Keeping your shop full for 12 months a year is challenging for every service department. We are constantly adjusting to our customers’ seasonal needs, which brings with it peaks and valleys in the workloads we manage and the expectations we are asked to meet.
With a limit on the hours available every month, building a strategy to reduce the peaks and valleys can drive financial success and increased customer satisfaction.
First, take a look at the skill sets you have available in your staff of technicians. Keeping your well-trained, top-performing staff busy is never a problem. Since these technicians are able to do everything for you, they always have work. But having a strategy on what work you want to sell for this high-performing staff is the first step to lowering the peaks of the busy seasons. A well-trained, experienced technician is a great candidate to be in a service truck. In the slower times of the year, be proactive in contacting customers who prefer technicians coming to them. Many of our customers have invested in great shops and reaching out to them can drive work for you and a great customer experience for them. Using their shop is also a great way to increase your shop capacity and hours available to sell.
Every service department wants to have reliable, steady technicians in their shop. They may not have the formal training or certification but have built their career on mechanical experience. In your peak season, this group can go from a light workload to being overloaded with just a couple of big breakdowns. Work with your sales departments on lining up reconditioning work on equipment that is out of season and have a strategy to book preventative maintenance and inspections from your customers on their out-of-season equipment. Whether it is planting or harvesting equipment, they both sit for several months every year. Still, if you can get it on your yard in the offseason, it can create a great pipeline of work and provide the flexibility needed when the big breakdowns happen.
Finding trained, experienced technicians is getting harder and harder in today’s competitive workplace. Having a strategy to hire and develop new technicians is key to the long-term success of any service department. I have heard that many service managers are hesitant to hire inexperienced technicians because they are hard to keep busy and not as efficient. Well, your best technician was once that person early in their career as well. A well thought out Inspection and Preventative Maintenance program is key to having the right jobs for your young staff to learn and grow from. You can engage your experienced, trained technicians to be looking for work when out on the road. In that case, they can come back to your shop and have your reliable shop technicians supporting and feeding the right jobs to the young staff. Then, keeping them busy can change them from a challenge to an efficient and profitable technician, and their gained experience will set them up for success in the future.
Have your service management team sit down and go through the calendar season by season. Discuss what skills you have available on your team of technicians and how best to use them to meet the needs of your customers, both internal and external. Identify the slower periods of the year for each group and identify the opportunities you can go after to fill these gaps. Looking at your year-by-season will help proactively identify what you need to be marketing to your customers as well as gaps in your technician’s headcount and skill sets. This proactive approach will also help you control when the work is coming to your shop instead of waiting for the rush at the beginning of a new season. Developing your seasonal plan will ensure you are finding the right job, for the right technician at the right time and maximize turning your available hours into hours billed.
Article Written by Scott Brigden
Scott Brigden is a trainer with NAEDA’s Dealer Institute. Prior to joining DI as an aftermarket specialist and trainer, Scott held various training and leadership positions across several dealerships in Canada, and he currently manages a truck repair shop. He looks forward to helping dealers succeed by improving their parts and service operations.
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