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December 4, 2006: Taking an in-depth look at a service department

This series of articles recaps a portion of the opportunities that were uncovered by Gart Sutton and Associates’ powersports specialists during actual consulting visits. These opportunities are followed by recommended actions.
The goal of this series is to provide ideas to help you improve your dealership.
The focus of this report was the needs assessment of a dealership’s service department.
The goals for the recommended actions were to (a) increase the profitability of the service department; (b) create an effective service write-up area and scheduling system; and (c) improve technician time tracking and reduce comeback repairs.
The first step in this three-stage process looks at the dealer’s facility from the customer viewpoint.
Dealership Details
This multi-line rural dealership draws from surrounding communities and an established rural market. They recently moved into a new, highly visible facility, resulting in rapid growth. Their existing systems and procedures are not capable of supporting their increasing volume.
Service Area
Customers can enter from the showroom through a hallway. Normally, they enter through an open, roll-up door at the back of the building by walking up a concrete ramp. Once onside, they encounter a cluttered write-up desk that is at one end of the service area. There is one designated service writer, who is assisted by the service manager. Frequently, the service writers have to go outside and down the ramp to do the write-up. The write-up area is open to the service area. There is a lot of noise, smoke and traffic from units being serviced and rolled or ridden in and out of the same entrance. There is additional traffic from the parts department and the new unit set-up area, which are located on the opposite side of the write-up desk from the shop. Customers are generally free to enter the shop area. The write-up counter is not identified by signage, and there are no menu boards or services signs. No technician diplomas or certifications are posted. There is a customer waiting area in the showroom, but there is no signage to indicate this. The shop labor rate is posted.
The shop is in need of cleaning, organizing and painting. Unacceptable posters are displayed where they can be seen by customers. Each tech has one lift and a small workbench area. The area under the workbenches is crammed with engine parts and debris. There is an exhaust system, and the work station lighting is adequate. Special tools are in unmonitored open tool boxes at the end of the service area.
This facility has a lot of unused space in the service department.
Recommended Actions
The following changes could be accomplished with a moderate investment and minimal effort:

  • Create a service drive entrance that provides outside drive-in access for customers from the front of the building through an automatic door.
  • Install simple walls to isolate the write-up counters from the shop area noise and smoke.
  • Provide an access door to move units easily from the service drive to the shop area.
  • Eliminate customer access to the service area to reduce liability and increase technician efficiency.
  • Install a glass door to provide access from the service drive to the showroom lounge waiting area to stimulate sales opportunities.
  • Move the write-up area to the front end of the store to allow the service area to be moved closer to the parts department for increased efficiency.
  • Remove unacceptable posters and clean, organize and paint the shop area to bring it to the level of the high-quality showroom area.
  • Install doors to cover storage areas under benches and along walls.
  • Provide a viewing window into the shop from the showroom lounge area. This allows customers to observe the work on their treasured units. It also encourages techs to keep their areas clean and neat.
  • Provide at least two lifts for each tech to improve productivity. psb
    Author, speaker and educator, Gart Sutton has been retained by every major powersport manufacturer/distributor. He is a frequent keynote speaker for national motorcycle conventions and state motorcycle dealer association events. Visit www.gartsutton.com.

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