A favorite of many members – short, to-the-point management tips. New tips are added regularly. Premium Membership is required for access..
#94 Reduce Waiting For Parts
It’s a problem in almost every shop to some extent. Many causes of parts waiting can be reduced or eliminated with some simple fixes. 1: When anyone (tech, advisor, etc.) is 90% sure that a part will be needed, order it now. 2: Restock common parts from primary vendors daily. 3: Assign parts handling to one individual as much as possible. 4: Check the schedule for tomorrow and beyond every afternoon and order parts likely to be needed. Finally, when implementing these or any other parts handling systems, make sure that each one is scheduled and assigned so it actually happens.
#93 Improving Communications in the Shop
How good are the communications between staff members in your shop? Is the process simple and quick, occurring just once in most cases? Here are a few methods which have helped greatly in many shops: Instant messaging, emails, dry erase boards, PC’s for everyone, texting, and advanced phone systems. In many shops verbal communication and walking around to find someone have been significantly reduced allowing everyone to spend more time doing their job with more accurate information.
#92 Wasted Steps in the Shop Rob Your Efficiency
Many shops have a shelf or cabinet for shop supplies located somewhere in the shop where everyone goes for almost any type of supply item. Duplicating the shelf in several places throughout the shop will keep your techs closer to the job they are working on, and prevent several wasted minutes each day. Do that for a year and you have some real money. Also, if you do not already do so, encourage the techs to keep the five or so most used supplies on their tool cart.
#91 A Quicker Way to Get Dealer Parts
If you’ve ever spent time on the phone trying to get the parts guy at the dealer to understand what part you are looking for, or faxing pictures back and forth with the dealer parts department, you know how frustrating and time consuming it can be. Crash guides, which are used primarily in body shops, will usually simplify the process. The tech looks at the picture in the crash guide (things like the inside guts of a door), picks the part he wants, you call the dealer with the part number, and you are done. Crash guides are available by subscription or can often be found used on the internet.
#90 Where is that Special Tool that we Bought?
A common problem in many shops is keeping track of the special tools that are purchased. Did we ever buy that tool? Where do we keep it? Who knows the answers? Try the following. When you buy a special tool, enter it into your parts inventory including the part number, description, and location in your shop. Now the techs can easily see if you have it by checking the part number (from the service information) in your management system. They can also see where it is kept; which makes it both easy to find and easy to put away when done.
#89 Schedule Everything – Literally!
You come up with a good marketing promotion, but you fail to place it on a marketing schedule. You decide to restripe your parking lot. It looks great! But, you do not place it on a maintenance schedule so it is done again every spring. Schedules are not only for service appointments. The smoothest operations schedule (and assign) virtually everything that they want to recur. Lower the stress level and prevent wasted management effort dealing with the same things over and over again. Schedules are one easy way to do just that.
#88 Waiting for Estimates?
Is there a lot of time wasted waiting for estimates in your shop? Or, are estimates for additional items found often not performed because they take so long to complete? Part of the solution may be as simple as reassigning what your staff does. Do you have certain employees who are better at estimating and others who are better at dealing with people? Some shops have one person do most of the estimating and another take care of most of the customer contact, and find this to be far more efficient than having two or more people basically doing the same thing.
#87 Planning for Equipment and Tool Purchases
Many shops buy equipment and tools without a definite plan and end up wasting a lot of money. Creating a good plan is easy to do and to follow. Ask each one of your staff to make a prioritized list of the items that they believe are needed. This is often quite different from what many shop owners anticipate. Combine the lists and set a solid budget on how much money can be spent each month. Then start picking off the items on the list when enough funds are available. This system allows you buy the most critical items first while preventing wasted purchases.
#86 An Efficiency Challenge for you
Ask each one of your employees to make a list (the larger the better) of anything and everything in your building that they believe would not be seriously missed if it was gone. Odds are that you will be surprised at some of the things that they come up with. Now it’s your turn. When none of your staff (this works best if does not include you) have any significant objection to something disappearing, this is your cue to make it vanish. If you can’t bear to see it go, then take it home or to an off site storage building. Excess stuff equals decreased efficiency. Removing it will give you a better workplace and a nicer shop for your customers to see.
#85 A Giant Hole in many Shops
The lack of a technician time tracking system is a one of the biggest money drains in many shops today. There are dozens of excuses. But, the bottom line is that running a shop without tracking the tech’s time is like running a gas station with no meters on the pumps. When you track anything, you tend to get more of it and this certainly applies to tech production. It’s a simple process that has been used for decades to allow both employers and employees to increase their income. Do yourself and your staff a big favor and start tracking tech time today.
#84 Which Car do I work on next?
If that question occurs frequently at your shop, it is likely time to improve your tech assignment system. Review incoming cars the day before and assign as many as you can. Assign drop-offs immediately when possible. Prioritize both assigned and unassigned (jobs that can be handled by any tech) both the day before and as soon as they arrive. Your techs should be able to glance at their computer screen at any time and know exactly which car is next in line for them without asking the service advisor. A good system here will pay big dividends, especially when the shop is very busy.
#83 Clear that Logjam at your Front Counter!
Complete the RO (as much as you can) before the car arrives. If you consider all of the things that you put on an RO initially before the car is serviced (it should be a fair amount of information if you are doing your job properly), you will find that most or all of it can be entered before the car shows up. Use phone and email to find out what you need to know in advance instead of holding the customer up on your front counter where things are often busy and the customer has other things to do and places to go. Then when the car does arrive, all you need to do is ask if anything has changed since your last contact, have the customer sign and you are ready to go!
#82 How good is your Customer Write-Up?
One of the most common problems in many repair shops is the lack of time and effort taken with customer write-up. Selling (in a good sense) is the key to success for a repair shop today. The write-up is where great selling begins. Do you collect all of the important customer information every time? Do you probe for the details of exactly what the customer wants and needs? Do you use customer history, current mileage and interview questions to determine other possible services? An excellent write-up procedure will often take 10-15 minutes and is normally performed best over the phone when the initial contact for service occurs. If your staff is too rushed to take the time needed to handle the procedure correctly, it may be time to review the tasks which your employees on the front counter have to handle and adjust them accordingly.
#81 Closing Shops Mean Opportunities
Are you closely monitoring which shops in your area are closing? Each has a certain amount of resources which could be valuable. Obviously there is equipment, inventory and the building. What could be of far greater value are the customers in the database. They will need to go somewhere and it may as well be to you. In some situations, you may want to take over the entire operation. When shops are closing, the early bird usually gets the worm. Monitor for possible closings in your area and be the first to contact them. The potential to help your shop may be just the boost you are looking for.
Why does that issue never get handled? Why is it always on the back burner? Maybe it’s not that important and should be scratched from your to do list. But what about the important issues which still do not get addressed? Odds are that no one has set a specific deadline. How can you hit a non existent target? If you assign deadlines to your most important projects, it becomes more likely that they will get done. Just make sure that you do not set too many deadlines too quickly. Be reasonable about how many you set and how soon you set them. Then hold yourself to what you have set.
Contrary to the gut instinct of many shop owners, busy does not mean great profits. Far too many shops spend a lot of effort trading dollars around while retaining very few for themselves. When it gets very busy, it can become easy to spend money that otherwise would not be spent. It also becomes more difficult to stay focused on maintaining a solid gross profit in all areas. Remember that the most profitable thing that a shop owner can do, both when things are slow and when things are busy, is to manage the money.
#78 Your Customers Need Wheels!
That is, some way to get around while you service their car. Do you have a solid system in place to offer them as many options as possible? How many of these are readily available for them at your shop: Loaner car, rental car, pickup and delivery, shuttle, or bus? The more alternatives you can offer the better. Make a list of transportation options part of your standard operating procedure and include the list in your marketing.
#77 Wait Appointments Stink
At least, that’s the sentiment of many in our industry. However, many shops have found wait appointments to be a huge opportunity. Instead of seeing them as interruptions, systems are created to deal with them efficiently and profitably. It is far easier to sell a customer a service face to face (with the car handy to look at) compared to over the phone. Ask what you could do to address the problems that you now have with waiters, and then put systems in place to keep customers from wandering off to the shop up the street that is happy to have them wait.
#76 Making the Most of each Visit
Are you really getting everything that you should from each customer visit? I’m not talking about pushy selling. Instead, I’m referring to informing the customer of all possible repairs and maintenance. This requires a thorough inspection, a check of the service history, and finding out what factory maintenance is due. Then each item needs to be estimated and mentioned to the customer. It sounds pretty simple, but many shops do not take the time to do it properly on every car, every time. And, it shows in their average RO.
#75 How good is your Symptoms Interview Process?
Most shops do a reasonably good job of asking questions about the customer’s concerns. However, many shops depend mainly on the ability and memory of the service advisor to do so. A better approach is to create a standard list of questions in your software so the process is consistent and thorough every time regardless of who is doing the write up. This will allow anyone on your staff to do a reasonably good job of writing up a customer when a service advisor is not readily available. For best results, have both the questions and the replies print out on the RO. The techs will know what to expect each time and be less likely to ask the advisor to call and get further information.
#74 Get All Customer Information
Yes, this seems pretty basic, but the vast majority of problems which occur in an automotive shop are related to not handling the basics thoroughly and consistently. Of course we get the name, address and a phone number or two that will be used today. But, instead of thinking only about this visit, what other information might be useful for future visits and marketing? Did you get work and cell numbers for both spouses? Fax numbers? Email addresses? (You have made email collection mandatory, right?) Some shops also get birthdays so the customer can be sent something special once a year. And, don’t forget to briefly review current information for returning customers to see if anything has changed.
In a typical repair shop the staff spends too much of their day dealing with problems which have been dealt with before (and will occur again) due to the lack of simple systems that prevent the problems from happening in the first place. The loaner car is not completely ready for the customer because there is no assigned and scheduled procedure in place to make sure that it is always ready to go. Of course there are dozens of similar issues, each one consuming valuable staff time and killing efficiency. When a common problem occurs, note it, and create a simple system to deal with it. Then put it in place and watch as the staff becomes less stressed and more productive.
#72 Overstaffed or Understaffed?
How do you really know? Here’s a simple way to get a pretty good idea. Spend some time doing a little investigating to get a reasonably good idea of the sales at other shops in your area. Then take the total number of techs and service advisors (added together) at each shop and divide it into their sales. Now, compare the findings to the number at your shop. Odds are that you will find a very wide range of results and get a fairly good handle on how your shop measures up. Too many or too few employees will prevent you from maximizing your potential, something that is especially critical in a tough economy.
#71 How to Greatly Decrease Profits when Business is Slow
It’s really quite simple, and many shops have mastered the practice. Kill the GP (gross profit). In an effort to “make customers happy”, we’ll drop the parts GP a few points. Let’s do the same for labor. Add that to decreased sales and we have a sure fire way to destroy our already sagging profits. Do not give in to this temptation like so many shops do when the going gets rough. There are many creative ways to offer attractive pricing and options without decreasing your GP. Remember, when business slows, getting your proper GP becomes even more critical. Closely monitor the way that your GP is trending in both parts and labor so that your profits are not wiped out.
#70 Why am I in a Downward Sales Spiral?
For many shops, the reason is within. It starts with a sales drop that is often due to market conditions. So, the techs figure that if few folks are buying the things that they are finding, why bother to look very hard for other work. Of course the service advisors have noticed increased sales resistance, so why waste time estimating and presenting all of those things that won’t be sold anyway. We’ll just wait until things get busier and then we’ll get back to doing a thorough job of inspecting, estimating and presenting. After all, that makes perfect sense, right? Of course, just the opposite is true, unless your goal is to decrease sales even further. If there was ever a time to look harder, estimate better, and take more time in presenting services, slow times are it. What are you doing at your shop to crank up efforts in these areas?