January 22, 2007: Turning around a service department

This series of articles recaps a portion of the opportunities that were uncovered by Gart Sutton & Associates’ powersports specialists during actual consulting visits. These opportunities are followed by recommended actions that address the issues.
The goal is to provide you with ideas to help you improve your dealership.
The first step in this three-step process looked at the dealer’s service department from the customer’s viewpoint. The second part, published last edition, examined the processes in place in the dealer’s service department.
Following the needs assessment of the facility and the processes, a list of recommended actions were prepared for and reviewed with the dealer principal and general manager. The goal of this review was to determine if the dealer principal was willing and capable of accomplishing each of the actions. Once the levels of commitment and capability were established, the selected recommended actions were prioritized.
Dealership Details
This multi-line rural dealership 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. The focus of this report was the needs assessment of their service department. The goal for the recommended actions was to (a) increase the profitability of the service department; (b) create an effective service write-up area and scheduling system; (c) improve technician time tracking and reduce comeback repairs.
Issues and Solutions
Issue: Poor appearance and functionality of the service write-up area. This is the customer’s first impression of the service department. It influences their perception of the dealership and the quality of the work performed. It also affects their willingness to purchase add-ons.
Solution: Provided facility design solutions for creating an attractive, efficient service drive that is isolated from the shop area and incorporates a customer-viewing window and access to the showroom.
Issue: Lack of sales and ineffective scheduling of technician time during the write-up.
Solution: Training was conducted for the service manager and service writers on various subjects, including:

  • Utilizing a structured selling process;
  • Implementing a reception checklist to increase related add-on service sales;
  • Structuring a services menu guide book and effective menu board layout;
  • Creating appealing seasonal clothing and accessories displays in the service write-up area;
  • Effective scheduling of technicians’ time to allow for walk-ins, fast service jobs and unforeseen service issues.
    Issue: Lack of effective processes and tracking systems leading to decreased productivity, accountability and profitability.
    Solution: Assisted management in the development of an outline for a policies and procedures guide. The structure for departmental budgeting, the service write-up process, effective scheduling and conducting regular staff meetings also were discussed. The service staff was involved in this process so they would assume ownership.
    Training was provided for the service staff on application of the procedures necessary to make an efficient and profitable operation. These included:

  • Proper utilization of the service reception checklist form during the write-up process (a sample form was provided);
  • Procedures for closing out old ROs;
  • Utilizing a spreadsheet tracking system for technician performance (spreadsheet was provided);
  • Proper utilization of the time clock for ROs and work hours;
  • Promoting and tracking first service returns.
    Issue: Decreased customer satisfaction, return business and profitability due to comeback repairs.
    Solution: The service manager was provided with a comeback log form. Guidelines were discussed for the comeback process and utilization of the form. The guidelines included:

  • Respond immediately to the customer and apologize for the situation;
  • Verify and restate their specific complaint;
  • Assure the customer that you will take immediate action to resolve the issue;
  • Do not allow the comeback to be repaired by the same tech. This increases customer confidence, avoids attitude issues and provides for a fresh view of the situation;
  • Debit the original hours to the tech that created the comeback. Bill any additional time to your goodwill account;
  • Post the comeback log in the technician lounge to encourage peer pressure to improve and provide rewards to drive the process. 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

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