What Is Service Readiness and Why Is It Important?

To quote a good friend of mine, Mark Saxonberg from Toyota, “Service readiness is the act of having received the service training, information, tools and parts necessary to perform any diagnosis, repair and/or adjustment that might be required to support a product, in advance of product arrival for repair.”

Service readiness is being ready to service or repair a customer’s vehicle before it arrives at your shop.

Let’s put it in context: If a regular customer drops by to have you change the oil on his or her 2011 Cadillac CTS that is equipped with an engine that requires Dexos1 oil and you don’t have it in stock, are you service ready? Or if that same customer brings his or her 2012 Kia Sedona with the malfunction indicator light on and a complaint of low idle and no power, would your team be able to handle the issue or would they have to go to service information school first?

A shop that is not service ready might treat the Kia in this manner: The tech drives the car and confirms the problem. The tech pulls out his scan tool and pulls diagnostic trouble codes and finds a P0638 throttle actuator range/performance. He finds a technical service bulletin that points to earlier models needing a throttle position sensor (TPS) and he either tests the throttle position sensor, finds no problem, clears the codes and ships the vehicle – or he tests the sensor, finds no problem, changes the TPS to be safe, clears the codes and ships the vehicle, only to find the same Kia with the same problem and code in the bay the next day. Then, after a long struggle of retracing his steps – resulting in total frustration – the tech gives up and sends the Kia to the dealer.

The dealer technician, who happens to be service ready, recognizes the engine is in a de-rate strategy where the powertrain control module (PCM) has commanded the throttle actuator closed because of a possible problem with the TPS, the actuator or anything else that might cause ultimate damage to the engine such as low oil pressure or overheating. He looks under the hood and finds a low quality oil filter. The filter is changed and the oil pressure is restored, curing the need for the PCM to protect the engine by limiting throttle performance. Now tell me, who was service ready?

You too can become service ready by incorporating the elements of service readiness into your business. First-quality training for your entire team is a pillar of service readiness. Consider that your sales and customer service team must be every bit as service ready as your technicians. Has your team ever taken in a vehicle you can’t fix?

You need access to OE service information and technical support to help you with those tough-to-solve problems. You need OE-level tooling so you can communicate with the vehicle at every possible level. You need quality replacement parts that you can trust from a partner who brings more to the table than just the box. A partner who is truly invested in your business. And finally, you need to deliver unparalleled and exceptional customer service every time, every day for every customer and teammate. Easy, right? So where do you start?

This is where you need to look in the mirror and be honest with yourself and your team. Service readiness is a product of your service standards. Standards you create and establish, based on your core beliefs and moral compass. No one is going to create these standards for you, but you have a partner who is willing to help.

In upcoming issues we will focus on each element of service readiness. The goal of this department is to share best practices and ideas that will guide you through the process. So, are you ready?