More billable hours, and happier customers

Kearney Powersports sees 8 percent rise in service

Craig Stokebrand didn’t like the less-than-professional look and feel of his service writers’ area at Kearney Powersports in Nebraska, so he did something about it. After knocking out an existing wall, the dealership principal is pleased with the results.

“It wasn’t bad for me at all because I like doing construction,” he said. “Plus the area was just too cramped. I have two service writers, but they couldn’t effectively talk to two people at the same time because of the physical area.”

The remodel tripled the size of their counter.

“It opened it up and makes it look more professional and inviting,” Stokebrand said.

And while Stokebrand credits the release of the Polaris Ranger XP 900 for the store’s 8 percent rise in billable hours in its service department more so than any construction work, he’s pleased with the better working environment that the new space has created in the department.

With motorcycle sales down and ATV sales flat year-over-year in 2012 at his store, Stokebrand saw his service department on the rise thanks to accessory sales and installations on side-by-sides, which had a large sales boost.

“2012 ended up being a really good year for us,” he said. “With the UTV sales came so many more accessories than we’ve ever sold. Those accessories turned into labor hours. It was really the biggest difference for the whole year. The remodel helped a lot.”

Stokebrand says his service department, which employs two writers, four techs and two lot techs, “is getting better all the time. We’re definitely not perfect back there yet, but just getting better.”

Service writers at Kearney also made advances in 2012.

In addition to service department strength, Kearney Powersports in Nebraska offers a demo site for PWC buyers.

“Consistently getting diagnostics time has helped us a lot. It’s something the guys are scared to ask for, but realistically that’s what a tech does,” Stokebrand said.

In the second half of 2012, Stokebrand implemented a daily review with each tech, primarily focused on which labor lines go closed from the previous day.


“It’s helped us keep better track of where we’re at,” he said. “Maybe they get into an eight-hour job, and they’re three or four hours into it. If none of those labor lines were closed, we really didn’t know where we were at every day. All the other departments, it’s really easy to do a daily doc, but back there, we really didn’t know where we we’re at. So that’s really the biggest thing we’ve been working on — diagnostics and getting labor lines closed every day.”

A switch from hard copies of repair orders has helped gain more diagnostics.

“It makes the writer more comfortable. Now, when the customer comes in, we put the jobs into Lightspeed, and we’ve changed the wording on repair orders in Lightspeed, so that’s what the customer is actually signing,” Stokebrand said. “The other thing I like about it, even if they just come in for service, we’re putting the flat rate time, the time that we’re going to bill, and the parts on there, so when the customer signs it, he’s already got an idea of a price, instead of us relying on ‘Did the service writer tell him? Did he not?’”

Stokebrand says providing the customer with a diagnostic price in advance, and then at times being able to lessen that amount, goes a long way toward customer service.

“It could be a case where somebody brings in a bike, and wants a service done, plus it’s cutting out on them. When they sign the RO, they know it’s going to be $130 for the service, and the diagnostics is whatever is — $100. When we call them back, it’s a lot easier to say “We’ve got the $130 for the service. We did get it diagnosed and we’re going to be looking at another $400 or whatever to fix the problem.

“I think it’s been a lot easier. It’s on there. They know a dollar amount up front. Let’s say it only takes us 15 minutes. We can knock the diagnostics back down if we need to, and the customer feels better about it. It brings us more billable hours, and the customers are happier.”

Stokebrand has found success with hiring local high school-aged students to fill lot tech positions during the busy season. The last two have also stayed in town to attend college, so they’ve continued to hold their positions.

“A lot of our work is done for farmers. They come in filthy muddy, coming off feed lots, so I have one do washing and detailing, and the other stays in the shop, loading benches for techs and getting parts,” Stokebrand said. “I’ve tried to do it with one lot tech and I just can’t keep up.”

There was no mud, however, on many of the new Ranger XP 900s that made their way into the service department as part of accessory sales.

“We were averaging about $5,800 in accessories per machine, and they were all getting installed,” Stokebrand said. “That’s usually a really slow time for our service department, and I think we put on 15 cabs in December. That was a really big boost at the end of the year.”

Thanks to some operational tweaks, the service department found nearly a double-digit percentage increase in sales.


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