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What is Job 1 for your service department?

Jackson Smith

Although Ford has dropped its famous advertising campaign “Quality is Job 1,” according to Ford management statements, the OEM remains 100 percent focused on the quality of the vehicles’ initial build and any subsequent service repairs.

Ford, like many OEM manufacturers, knows consumer confidence in the quality of mechanical design and repairs of vehicles is probably the number one factor in purchasing from that manufacturer. Likewise, in the powersports industry, the confidence consumers have in the dealership’s service department will dictate if most buyers ever buy from your store after an initial purchase. If you want your dealership to prosper, you need to ensure quality of repairs is Job 1 at your dealership.

I was recently reawakened to this fact when we obtained a new sales manger here at our dealership. My focus and that of my team has been on quality of repairs for retail customers, and many of our meetings and training are focused toward that goal. However, one area I admittedly had not focused on was building new units. Our new manger brought to my attention that our build techs were not completing the units, or in some cases, assembling them incorrectly. He stated that these deficiencies were affecting the sales team’s ability to sell units as potential customers were noticing these issues. My thought process was that we go over the unit again before a customer takes delivery of these units, and I was sure we would take care of any issues at that time. What my team and I were overlooking was the importance of the initial inspection of the unit by a potential buyer. When customers see a unit on the floor, they want to fall in love with it, but when they see a cable not hooked up or a missing bolt, they start thinking about all the potential problems they might have with the unit — not how much fun they might have with it. That kind of initial negative effect on consumer confidence is very hard to overcome, and the consumer can start to doubt the entire purchasing process.

To remedy this deficiency, I did a quick review on quality control and found that the concept was started way back around 1948 by Dr. Edward Deming, who gave us the six disciplines methodology. Wow, if the basis of quality control have been known since 1948, you would think by now we should have no trouble knowing and understanding how to ensure our service departments provide the most high quality repairs every time. Well, I am sure we all know that without a constant effort, that is simply not the case.

Of course we understand that without quality repairs, we can have unsatisfied customers and even the potential of customers getting hurt. Further, we know the cost of a comeback is exponentially more expensive than getting the job done correctly the first time. How do we maintain this high level of quality control?

First, it has to be a team approach. Everyone in the service department has to know it is his or her job to make sure the customers’ units are operating properly and look for any issues anytime he or she touches the unit. Lot porters have to communicate to service writers if they see anything unusual on a unit when they are unloading or moving a unit through the repair process. Service writers must do a walk around of the unit with the customer when the unit is presented for service work and before the customer picks up the unit. The technicians should have a checklist they sign off on, which can provide them with some structure to ensure each step in a quality repair is completed. Even detailers, who touch almost every part of a unit while washing it, need to be empowered to notify a tech or shop foreman, if they see anything out of place or missing. Service managers should inspect the work of the techs and direct them as to how to avoid any problems that are noted. One way to do this is to review the final checklist that has been signed off on by the service writer, tech and even a detailer and discuss it at a staff meeting. Also pictures at check in and after completion of work are a great way to notice defects in repairs and are great tools for training.

Don’t be afraid to hold people accountable; they are professionals and are paid to do correct repairs. You can also turn quality control into a positive by rewarding those who find issues before a unit gets delivered and rewarding the team for low comeback rates. Paying out many small rewards for preventing a comeback will cost a fraction of what one comeback will cost your dealership. PSB

Jackson Smith is the parts and service manager at Destination Powersports, a multi-line OEM dealership located in southwest Florida. Jackson has more than 30 years experience in both the automotive and powersports industries.

Contact:  Jackson.S@destination-powersports.com

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