The 10-Minute Invisible Service Manager

OK, no matter what you are doing, I dare you to stop right now for 10 minutes. Seriously, take 10 minutes; walk out to your service department and just look at what is going on. Just watch and observe. Don’t talk to anyone – just pretend you are invisible. I promise you this 10-minute exercise will be worth it if you force yourself to do it.

And don’t just look, really take note and do a little self-analysis about what’s going on in your service department. Does it seem organised or chaotic? Is it clean and flowing and does it look professional?
Are your advisors clean and crisp? Is your phone ringing too many times without getting answered? Is it not ringing enough? Are there customers standing beside their car waiting to be greeted – and do they look happy or aggravated? Are there customers standing in line at your service reception? What else do you see?

Well, if you really did this and if you answered those questions honestly, you probably have a good idea of what to do next. Remember this, you were most likely hired as the manager because someone believed in you-  they figured you had what it takes and they felt comfortable with you running that department for them, but sometimes service managers get so busy being busy that they lose touch with what’s really going on in their dealership!

Let me explain further. If during your little observation, you noticed a lot of people standing in line at the service reception, you know you have a problem.

People hate standing in line for anything, especially to pay a bill at a dealership. So if you saw this and if you recognised it as a problem, which I know you did – you know instinctively you need to either jump in and help your receptionists, pull someone else in to help or put in a process that is better (my favorite)– like having your service advisors do the invoicing instead of having a separate cashier.

In other words, you would use common sense corrective actions that you already know to solve the problem, right? So the real problem here isn’t that you don’t know how to fix the problem, the problem is you may not know you have a problem – and that is the problem!

You have to spend more time in your service department and less time in your office if you ever expect to grow your business. The service department is where all the money is, where all of the opportunities are and where long-term customer retention can be won or lost.

Here’s another example. If your phone is constantly ringing that can be good and bad. It could mean people are trying to do business with you – and that obviously appears to be good. But it could also be that your advisors aren’t calling customers back to update them on the status of their vehicle – so they end up feeling ignored and eventually they call your dealership to check to see if their car is ready – and that is not good. Question is – do you know what types of calls you are getting?

If you fix the ‘status call’ problem, and the phone is still ringing too much, you can quickly see that your advertising is working – but maybe you are not staffed properly to handle the opportunities or it could be that you have a poor process in place to help your people maximise those opportunities. And if the phone isn’t ringing, you need to advertise more to create more opportunities. But you will know you have a problem and you will fix it, but, you can’t fix it if you don’t know you have one. You have to be out there!

I think all of us service managers have a little bit of technician in us – we like to fix things that are broken. Take that inherent common sense knowledge on fixing things, along with the confidence that someone believed in you enough to hire you for the manager’s job – and get to work. Do the 10-minute thing. Watch and listen. Ask yourself how you would feel if you were a customer calling your dealership. Ask yourself if you would do business with you and if you answered no or probably not – then do what you do best – fix it!

Randy Johnson
Founder and President, Car People Marketing, Inc.

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