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Ten Nonnegotiable Service Department Practices

The practices that are absolutely essential to the operation of successful service departments.


I want my business to continue to grow and prosper. I know I need to develop effective written processes for the operation of my dealership, but how do I go about designing the structure for these processes?

Last time we addressed the written processes from a P&A perspective, this time we take a look at the service side of things. Regardless of the department, written processes are about managing people. You really can’t hold your people accountable for their actions unless there are specific written guidelines for them to follow, regardless of the department they work in.

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This time around we consulted with Best Operators Club members/dealer principals like Kurt Finley (Colorado Powersports, Boulder, Colorado), Don Owens (Dothan Powersports, Dothan, Alabama), Jim Maslyn (Motoprimo, Lakeville, Minnesota) and Mike McBroom (Neosho Powersports, Neosho, Missouri).

Although most of these BOC dealers already had written processes in place, they were not necessarily totally satisfied with the results. They all agreed that they would benefit from sharing ideas on the structure for these processes. In this instance, these processes were developed during a training session with the service managers from the member dealerships.

Where do you start when you want to develop a written structure for the operation of a given
department in a dealership?


The Best Operators Club members decided that they first needed to determine the nonnegotiable practices exclusively for the service department.

What are nonnegotiable practices for the techs and other service personnel?

These are the practices that are absolutely essential to the operation of successful departments. While a long list of these practices was developed, we have distilled them into the top ten nonnegotiable practices as described by the service managers involved in this project:

1: Establish Service As A Separate Business
You must set up your service department as a separate profit center before you can determine if it is making a profit. All service work must be properly billed out to your customers or internally to a specific department.


2: Ensure Every Job Is On A Repair Order
How can you hold your techs accountable unless you have accurate and complete accounting of what they accomplished? ROs must be required on all work performed. This is definitely a nonnegotiable practice!

3: Ensure Every Labor Hour Is Billed Out Using A Time Clock
Time is what your service department sells. You must bill all labor on a repair order using a time clock so that you can closely monitor the performance of your technicians. Pay them well if their performance is good. Log the times and the parts and accessories sales from the repair orders on a daily basis. Use this information to determine who needs more training and to create reward and incentive programs for improvement.


4: Maintain Proper Staffing To Ensure Customer Satisfaction
One indicator of proper staffing is how long customers have to wait for their machines to be repaired. Another indicator is how long they must wait to be written up by the service writers.

5: Insist On Professional Appearance Of Service Personnel And The Shop Area
Your service department is in the business of selling labor. Your service department and staff must have the proper appearance to ensure a professional impression.

6: Establish And Maintain An Evaluation System For Technician Performance
Your service manager should meet with each tech every morning to provide one-on-one feedback. Efficiency, productivity and proficiency is measured and discussed on an ongoing basis. Additionally, conduct semi-annual written reviews of their performance.


7: Ensure That Service Management And Technicians Complete OEM Service Training And Attend Update Schools
Enroll the staff in all applicable factory training. Participation is essential in order to keep up with today’s technology and challenges.

8: Eliminate Customer Traffic From The Work Area
You can’t expect efficiency and productivity if your techs are distracted by customer interaction. Customer communication is a service management function. In addition, there is risk and liability when a customer enters a work area.

9: Follow Up With The Customer After Every Repair Or Service
It is essential that you acquire feedback from your customers after the unit has been serviced or repaired. Service writers should contact each customer within 48 hours of pick-up. It is much easier to address dissatisfaction when it is caught early. They should also remind customers of future services.


10: Establish And Maintain A Monthly Profit & Loss System
The service manager must be involved in operating this department as a business. Give them the tools to provide you with a detailed report and a running P&L (profit and loss) once a month. This enables you to determine the profitability of the department and respond quickly to opportunities for improvement. It also provides ownership and accountability to the service manager.

Remember, we are treating the service department as its own stand-alone business. None of these top 10 recommendations are open for negotiation … it is your job to “git ‘er done” as Larry The Cable Guy might say.

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