Taking Parts and Service to the Next Level Part III:

Step Up & Staff Up!

I remember years ago one of the rules of business was to always run one person short – the idea was that it would keep everyone on their toes and busy. While I agree there’s nothing wrong with running a business a little lean, I also know we all need to be careful because too lean can bite as hard as being too fat. Think of it this way – it isn’t healthy to be overweight but it isn’t healthy to be anorexic either. I don’t think you should run your store too fat, because too fat is just – well, “too fat,” but the problem is when you cut too deep and are too short handed you can adversely effect customer service and production and I see this all the time.

Here’s what I am saying – when you have to cut – cut, but keep a keen eye on who and how much you cut – and when you decide, cut the excess fat, but don’t cut the muscle – don’t cut your potential for growth, in other words.

If you don’t have enough service advisors or techs in your shop, your work capacity is lowered – and so is production, up sells and your ability to get customers cars in and out fast enough and done right. If your people are telling customers to wait 2-3 days or even 2 or 3 weeks to get a service appointment you are too skinny and you need to put on a few good healthy pounds – that makes sense doesn’t it – that’s what your doctor would say, right?

At the risk of sounding like Jeff Foxworthy and his “you might be a redneck skit,” you might be too lean, if your phone rings more than 3 times and no one answers it. You might be too lean, if you are telling customers it takes 3 hours to do an oil change. You might be too lean, if you have a line of customers waiting to get written up in your service lane or waiting to pay their bill. You might be too lean if your advisors are writing more than 15-20 repair orders a day – and the result is they become order takers instead of “order makers.”

Here’s the deal - a bad service experience at your store because you don’t have enough of the right people can hurt you in the future more than you think. Being too lean and not having the right processes in place and the right people to execute them because they are too busy – can not only hurt you in sales and profits today, it can hurt you in the future because people give up on trying to do business with you. Here’s an example - a new restaurant opened up in my neighborhood a few years ago. It was a nice place – but they didn’t take reservations and every time I would go there for dinner the wait was 2-3 hours. Sorry guys, but I am just not going to wait that long – so every time I went there, I would have to leave disappointed – I just wasn’t going to wait that long. What really got me was that they had one hostess who took names down on the list and then eventually escorted customers to their table, leaving the hostess podium unattended and a madhouse. So people had to wait in line, just to see how long the line was – and probably somewhere in this equation, the owner decided he would save a few bucks by only having one hostess. But wait – there’s more - to the left of the hostess stand, was the bar with one bartender that was always covered up with lines (that’s plural), lines of people waiting for a drink. So you had to wait in line to find out how long the line was, then wait in one of the many lines to get a drink…they should have named the restaurant “Lines.”

Anyway, I tried several times – always getting aggravated so I just quit trying to do business there, I decided they were just too hard to do business with. I eventually took them off my list of places to eat until about year and a half later when I decided to give them another shot and I went there on a Saturday at 7pm, and they were almost empty and I got a table in just a few minutes. Apparently everyone in town had decided like I did, to give up on them and they soon went out of business and I don’t want you to let this happen to you - sometimes, too much business can be bad for business. So, all I am saying is to look at your business through a customer’s eyes - see how long it takes your people to answer the phone and see how long the line is in your service drive and fix it.

And if you have a cashier window – hear this. Service cashiers went out with the hoola hoop – or at least I think they should have. Service cashiers are (for the most part) evil, wicked, mean and nasty and should be kept as far away from your valuable customers as you can get them. They have no vested interest in your customers or your future and they can be a contagious, cancerous disease to your entire operation and even the best ones are in a no win situation because they really can’t truly help the customer anyway – all they can do is page the service advisor to the window. I just think service advisors (or service salespeople, as I like to call them), should cash out their own repair orders – they answered the phone, they met the customer in the drive, they wrote the requests up and it only makes sense that they should review the invoice and make sure it is correct – end of discussion.

So now you are going to tell me – Yeh Randy, but our guys don’t have time to do that – and my answer is simple and the right thing to do and you know it – hire another advisor. They are commission salespeople for the most part, so hire them and increase your sales. And I will just head this excuse off at the pass- I have never found a store that didn’t run better with one more advisor and 2 more techs. And if you think you don’t need them, hire them anyway and sell your way up to your staff – there’s nothing better than the pressure to feed that beast - it makes you smarter and more aggressive! Don’t be afraid, do it and all of the sudden you will notice that your phones get answered faster, customers are greeted quicker, CSI scores will go up and your sales & profits will increase because your advisors have time to sell more.

So, Step Up and Staff Up. Take control of your future and sell your way up to your capacity instead of letting your capacity hold you back. Keep an eye out next month for article four of this ten part LinkedIn series!

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