Like it or not, a successful dealership boils down to metrics. Hit a certain threshold, and you can rest easy (or easier) until next month or next quarter. But the numbers aren’t always about sales; fixed operations can benefit from benchmarks. This approach starts with service advisors. Let’s explore the fundamentals of keeping these staffers accountable and how they can help the bottom line.
Start with these service advisor measurements
There are six ways to Sunday to assess how front-line service department employees are doing, but focusing on these five aspects is how to start.
When was the last time you looked at post-service customer reviews? Are the ratings acceptable (or better), or is a particular advisor not keeping up with expectations? Determining where things stand in this area is the first step in assessing your service advisors.
Just because a service customer is happy with their experience isn’t a guarantee of a return visit. To maintain a handle on this critical benchmark, you’ll want to track the following:
- Frequency of multiple service department visits by customer (compared against infrequent customers)
- Number of next-visit appointments scheduled during an existing service visits
- Amount of reminders sent (via email or text) to customers without a service appointment
Service advisors must balance being a counselor and salesperson, but need-based selling can be done without pressure. So, discussing that a customer’s vehicle requires manufacturer-recommended service—like an oil change or cabin air filter replacement—makes the task stress-free for both sides. These add-ons can be measured by units or dollar volume (or both).
Converting service quotes to repair orders
It’s easy for service advisors to write quotes, but you’ll want to track how many quotes become bankable repair orders. Such data not only identifies star performers but can help measure shop flow and what’s keeping the technicians busy (or idle).
Determining hours sold per repair order
Here’s where the rubber meets the road as an hours sold per repair order (HPRO) calculation can uncover excessive discounting, other service advisors’ bad behavior, and technician timeliness. But, service department guru Chris Collins implores dealers to not look at this key performance indicator as an hours-only number (billed hours/repair orders). Instead, consider a more complex formula that first divides labor sales amount by repair order count. The result is further divided by the effective labor rate. This is how that looks.
(labor sales ($) / repair order count) / effective labor rate ($) = HPRO
In practical terms, check out an example from Collins.
$20,000 in labor sales / 200 repair orders = 100
100 / $100 effective labor rate = HPRO rate of 1
Improving the process
With measurements in place, now’s the time to improve service advisor performance. Think of applying these advancements as a three-step process.
- Before: The customer experience begins when the appointment is booked, and the car pulls into the service lane. Your service advisor is the dealership’s ambassador and must be keenly aware of how you want the customer to be welcomed. From a cordial greeting to the vehicle walk-around, everything should be well-defined with little room for variation. This approach helps build trust and confidence with the customer, who’ll be more inclined to consent to recommended add-ons.
- During: With customer expectations properly set during the intake process, now’s the time for the service advisor to shine. At this point, the prepared employee can turn an estimate into a repair order. This touchpoint also creates an opportunity for another try at an upsell if the previous attempt was unsuccessful. Your service advisors should also have set protocols (estimate, update, delay, and completion) for when to reach out to customers. Someone isn’t doing their job if a customer has to contact the dealership for a service update.
- After: This stage begins when the customer arrives to pick up their vehicle. The advisor should walk the customer through the completed work to avoid hard-to-answer questions at the cashier. It’s a dialogue that can include reminders and future work recommendations. As is practical, the service advisor should walk the customer to the cashier (and make an introduction) rather than come across as dismissive by pointing. Lastly, ensure that the follow-up survey conveys the importance of getting feedback from service department customers.
Training steps to consider
With measurement and process steps outlined, it’s time to put everything into action with training. And there are two avenues to take.
- In-House training: Handling training on your own can work if you already have standout service advisors that you wish you could clone. Through shadowing, mentoring, and other knowledge-sharing techniques, these exemplars can help with onboarding and retraining.
- Training services: If things need to start from scratch with your dealership’s service advisors, bringing in outside support may be the best way to proceed. These companies will bring benchmarks to set the new standards and introduce techniques to get everyone up to speed.