Pushing the Fixed Ops Needle Forward
In the auto industry, it’s pretty much a given that process = profits. When employees follow your dealership’s established processes, profits will follow. But how do you know if employees are following processes?
If you’re managing a Fixed Ops department, reports can tell you some of what you need to know. Reports such as number of open ROs, percentage of ROs that are one-liners, CSI scores and service drive labor rate can all help you know how well employees are following processes.
But reports don’t tell the whole story. If you’re spending most of your day sitting at a desk looking at reports and dealing with paperwork, remember that reports don’t generate profits. Customers generate profits, and the only way to know how your customers are being taken care of is to get out on the floor, observe with your own eyes and set a living, breathing example for your employees.
I know this is easier said than done. The law of inertia states that an object at rest will continue to be at rest until an external force acts upon it. For Service Managers who tend to manage from their desks, that external force might only come in the form of an emergency.
To push the needle forward, it’s critical to get out of your office and truly manage what’s going on in your shop. Here are a few tips on how to make this happen.
Delegate: Every good leader knows how to delegate. If you believe you’re the only one in your department who can do most of the things that it takes to run the department, then you’ll never get out from behind the desk.
To find tasks to delegate, imagine that you’re recording yourself throughout the course of a day, or try keeping track of your time in 15-minute increments, like an attorney. Identify the repetitive tasks that you spend time on and give those tasks to someone else. This might include pulling CSI numbers, reviewing month-to-date sales or yesterday’s sales, or tracking the loaners going in and out.
Ideally, you want to spend 50% of your day at your desk and 50% out in the shop, interacting with customers and employees.
Set an Example: A Service Manager’s top priority is their staff and customers. The most effective way for any manager to manage is to lead by example. If your employees don’t know what your expectations are, they’re going to do what they think is right, or what they think is enough, or what they can get away with.
Even the most basic processes are vulnerable to employee apathy if nobody demands accountability. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen customers drive into the service lane and nobody is there to greet them. During the early morning and late afternoon rush hours, the Manager should provide backup to Service Advisors who are engaged with customers. Greet every customer and make them feel welcome. Walk them to the waiting area, offer coffee or snacks, tell them what to expect, and thank them for their business. This sounds so basic and yet time and again I witness dealership employees not doing this. I’ll never understand why dealerships spend so much money to get customers into the door, only to ignore them when they arrive.
No matter how busy an employee is, a customer in the Service lane is always their first priority. But employees won’t learn this unless they see it in action, and the Manager makes the expectation clear and holds employees accountable.
If running and reviewing reports seems more important than greeting customers, it’s time to reset your priorities. Making your customers and employees happy and satisfied is by far the most important work a manager can do.