How to Handle Growth

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How to Handle Growth
Examine one South Carolina service department’s strategy for working through six months of construction.

Back in 2012, in the wake of a shakeup in upper management, Scott Gragg quickly found himself promoted to service manager at Roger Shiflett Ford in Gaffney, S.C. He was in his early 20s.

“I guess I’m still kind of on a trial period, but it’s been six years now," recalls Gragg, laughing.

In his career, Gragg has become used to fluid situations. And that fact served him well in recent months, as Roger Shiflett Ford underwent a fairly extensive remodel and expansion.

Gragg used a level-headed approach to guide his service department through upheaval in late 2017, and his dealership's 93 percent retention rate rarely wavered as a result. Clients stayed loyal to the dealership, despite the fact the service department briefly had to work out of the back of the parts area.

“It’s been frustrating having to work around construction,” Gragg acknowledges. “But ... six months doesn’t seem that long.”


Jackhammers and Headaches

Back on June 1, Roger Shiflett Ford began receiving its facelift. Inspired by a desire to keep pace with the larger dealerships in Charlotte, N.C., (a roughly 45-minute drive away), Robert Shiflett Ford's leaders decided to add at least 400 square feet to the dealership.

When looking to hire new employees, it had been tough to compete with the larger, glossier facilities in Charlotte, according to Gragg.

And, Gragg's somewhat dingy service department wasn't wowing anyone, either, with old-school features like menu boards that still featured magnet letters. The service manager felt "maxed out" with what his department could produce; he had 14 employees, but believed he needed at least three more to properly address the usual workload in a department that handles around 700 ROs per month.

Prescribing Patience

Eventually, the dealership's leaders were convinced to expand the service area, too, as they realized the need for service to grow alongside the sales department.

"This business is volatile," Gragg notes. "It's a multi-million-dollar investment to expand ... so it's definitely something that we needed to be sure about."

Ultimately, the powers that be at Robert Shiflett Ford realized that their customer base was loyal enough to warrant expanding the service department, so they went forth with plans to revamp the service lane and advisor area.

“We're in a small town, so we see a lot of the same people," Gragg says of his customers. "They like to see the same faces, because [then] they feel like they're not being taken advantage of.

"We don't have turnover, so I think that's the biggest part of our growth in the last four, five years.”

The service department was able to survive 2017 by being upfront and honest with customers about construction timelines, while also handing out 10 percent discounts on basic maintenance.

Additionally, Robert Shiflett Ford has recently been able to hire multiple employees from Charlotte, along with another relatively nearby city, Greenville, S.C. In turn, those new employees from the larger cities have brought more than a few of their old customers with them to Gaffney.

As a result, customer service scores have remained high at Gragg's workplace, and show no signs of leveling off anytime soon.

"You know, I heard somebody in my waiting area this morning say that advisors always call him by his name when he walks in," he says. "It makes a difference to say hello and smile at everyone.”

When the Dust Settled

While Robert Shiflett Ford's CSI scores have remained stellar—climbing to 96.1 in December 2017—Gragg hopes to continue making his service department bigger and better.

The service manager recently announced plans to hire four more staffers in his department (three technicians and a service advisor), which would leave his team 18 employees strong. And, the dealership has plans to renovate multiple service bays soon.

What’s more, the South Carolina dealership expects to soon unveil state-of-the-art Panasonic monitors, which will vividly display menu-pricing.

While his department appears to be ascending, Gragg has no plans to get complacent, and hopes to help push service past the roughly $750,000 in annual revenue it experienced in recent years (when the final figures were tallied, last year featured $1.3 million in sales between parts and labor in Gaffney).

That mentality helped Gragg guide his staff through a rather prolonged renovation in late 2017.

"Your technicians have to be hungry for more," he explains. "Your advisors have to be hungry for more. I've gotta keep myself motivated. Look, this is harder than I've ever worked, but the benefit is going to be greater than I've ever seen.

"That's the biggest thing—ensuring that everybody's on the same page, and everybody wants the kind of growth that you think you're capable of."

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