Your sales department may get customers through your door, but your service department keeps them there. “In these economic times,” says Tim Buechele, parts and accessory manager of Hammond (La.) Harley Davidson, “customers are paying more attention to preventative maintenance. They are investing in what they have, which means taking care of their existing vehicle. After the sale, parts and service retain the customer.”
“When you are talking about customer retention, your service department is nine or 10 on a 10-point scale,” states Tom Hicks, owner of Southern California Triumph/Ducati, the number one Ducati dealership in the nation. “The service department is very, extremely, important.”
The impressions of these top producers are verified by a J. D. Power study. “Quality of the work being performed significantly drives satisfaction with service,” says Tim Fox, research manager of the powersports practice at J. D. Power and Associates in his December 2007 report. “It becomes critical to ensure not only efficient service, but also accurate and high quality repairs the first time around.”
In years gone by, angry customers would recount their problems with your dealership at the local bar or hangout. These days, bad news travels much faster. Unhappy consumers often post their problems on one of the many consumer review sites on the Internet or on motorcycle discussion boards, where anyone, including you, can read them. Most motorcycling communities are very small, and word gets around fast. You owe it to yourself to learn what the world is saying about your business.
“Most of my business comes in through word of mouth,” says Tim. “I spend a lot of time on different Internet boards, and we participate in Harley’s Secret Shopper program. It’s important to know that you are never as good as you think you are.”
People post both good and bad comments to boards and consumer websites, but since disgruntled customers are more likely to post reviews, the comments you see may be tilted towards the negative end of the spectrum. However, these sites provide unvarnished, honest customer comment for free a valuable service, even if you might feel like taking an axe to some of the commenters.
Many people who post comments about motorcycle shops discuss the service department. Not getting a bike fixed properly the first time is a frequent source of complaints. “They messed up the service so severely that thirty miles later oil started spilling all over the engine and exhaust,” stated one unhappy customer in his post. “They had not put the cap back on the oil pan, so motor oil was pouring all over the street … Never went back there, never will,” said another.
Interestingly, the J. D. Powers survey noted that although overall customer satisfaction with motorcycle ownership has increased in the last five years, a small but increasing percentage report that the dealer created a new problem when a bike was brought in for service. “While this only occurs for a few motorcycle owners, dealers should be aware that the number of initiated problems among this subset is increasing,” says Fox. The survey concludes, “Service, build quality and product/performance primarily drive the overall motorcycle ownership experience.”
While a bad experience can lead to your shop’s name being blackened in public, a great service experience can inspire a customer to post good things about you some of the best advertising you can get. “Since I’ve only been riding a couple years now, I had a lot of questions starting out, especially about maintenance. They [the shop] answered all of them thoroughly,” stated one pleased poster. “And for service this is the only place to bring your [brand of bike] in the area. I brought my [motorcycle] to [another dealership] and they charged me a couple hours labor and replaced some unbroken spark plugs. [This dealership] actually found the root of the problem (a cracked plug) and had the bike running at peak performance again. My next bike will definitely be [purchased] from here,” said another.
To keep your good reputation and to ensure your customers’ happiness, train, encourage and support your wrenches to be the best they can be. “Training is more than key,” emphasizes Hicks. “I spend tens of thousands of dollars on training my techs. I even send them overseas. I send them to every update class I can find.”
“When we designed our dealership, we put a big picture window into the service area, so the customers can see the techs working on their bikes,” says Tim Buechele.
“We want our techs to be the stars. The customers know and trust our guys based on relationships that have been made. They often request a specific tech, just as one may have a comfort zone with his or her doctor.”
In addition, properly stock your tool room. “I have every tool that can possibly be bought for my brands,” Hicks continues. “This is key to the customer: there is no situation where we don’t have the expertise to fix a problem. We can always find what’s wrong. We have other dealers bring bikes to us for diagnosis.”
So like Tinker to Edwards to Chance, well-trained techs armed with the tools they need to properly repair your motorcycle brands will make happy customers that will sit down at their computers and tell the world what a great operation you have. You can start with some of the tools featured below.
A&E Hand Tools
A&E Hand Tools gives H-D techs a hand with their newest Kastar 6-Spline Crankshaft Wrench for use on 2007 Harley-Davidson Sportster and 2008 Buell model 6-spline engines, and the new 24-Spline Crankshaft Wrench for use on 2006 Dyna 24-spline engines. The reversible ratcheting wrenches are used for the rotation of the crankshaft and to check engine timing and parts clearance. The wrenches are custom designed to fit perfectly on the crankshafts listed in the above engines. Both are heat-treated and chrome-plated for durability and appearance and come complete with E-Z Grip handles that allow for more turning power with less hand fatigue.
Safely siphon fuel from any gas-powered device without getting a mouthful or lungful of dangerously deadly toxins in the process. Simply insert the self-priming end into any fuel-laden receptacle, and put the other end into the container/carrying case. A few up and down self-priming pump motions and you’ll be siphoning away. The handy stopper clip maintains the siphoning function in the off position, so there’s no need to begin the process all over again between container transfers to your tank. The included super soak towel quickly cleans up any excess spills, and everything fits neatly back into the transfer container/carrying case.
Installing cylinders onto pistons has always been a tricky job. Quit pinching your fingers and catching rings by using this handy piston ring compressor. It does the tough job of holding the rings tight in the piston so you can easily slide the cylinder in place. The compressor has a flared side to allow it to slide down the piston with the cylinder. This tool fits all 52mm to 85mm pistons and will withstand years of abuse for $29.95.
If you’ve got a tricky job to do, chances are Dennis Stubblefield’s got the right tool. A case in point is this Special Rotary Shaft Puller for Sea-Doo PWCs. It fits most 580cc, 650cc, 720cc and 800cc engines, and a 6mm Thru Bolt is included. It’s made in the USA and is covered by a 100% warranty all for a $32 sticker price.
Feuling Oil Pump Corp.
This pressure test tool is a must for any Twin Cam engine builder. Bench test the camplate before installation, set the relief valve spring pressure to your desired pop off psi and assure the valve is seating and seals. The tool includes a regulator and a 100 psi pressure gauge, and it fits all Twin Cam engine camplates with cams installed.
George’s Wrist Pin Removal and Installation Tool eliminates hassles and damage caused by the removal of pins by tapping with a hammer and drift or similar tools. Developed specifically to press the pin in and out of virtually any Harley-Davidson piston, this $53.50 tool features red anodized handles that are CNC machined from the finest 6061 T6 billet aluminum. The collar is precision machined from Delron, a plastic based material that will not scuff, scrape or nick the piston, and the threaded shaft is Grade 8 hardened steel.
Goodson gets the job done with this universal application Harley Head Plate that fits Shovel, Sportster, Evolution, Twin Cam, V-Rod and Panheads. You can use it on a seat and guide machine and/or head resurfacer. This high-quality helper boasts steel construction and includes two riders for $399.99. A head stand is coming soon.
Straining to tighten and loosen nuts and bolts in crammed confines can be a real pain in the neck. This new Flexible Line Wrench from Great Neck relieves those stresses with its flexible wrench heads at both ends of the tool. Once the flexible head is angled to fit a particular fixture, the wrench’s straight handle provides the user with the appropriate leverage necessary for tightening or loosening the nut/bolt. Available in both SAE and metric measurements, it retails at $15.99.
K & L Supply
K & L Supply proudly boasts that the MC450 center jack is a proven winner, with thousands in daily use around the world. The company builds on that success with the addition of the SportJack accessory. This easy-to-use adapter simply slides onto your existing MC450 and will allow you to raise a bike by the footpegs. Perfect for a tight workspace, the SportJack is a new way to simplify routine maintenance.
Most KTM’s have a unique direct-mount system for the rear shock. Removing and replacing the heim joint is a laborious process, because often the joint is seized into the mount itself, and you risk damaging the swing arm if you are too aggressive about removing or installing the joint. To address this problem, Motion Pro just introduced the KTM Heim Joint Tool, a three-piece high-quality billet aluminum tool that makes replacing the heim joint a much simpler task. The tool retails for $54.99.
Neway valve seat cutters are fast, clean and carbide-accurate. Neway can put together a custom kit suited to your range of work, even if it’s just one set of heads. Why send work out that you can do in house?
Perfect for the home wrench or pro trackside tuneups, the Park Tool PB-1 Portable Workbench folds for easy transport and storage. The $129.95 PB-1 features a large work surface (91.5cm x 58.5cm) with specially sized slots, holes and recesses for holding tools, lubes, beverages, etc. Folding steel legs provide a solid base for a toolbox and supplies.
Paugoco’s redesigned Counter Shaft Sprocket Nut Tool is machined with a larger recess that allows it to be used on both 4- and 5-speed factory transmissions. 100% Made in the USA, it retails for $54.59.