Great customer service can seem like a rarity in today’s business climate due to self-serve grocery stores and online ordering. But for dealers, customers reward great service with a relationship that can go on for years, and even generations. At the same time, with more options for customers and a tight labor market, dealers are looking to do more with less.
With this in mind, take a look at these tips to help make your service techs more efficient, and the whole department more profitable.
1. Cross-Train Technicians
We all have that person who is there for us when we have questions. But what happens when he or she goes on vacation, or retires? Cross-training your service techs means that they understand each other’s role, whether it be small engine repair or another function performed by the department. There is job enlargement, which is training on a similar function, and job enrichment, which is going deeper into a role, such as assuming a supervisory position.
The Balance Careers offers a simple way to start cross training – “let individuals identify roles and tasks they are interested in,” they suggest. “Then they can coordinate their own informal cross-training work with team members.” Cross-training has the added benefit of more flexibility in scheduling and an opportunity to strengthen customer support with more knowledgeable employees.
2. Keep Your Techs Operating with an 85% Recovery Time or Higher
Dealer expert Bob Clements recommends having a recovery time, or time billable to clients, set at 85%. If you are below 75%, you are losing money.
This metric is calculated by dividing total sold or flat-rate hours produced by the total clock hours worked. It can be tracked by having techs punch in and punch out of work orders (which you can easily do using a decent dealership management system).
Further, Clements has seen up to 130% recovery rate, so 85% is an achievable standard.
3. Limit Distraction
Distraction is the ultimate productivity killer, especially when it comes to the intricate work of small engine repair. Help your service techs focus by removing any non-mechanical work from their space.
Pulling parts is a time-consuming process, so consider having a service manager or another employee do this function. While it is tempting to put “all hands on deck” and get service techs to pitch in elsewhere, resist the urge. Help your techs by protecting their time. Are your techs mowing the lawn or covering for other staff? Instead, hire a student or a retiree for a small amount of hours each week, whose hourly rate is lower.
4. Specialize to Succeed
It worked for Henry Ford, so it can work for you too; a basic tenant of capitalism is specialization of labor. It is harder today to hire technicians than it was before. According to Manpower, talent shortage is a real issue in the current market. Almost three quarters (72.8%) of employers are having a difficult time finding skilled candidates and 45% of employers are concerned about finding employees with the necessary talents. The same report says that skilled trades are the hardest to find workers for – for the sixth year running.
The solution? You don’t need just master-level technicians to increase your service sales. You can rely on “C” and “B” level techs that can perform lower-skill-level repairs and maintenance. Match the level of work with the technician to create specialization within the team, and a more interesting job for the experienced technicians.
5. Document Centrally
Imagine a virtual library where you can look appropriate repairs for each problem. This could have a powerful impact on the productivity of your service techs – especially newer ones. Proper documentation, stored in your dealer management software, can be searched on for similar repairs in the future. Every time a technician encounters a problem, he or she can record: “What I found, what I did, time on call, parts used/replaced.”
That way, your dealership management software becomes the central place of truth. It also covers for employee changes or vacations and offers a better experience for the customer who wants “the same as last year.”
Digital documentation also sets you up nicely for the future. The more you have in the database, the more power you will have later. For example, down the road there may be chatbots, integrated AI, automatic tutorials for technicians and more.
A more efficient service department can not only help the bottom line. However, it can also offer a better customer experience, leading to more repeat business, and even referrals. Bigger margins also reduce cashflow stress so that you can have a better quality of life.