Improving your service response times

Lucas Deal May 9, 2013

Every dealer wants to earn its customers’ trust. But trust isn’t simply given; it is earned through quality work.

In a service department, one way to earn a customer’s trust is by being forthright and proactive in diagnosing vehicle breakdowns, and providing immediate service response times (SRT).

SRTs let customers know how long their trucks will be down, which helps them build contingency plans to keep their businesses moving.

This means SRTs don’t just have to be promptly released — they also have to be correct. What reason does a customer have to trust you if quote him a repair at six hours and it lasts four days?

Those mistakes hurt your bottom line.

Quoting a customer six hours labor means they’ll only pay for that time. Days two through four are on you. Trucks sitting in bays also limit the number of additional repairs you can get through your service department, angering customers and hurting service sales.

Unfortunately, as important as accurate SRTs are in the marketplace, they remain a tough concept for dealers to master.

“[SRTs] are one of the core issues to running a service department, but I do think dealers struggle with them,” says Mark Martincic with dealer consulting group KEA Advisors. “There is little consistency in SRT times and how they are handled.”

If your dealership struggles with SRTs, look into the process of how they are created and evaluated in your service department. It’s easy to blame a technician when a two-hour job runs long, but in the end it’s not always his fault.

An initial step to improving SRTs in your dealership is making sure you’re using the right ones in the first place. That may sound obvious, but SRTs can vary significantly with one small component alternation to a repair process, says Martincic.

OEM-provided SRTs “don’t always have time studies done on specific operations,” he says. OEM times are created by finding the average — or, standard — time expected for a simple repair, and are built to reflect that repair alone.

“On the customer-pay side we tend to bundle things,” Martincic says. “A customer may come in for an [engine] overhaul and he’ll be quoted a specific SRT for that overhaul, but then as it is being done he will need something else that won’t be included in the SRT.”

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