The pain of being a Service Manager – finding the antidote

Fleet Maintenance

As a workshop Service Manager, your role is key to the smooth operation, and success, of your dealership. Every department is dependent on you – after all when Sales fall short it’s you that the dealership turns to keep the revenue stream flowing. It’s a diverse role: retail customers, warranty work, Sales prep, and of course fleet contracts.

While retail customers are naturally the bread and butter of your operation, and the ones you probably directly interface with the most, the importance of your Fleet service contracts cannot be overlooked. Fleet service contracts are a valuable income stream for your garage, fleet work provides your garage with a steady, loyal flow of jobs so having a good relationship is of benefit to all parties involved.

Of course, to maintain this relationship you must have a good system in place to ensure efficiency and transparency throughout (and after) the repair process.

In this blog, we discuss just how vital the system you use is to your workshop’s productivity and efficiency.

Let’s start at the very beginning – getting the customer’s car booked in. How does it happen? Well, it can vary. It could be booked in by the Fleet Manager, the customer might ring in themselves (either to the Fleet Manager or the garage directly, particularly if they’re a long term user).

A feature in ForWare CRM gives the dealership the option to send a reminder message to the owner of the vehicle when the car is due for service – and lets them book the service for a time that suits the customer and the workshop loading – if the courtesy car is part of the SLA they can now make sure they have one ready. Now the workshop is supporting the Fleet Manager and the Fleet by using ForWare to manage the customer experience.

Workshops generally have a CRM system in place themselves – usually a mashup of the retail, fleet and internal vehicles. Having a good CRM (and good customer data) is the foundation to smooth operations – get it wrong at this stage and you’re on the back foot from the beginning.

Service History is another potential stumbling block; imagine you’re going through service reports trying to determine if the vehicle you are trying to book actually requires service (because it could have had its last service outside your dealership). If this is the case you will not have this information in your DMS; you could be spending time on trying to book a vehicle in for service that has already been serviced. Having a central fleet database means you can see when and where the vehicle has been serviced, so you can focus on what is due and are not chasing shadows. It will also help avoid the frustration of repeat jobs – for example a vehicle is booked in because the customer wants the brake pads looked at. You book it in for this, and see from the system that it’s due a service in a weeks’ time – you can then ask for authorisation on the system to get this done early. This way you are both reducing vehicle downtime for the fleet company, and freeing up space in your workshop’s schedule – having multiple job cards for the same vehicle within a short timespan is generally not something you want! Avoid the pain of being booked out for weeks with the same vehicle going back and forth – you also won’t have to listen to the customer complaining about how ‘it was only in here the other week, it can’t need more work already?’.

Even at the very start, a lack of quality data can hinder the service process – both at the Fleet Manager’s end and at the garage’s. Imagine a vehicle is flagged as service due, but there’s no phone number or the wrong phone number? A wasted phone call is wasted time – and you still have to hunt down contact details for the driver.

For example, it can often be the case that the garage’s CRM will list all fleet cars under Fleet name – so already we have a situation where the job card doesn’t even have the customer’s name right! So what, it’s a minor thing.

We can avoid the above scenario by working with the Fleet Manager to ensure that records are regularly updated as customers change vehicles, new ones come on board, etc. Thus your job cards will have all the correct contact information you need. ForWare’ system can help here. The info in the ForWare is approved by the fleet manager and the vehicle rarely changes ownership when in the lease contract so ForWare ensures that the info in the system is 100% correct vs dealership’s DMS.

Another key to a good job card is to ensure that all the customer’s promised SLAs are included. Is a courtesy car guaranteed? If so, does the individual user require a like-for-like replacement, e.g. a 7-seater or jeep? Does your garage have a suitable car in its fleet – is it available? Does your garage have sufficient cars in general? Will the fleet company have to provide cover from their own pool? It should go without saying that it’s critical to have all this information to hand when booking the vehicle in. Imagine the embarrassment (and complaints!) when a customer arrives at the garage to find they’re now without a car for the day, all because somebody forgot to check if they needed one and include it on the job card. Don’t assume the customer will ask – ForWare makes it easy for you to check by having this information locked into the SLA so the Service Advisor will know if a courtesy car is required when arranging the booking.

Having your job cards loaded with all the correct information will keep you one step ahead and put you on the road to excellent customer service. ForWare works with Fleet Managers so all agreements are locked into the system so you know what the requirements are for each of your fleet customers.

Keys are exchanged and the job card is created in the DMS – the job number is added to ForWare.

Next, the technician takes the vehicle into the workshop and historically this is where it all slows down to a snail’s pace. Why is this? Well, it’s not because the tech is slow but because the systems they are being asked to use are… Consider the technician’s position.

Imagine trying to fill in the VIN number out on the job card (because it was entered incorrectly on the system) and perhaps also having to correct the customer name and address — while wearing latex gloves! And they haven’t even got to open the bonnet yet! Any typing in the system is slowing down the process and could potentially make the workshop unproductive. Then you have to swap over to another system to complete the video which may or may not have a pause function.

ForWare has been designed with the workshop in mind, getting the VHC information on the system quickly without the need for typing or scrolling 10 dropdowns – you don’t have to switch to another device to complete your video. And yes — you can pause the recording and then move onto the next requirement. Less time wasted = a quicker job = a happy customer = a happy Fleet company = happiness all round!

In a previous blog we mentioned how delays in work authorisation can hinder progress. Consider the process here. The technician finds that the front brake pads are badly worn, but the car was only booked in for a service. The garage can’t proceed without authorisation. The technician tells the Service Advisor, the Service Advisor rings the Fleet Management company, but spends 10 minutes waiting to get through to an operator! Said operator then tells them that they’ll have to check and get back… which they do, two hours later! While all this was going on the customer rang the garage, only to be told their vehicle is delayed awaiting authorisation, and they don’t know precisely when this will be. Again, frustrated customers, frustrated service staff, frustrated technicians who can’t clear garage space for another vehicle… all because of a kink in the system. ForWare can help avoid this with integrated authorisation systems direct to the Fleet Management company – cutting out all that time spent waiting (and wasted) on phone calls back and forth.

ForWare automatically adds Part numbers and manufacturer spec labour operations codes to the job card; once the technician hits “complete”, all the Service Advisor or Service Manager needs to do now is verify and send the job for authorisation. The Fleet manager has all the information required to turn around your job, get it authorised and get that vehicle repaired and the vehicle off the ramp.

Verified system Authorization is Key to avoiding disgruntled Fleet Managers who can be dragged over the coals at their quarterly review meeting because of the amount of unauthorised expenditure and repeat garage visits on their fleet. And they’ll take their frustration out on you! Imagine. You try to explain to them it was authorised, but they want proof – you ask the Service Advisor, who ‘thinks’ it was – but there’s no paper trail on the CRM record to prove it either way! They then make a complaint to your Director and now you’re being dragged over the coals too. That fleet service contract is important to your garage – and if they lose it guess who’s taking the fall? A good system such as ForWare Fleet Maintenance System can help avoid all this – with VHC (including built in video), authorisation and billing all in one place – means everything is transparent and you can avoid this situation.

Working with a Maintenance system that means you have to change your core processes to suit said system is not the way forward: Why spend silly money on a system that is adding 3 or 4 extra steps onto your processes when you can have it all in one with ForWare: billing, authorisation, service history, customer contact data, VHC/Video and full integration with the Fleet Management companies you work with!

ForWare is Easy-to-use Fleet Maintenance Software trusted by police, ambulance and other mission critical fleets for more than 11 years.

Alan ForWare

Alan is a positive and proactive automotive professional with over 25 years of extensive experience in the motor trade.

Alan has been vital in developing and driving the ForWare System and implementing core workshop processes with some of the most significant state and private fleets in Ireland, the UK and Europe.

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