AKRON (Aug. 19, 2002)—Teaching your technicians the fundamentals of operating a service department may actually motivate them to work smarter.
Not only does working smarter make more money for the tech and the dealership, it also reduces stress on everyone in the service department.
I'm on the road approximately 200 days per year doing technical training nationwide. Therefore, I interact with a lot of technicians, owners and managers. It never ceases to amaze me how uninformed rank-and-file technicians are about the operation of a successful service department.
Granted, many techs could care less about these details. As long as they believe they're being paid fairly and promptly, they'd rather focus on their first love: fixing cars.
There's a sad side note to this fact of life. One of the single-most common things I see holding back an automotive service business with big potential is an owner who is a former technician. The problem is he's running the business as if he's still a technician.
Meanwhile, some people in our industry argue that a competent technician already has plenty of technical data he or she has to remember. He or she is already overwhelmed by information overload. I can't really argue with this assessment.
That said, I submit that the little bit of business knowledge techs should acquire is miniscule. Learning the basics of productivity and efficiency pales in comparison to the technical material a competent “wrench” needs to know. Techs understand the concepts of time and money. All they have to do is combine these ideas.
For example, productivity is typically defined as the number of labor hours sold vs. the number of available labor hours. Suppose a three-technician shop is open 50 hours per week. That means there's the potential to sell 150 hours of paid labor (three techs times 50 hours per tech). If this shop or dealership does sell or bill out 150 hours of labor per week, it is 100-percent productive.
I know several successful shop owners who went into consulting after they retired. Among the consulting chores they do are on-site evaluations of how shops and service departments are operating. These consultants report that it's common to find that a shop's actual, measured productivity is only 50 to 55 percent.
The second time-related concept I think techs ought to understand is efficiency.
Efficiency is commonly defined as the labor time billed out vs. the time actually spent fixing a vehicle. For instance, let's say Joe the technician spends two hours fixing a problem. If the shop or tire dealership actually charges the customer two hours' labor for Joe's efforts, then Joe was 100-percent efficient on that repair job.
The third time-related concept techs sorely need to learn is the cost of a comeback.
OK, a repair job comes back for some reason and a tech spends two hours doing the job over again. It didn't just cost the tech and the shop two hours' labor—it really penalized the business four hours. More service personnel immediately recognize a penalty of two unpaid hours of labor here. But what they commonly fail to grasp is the loss of two hours' paid labor the tech should have been doing instead of fixing the comeback.
So, comebacks always take a double hit on the tech and the service department.
Any shop owner I know who has taught these simple principles to his or her techs, or sent them to school to learn them, claims it makes a big difference in their attitudes. The knowledge helps focus the tech on accounting for his or her time day in, day out. It encourages a tech to make smarter decisions about how they'll allocate their time on any given repair or diagnosis. After all, they're shooting for that magic 100 percent number on every job.
Understanding productivity and efficiency encourages a tech to work smarter because it reinforces the pay-now or pay-later theme. For instance, taking one or two minutes to double-check that all electrical connections are tight, all hose clamps are tight etc., amounts to significantly less time than the hours—literally—that a needless comeback would cause.
Try getting everyone in your service department up to speed on the concepts of productivity and efficiency. I think you'll see that they appreciate the knowledge and the impact it can have on their paychecks as well as the dealership's bottom line.