Maximizing car count pays dividends for dealers, service staff, and customers.  Photo by Charles Welch via Flickr

Maximizing car count pays dividends for dealers, service staff, and customers. Photo by Charles Welch via Flickr

There is one question surrounding the dealership service department that comes up all the time: “How can I get more cars in and out of my shop?” I can answer that question in four words: capacity, efficiency, productivity, and scheduling. Of course, the devil is in the details, so let’s dig in.

1. Increase Your Capacity

Increased capacity means more hours, alternative work weeks, more space, and more staff.

More hours means opening Saturdays (if you don’t already) and Sundays. Believe it or not, many stores have started opening on Sundays due to customer demand. More hours also could mean staying open later. I worked for one store that kept its shop open until midnight.

 In states that allow them, alternative workweeks — such as four 10-hour days — are popular with advisors and technicians and can instantly extend your hours and your revenue.

 More space means more racks. This is a long-term solution and one that can bring a serious ROI.

 As we are all aware, finding more technicians and advisors can be a challenge. You must always be running an ad and always be interviewing. You must also grow your own, which has been my go-to for some time. I really like promoting from within those people who show the desire to become a tech, poaching from oil change franchises, and recruiting from local colleges and technical institutes.

2. Increase Your Efficiency.

Efficiency can be expressed as production relative to time. In fixed ops, efficiency plummets when the wrong tech is on the job, parts can’t be found, and dispatch fails. The first problem is the worst: Nothing destroys efficiency like having a C-level tech address A-level diagnostics and repairs. Johnny can do the work, but it’s going to take an extra two hours. Try explaining that to the customer.

This is a training and certification issue. Too many stores continue to chase revenue and production at all costs. Staffing never catches up, and it becomes a house of cards. Lose one tech and the whole shop falls with it.

3. Increase Your Productivity.

This is by far the area where most shops can address shortcomings quickly. Let’s focus on four obstacles to increased service productivity:  

 Dispatch: Electronic ROs are no substitute for bad management. Technicians can ignore jobs or wait for a better one to come along. (In most cases, I would guess the latter.) Advisors, foremen, and managers all must monitor technicians so that they are continuously seeking more work and picking up the next RO as fast as possible.

 Stacking: Job stacking can work both ways. Done right, it’s an excellent motivational technique. Done wrong, and it’s a productivity killer. You must stack for results and not stack for show. Stacking for show sounds like, “I just wrote three waiters and sent them all to John for him to look at and I need them by noon.”

If John is that busy, chances are he already has a ticket or two. The point is that awareness and careful monitoring will create a sense of urgency and not a sense of defeat. Stack for results.

 Monitoring: Productivity is a fickle taskmaster. Some techs dive right in, get things done, get the ticket back to the advisor and move on the next one. As for other techs, well, let’s just say I’ve seen a snail with a broken leg move faster.

Monitoring is a combination of awareness and flexibility. Sometimes you take a ticket away to give to someone who really knows how to do X, Y, and Z so the first tech can knock out two waiters that just got written up. The dispatcher, foreman, and advisor need to be in the loop at all times, checking their tickets and asking questions.

 Parts: Delays are killers. Any delay at the counter sucks. Consider adding a parts runner, prepull or parts stack in the shop for fast-moving items, electronic parts lookup, and additional parts counter personnel. You can get creative here.

4. Streamline Your Scheduling.

This is another area struggling shops have trouble. I have been on free-for-all service drives and those that run smooth as butter. Guess which one works better.

Scheduling is balancing the customer need, shop capacity, technician, and advisor availability and time slots systematically. This is the one element that is the most affected by the humans employed at your dealership.

First, they must be phone trained. Then they must have sales training. Then they must have scheduling training. Then they must have common sense and awareness. Unfortunately, the last one is not trainable.

Finally, your schedule must be set up in favor of the shop while balancing the customer’s need for service and the owner’s need for revenue. Notice I said “in favor of the shop”: If your schedule is out of balance and things are willy-nilly, you are going to have a lot of angry customers and personnel. When the schedule is set up in favor of the shop, all needs are met and everybody is (relatively) happy.

Are there hiccups? Sure. You bet. However, when scheduling is done right, it remains a hiccup and does not become a full-blown volcano. One customer per advisor every 15 minutes is standard. You may need to adjust that for your store. I personally prefer 20-minute blocks to give advisors a few extra minutes.

If you are not sure if you have scheduling issues, stand in your service drive for a day or two and count how many cars show up for how many advisors in each time slot. Then look at the schedule. How many are true walk-in customers and how many were scheduled? The answer will give you an idea of how well your scheduling process is working — that, and the looks on your customers’ faces.

Leonard Buchholz is the founder of CarBizCoach. He helps dealers meet performance objectives in service sales, CSI, and profitability, and has extensive experience in evaluating fixed operations and providing corrective training and guidance. Contact him at [email protected].