cars any less important while they’re in your care? An electronic key management solution that automatically tracks who has keys and when will help keep your customers’ cars secure and track activity as the car goes through the various stages of service.
Assigning Tasks Strategically
Your master technicians have years of training and experience that make them extremely valuable to your service department. Why, then, do they spend time keeping the service area clean or chasing down parts? These technicians are mostly working on complicated repair work while trying to beat the book time, making smaller tasks an unwelcome disruption that costs you money.
Consider assigning these smaller tasks, including routine maintenance jobs like oil changes and tire rotations, to your lower level service techs. This allows your best techs to focus on their work instead of rushing to beat book times while doing multiple things.
However, be sure you’re giving these lower level techs opportunities to improve and move up over time. Keeping these techs doing routine maintenance and busywork for a lengthy amount of time is a good way to lose promising young techs who could one day be master technicians. When the whole team is doing good work together, your techs and your customers will be happy.
As you can see, helping your service department succeed can pay dividends in profit, customer experience and security.