Boating Industry

February 2014

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{ SERVICE } MARKET FOCUS SECTION Valerie Ziebron suggests using visual information to put customers in the driver's seat, as well as carefully tracking all work orders to make sure nothing is overlooked. service absorption, which is the percentage of the entire dealership's operating expenses that flow through the service department. Part of her approach also focuses on accurate job descriptions, specifically making sure they reflect all of your staff 's recurring duties, which helps management create an organizational chart to make sure all duties are accounted for. Knowing what is expected of everyone can also help improve staff job satisfaction, and can act as a guidebook when it comes time to add additional service employees. While some stores have the luxury of support staff to allow technicians to focus on turning wrenches, others have fewer bodies and need to delegate tasks as they come, such as shoveling snow in northern states. Ziebron says either approach is acceptable, as long as everybody knows what's expected of him or her and is incentivized accordingly. "Whenever someone isn't turning wrenches none of us are making money, so it's a natural desire for a lot of upper management to say we need more people to help keep that happening," Ziebron said. "But that still might not give me 100 percent efficiency." Creating a simple organizational chart that shows everyone's job duties — and including everything — often results in two simple scenarios in Ziebron's eyes. "It's either we have too many chiefs and not enough Indians or we have so many Indians and technicians and not enough management," she said. "Or we don't have 44 | Boating Industry | February 2014 P40x44-BI14FEB-MFService-dv.indd 44 someone dedicated to service writing, and that is another one of those situations where you think, 'Can I afford a service writer?' but you really can't not." Once an org chart is in place, pay plans can easily be created that reward service staff for their contributions to the business, not just service efficiency. If you have an experienced tech assisting newer wrenchers, for example, pay plans could be modified to focus on the overall shop efficiency, to incentivize based on the novice tech's efficiency or any other method that works while encouraging them to focus on the efficiency on the department as a whole. "The weird Holy Grail in service is coming up with that perfect pay plan, but as I've said, there is no such thing," Ziebron said. "I've seen the exact same plan fail miserably or work miraculously, so it's really knowing your team." While supporting service staff can be considered a luxury in mom and pop-style shops, Ziebron recommends all service departments add a service writer if possible, which she says is "the number one person in the dealership who is going to build your customer loyalty." The importance of the position, she says, comes from the amount of time a service writer spends with customers compared to other dealership personnel like sales people, parts staff and technicians. "You're going to spend so much more time with your service writer than you will with any other person in that business," she added. "And you're coming to that service writer when, chances are, things aren't always perfect. How this person is going to handle this is either going to make [customers] say, 'I love this place, I wouldn't go anywhere else,' or 'to hell with them, I'm out of here." While basic technological knowledge or sales training could be a benefit, Ziebron said too much technical knowhow could naturally lead to a service writer who seeks to diagnose problems, which can lead to work orders with incorrect or incomplete information. Instead, she advocates, service writers need the right personality to function like an excellent server when the phone is ringing, stressed customers are waiting and salesmen have questions — sometimes all at the same time. "A service writer has to be someone who can juggle a million things in the sky with a smile on their face," Ziebron said. "I think of it more like a really skilled waiter, someone who has sat 20 tables all at once but remembers the lemon for this table and the extra barbecue sauce for you and has a smile on their face the whole time and keeps their priorities straight." When it comes to the physical layout of your service facility, Ziebron says companies should focus on incremental improvements that involve the staff to tap into their knowledge and ideas, as well as creating a culture where people with ideas speak up. "So many times when I listen to the ideas from a team member, they're actually coming up with ideas that would make the place more money and make the place a better place to work," she said. "But management has it stuck in their head that it should be a certain way. It really requires us letting go of some of those notions and saying we're still getting the same end result." 1/8/14 12:59 PM

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