It’s fall and that means it’s time to transform your service department by revising old processes and procedures, creating a positive workplace culture and transforming customer’s vehicles so they stand out in a crowd.
Starting with the customer, we all know that downtime is show time in service. When the mercury falls service slows to a crawl, which opens up the capacity needed to perform major projects that transform a mundane motorcycle into a higher plane of powersports performance. Engine rebuilds are the norm when the snow flies, but also consider transforming stockers into bobbers — transforming mediocre motorcycles into expert dual sport machines. You can also serve the needs of your local “Chromo-sexuals” and “Dark Knights” with a full complement of chromed or powder coat painted accessories. “Speed Demons” shouldn’t be ignored either, and the good news is, the industry is creating a greater number of emissions compliant accessories these days that will excite your customers while keeping you out of the cross-hairs of those pesky EPA or CARB enforcement officers.
If you’re doing business in the Snow Belt the key to winter profitability is vehicle storage. I’ve written a number of articles about this lucrative program over the years, but simply put, if your customers park their vehicles for two months or more when the weather gets nasty, turn the heat up on profits with a vehicle storage program offered in at least two customer options; storage for a seasonal fee or storage at no charge when the minimum service order fee is achieved. No room to store bikes? Either lease off-site warehouse space or offer a storage prep service where you pick the bike up, prep it for storage and deliver it back to the owner. In every case, create a folder for each stored vehicle that includes outstanding service needs (determined by your walk-around inspection) plus transformational customization ideas. Meet with the owner to discuss their dreams and consider offering a payment plan for those who don't have a pocket full of cash.
TIP: Always take digital images of vehicles when they're dropped off to document their "as-received" condition.
But transformation time doesn’t stop at customer service. It’s much easier to transform your service department’s layout when you’re not swimming in customers. Now is the time to transform the physical layout of the service department so vehicles enter and leave with minimal porting and so techs walk the shortest distances to commonly used equipment like tire changers and time clocks. Reducing extra movements like these can result in huge time-savers.
And, right now is the best time to start transforming employee performance and attitude. Over the last few months managers should have determined the individuals they want to keep and the ones who need an ultimatum. During the busy season it would have been disastrous to fire sub-standard employees. Now, with service traffic slowed to a crawl service managers are back in the driver’s seat and can weed out employees that were low performers or worse, made their life miserable. Set 30-day deadlines for personal improvement and let those go who are on their fifth “second chance.”
To be honest, transforming the culture of a service department is no easy task; you’re talking about changing human behavior here. It’s probably easier to change a spark plug in a running motor. One strategy that gets good results is to improve communications by holding daily managers meetings and department huddles. I’ve been writing about morning huddles for years now, although most dealerships still aren’t doing them. I guarantee that if you get in the habit of holding 10-minute morning huddles with the service staff to discuss the RO’s for the day, the carryover work, parts ordered status and to share tips between techs, you will reduce the amount of stuff that falls through the cracks with the bonus of strengthening personal relationships. Communication is the hub that supports the wheels of progress. Give it a spin when business is slow and maintain the momentum through the year.
Now is the best time to transform your service business. Don’t procrastinate because good weather arrives quicker than you think.
Dave "Dako" Koshollek has worked in the motorcycle industry since 1971 as a motorcycle mechanic and service manager, as a technical trainer and national director for MMI's Harley-Davidson training programs and as vice president for Dynojet Research's motorcycle division. In 1998 Koshollek formed the DAKO Management company that provides sales, management and product training both in print and in person. He has written over 200-articles for Harley-Davidson's dealer publication, ShopTalk, has developed and taught numerous Harley-Davidson University courses in dealerships and at dealer conventions around the world and has authored a column titled "Dako's Fuel for Thought" for over 10-years that delivers proven parts and service operations best practices. Dako lives by the principle, "Ride Well - Be Profitable," which applies to all things in life.