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Avoiding the Rush JobPosted 8/8/2007
By Danny Sanchez
It's a warm afternoon at the shop today, and the cars are double-parked, the tow truck is dragging in another "breakdown," and the phone just won't stop ringing. This is Friday, and every day this week has been the same: more cars than technicians and more repairs than hours in the day. It's been a busy week.
The frantic hours leading to Friday night have passed, and now you walk the shop and inspect the aftermath. The bays are a littered battlefield of empty brake shoe boxes, alternator cores and other parts that will have to be dealt with on Monday morning. The technicians are tired, weary from the constant push of vehicles through the bays. Their tools are scattered much like the equipment throughout the shop. You decide not to engage in any efforts in cleaning and decide instead to sit at your desk and run through the week's invoices and computer system reports to see the results of your backbreaking workweek. Like a pirate opening a treasure chest, you are excited to count your bounty ... then, the disappointment: "yes," you did more gross volume than you normally do, but your gross profit was not in proportion to the amount of effort you exerted.
This is a common occurrence in many shops across the country. In an effort to maximize profits, the shop owner will try to capitalize on the higher car counts, and push as many vehicles through the shop as possible. This practice is often counterproductive, not just for the checking account, but for building a loyal customer base.
Car count is the result of good marketing, building the shop's reputation, and taking care of customers. The worst mistake to make is to treat any vehicle differently just because there are plenty more in the parking lot. Clearly, every shop owner must do his best to maximize productivity when the cars and billable hours are available - but not at the expense of being thorough with every vehicle that is serviced. When we allow the parking lot of cars to alter our procedures for checking vehicles thoroughly, the checkbook will eventually suffer. I have seen many shops ride the roller coaster ride of average repair order (ARO). When the shop is slow, the technicians are checking everything on the vehicles, the service advisers are hungry and the ARO skyrockets.
When the shop is loaded with cars, the technicians switch to "fix what is broken" mode, and the service advisers are in survival mode. To solve this issue, implement shop policy for performing a comprehensive inspection on every vehicle that is serviced in the shop. Every vehicle is an opportunity for additional sales - to let one slip by is a waste of all the marketing and hard work to make the phone ring in the first place.
If you are a shop owner or adviser, you may be thinking: "That's easier said than done; what about all the customers I would lose if I can't get to their vehicles?" I have a question for you: Why do the customers who trust you to care for their vehicles and safety deserve anything but your very best even when your shop is overloaded with cars?
Customers are demanding and often impatient, but it is our job as professionals to take the time with every vehicle and customer and follow the same procedures that generate the best results. It is our job as professionals to not let the customer influence our process or procedures for doing a great job servicing their vehicles. There is more at risk than profits when we fail to be thorough with checking vehicles - our reputation is on the line. Our customers depend on us for professional service. They do not understand when the car doesn't start two weeks later from a failed battery that could have been caught at the last service just because you were too busy to check it. In their mind it's a reason to lose faith in your service.
Dispatch and shop flow control are an important part of making sure you take advantage of every car that runs through your bays. Every shop needs to have a system in place to control and track vehicles that are in the shop for service. Your system should include a clear way to identify vehicles that are there by appointment, and "waiters," as well as towed in/or breakdown vehicles. This helps to prioritize your schedule. "Waiters" and appointments have first priority in the shop, and breakdowns come in last. Your shop also needs a system for tracking what stage of service or repair the vehicles are in. At anytime, you should be able to assess shop availability by looking at a tracking board or file system. A rule of thumb I tell shop owners is if something happens to you, someone else should be able to figure out what is in the shop and functionally take over within 20 minutes.
Every shop owner needs to work toward finding the "sweet spot" in their business. The sweet spot is where the shop makes the most amount of profit for the least amount of effort. Profit is lost when we start fixing cars, and stop caring for customers.
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