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Putting out the fires

By Jackson Smith

JacksonSmithFire! Fire! — Now you can’t yell that in a crowded movie theater, but in many service departments you hear it all day long. If your service manager is busy all day putting out those fires he/she will soon find they don’t have much time left to do any managing. A service manager who is spending all day dealing with upset customers, listening to disgruntled techs and placating other departments will never be effective, and your service department will never see its full potential.

The main way to combat these problems is to empower your service manager to set department rules, policies and standards. The more encompassing the policies and rules are, the less issues will arise that require the service manager’s attention. We have established policies that cover all but what we call the 5 percent of issues that don’t fit our normal procedures. And just to make that 5 percent easier our GM established a policy to cover that. While I can’t share it here, if you email me I will tell you that policy too. The GM has to sign off on these policies and procedure and let other departments know they must follow the established procedures when dealing with the service department. This support is essential to combat the infighting that happens at so many dealerships. The service manager must make staff accountable for following these policies and procedures as well as ensuring standards are met. Once everyone understands and follows these, the number of ‘fires’ to put out each day will drop significantly.

A second way to stop the fire alarm from going off is training. There has never been so much training available to staff in service as there is today. The online training alone far surpasses what a few years ago was only available at tech schools. Service managers must find time and incentive for staff to train. Training staff ensures all jobs from service writers managing their customer’s repairs, to techs completing the job right the first time are handled in the most efficient way. There are many incentives to facilitate this training from cold hard cash to public recognition of staff accomplishments. I suggest giving each staff member a small training assignment each week and recognizing that accomplishment at company meetings and even on your company’s social media.

Ok, so your policies and procedures have been established and are being followed. Your staff is well trained and work is being accomplished up to standard. The results no more fires to put out! What does your service manager do all day? It may seem weird to many service managers but now you have time to manage.

Monitor — Watch and listen to what is going on in your bays and at the service counter. You can find ways to refine what is going on, ensuring your customers have a great experience.

Plan — Make a plan for the next thirty days, six months and year. If you don’t have a plan it's going to be hard to grow your service department.

Marketing — Get out and talk to your customers and potential customers at local race tracks and club events. Sell your company and all the great things your service department can do for them. You will be surprised how much time you will have once you are not playing fireman all day.

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

Contact:  Jackson.S@destination-powersports.com

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