One effective but overlooked technique for improving technician efficiency is to eliminate needless interruptions.
Simply put, interruptions and distractions equal wasted time — and that, in turn, equals wasted money.
I'll repeat something I've argued in many previous columns. A tire dealership or service shop may not have the smartest technicians or savviest sales people in town, but if the entire team focuses on accounting for their time, then the business' chances of long-term success increase dramatically.
Many bosses I encounter give lip service to the phrase that time is money, but causal observation may reveal that their techs are wasting time.
The reason is that other workers may continually interrupt the technicians with various issues that should be resolved outside the service bays.
What's more, there may be “Nervous Nellie” service managers and/or service people underfoot. This is the type of person who does not feel useful and competent unless he or she is pestering technicians with questions.
Predictably, the most commonly asked questions are, “Is it done yet?” and “If not, then why not?”
Here, I describe these types with the phrase Nervous Nellie. But certain nicknames suggest we're talking about the same kind of busybody service manager or service writer. These may include but are not limited to the apt nickname-descriptions “Hurry Up,” “Hurricane,” “Hurly Burly,” “Speedy,” “Streakster,” “Tornado,” “Whirlwind” or “Whirlybird.”
Another needless interruption is the perceived emergency. In my last column (Nov. 10 issue of Tire Business), I discussed the concept that carelessness or ignorance on the part of a motorist doesn't constitute an emergency for any service department. A stranger who coaxes a rolling wreck into your parking lot need not disrupt your carefully carved schedule.
A good manager has the choice of placing this motorist in line with everyone else. (Exercise that prerogative firmly but very politely!)
Let me clarify something before I proceed here. The service manager, sales staff and technicians should be pulling toward the same goal of meeting customer expectations.
The key to meeting those expectations is fixing customers' vehicles correctly—the first time. What this requires is effective communication among all team members within a service business.
Team members should be comfortable talking to each other. (Sometimes, the most vital question about a repair job or maintenance task is the one that's never asked.)
Ultimately, promoting a culture of comfortable communication among the staff saves time. You see, it breeds a vital confidence throughout the crew. This means that the people working the front end of the business trust the techs over in the service bays—and vice-versa. The stronger this internal trust and confidence is, the less likely people are to interfere in the service bays. Reducing or eliminating interference helps techs maximize their time.
Ultimately, eliminating needless interruptions also reduces distractions that may cause mistakes. Minimizing techs' mistakes yields two benefits. First, it boosts their efficiency and, therefore, profitability. Second, it bolsters customer satisfaction and loyalty by reducing comebacks. These are win-win scenarios for anyone operating an auto service facility.
Finally, show empathy and respect for techs who're trying to concentrate on difficult diagnoses in the bays. No one likes to be interrupted during a task that requires maximum concentration. Disrupting a tech's train of thought during a diagnosis is not likely to speed up the job. Probably it will have the opposite effect.