Shop Production Operations

Eliminate Slow Days

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The best solution to keep your staff’s productivity up during slow days is to eliminate slow days all together. 

Although that may sound impossible, with the right planning, it’s easier than it sounds. In the past two years, Mike Davidson, owner of Parkway Automotive in Little Rock, Ark., says he’s had just three days that he considers “slow.” And for those of you that say certain times of the year are just slower than others, Todd Hayes, CEO of AutoShop Answers, doesn’t want to hear it. 

“There’s no such thing as a ‘slower time,’” Hayes says. “Our cars do not know what month it is.”

Although eliminating slow days altogether isn’t likely, they can be cut down drastically by taking a proactive approach to scheduling and continuing to reach out to customers. Davidson, whose shop averages 110 percent productivity with 80–100 vehicles coming in per week, and Hayes, share their top tips for keeping a steady, consistent production level in the shop no matter the day, week, month or year. 

Stay on top of your schedule.

“There’s no excuse to have a low car count day,” Hayes says.  

Davidson agrees and says a slow day should never come as a surprise. 

“I don’t come into work and at 10 a.m. realize it’s going to be slow,” Davidson says. 

That’s because the two emphasize pre-planning. At Parkway Automotive, the service advisor’s responsibility is to make sure the technician’s bays are full. If they notice a day is coming up that’s on the light side of work, they reach out ahead of time to try and fill up those empty slots. Davidson uses a tool called MyShopManager that attaches to his shop’s project management software. This tool allows the service advisors to reach out to customers that actually need service based on their history rather than just reaching out to the entire customer base. Davidson says this has been the biggest help for him as far as nailing down appointments ahead of a slow day. 

“If today is a slow day and I call them today, the chances of them [the customers] coming in are slim,” Davidson says. “If they [service advisors] see it coming, they can do some activities to plan. It’s important to be strategic and know the calendar.” 

Another helpful tip is to pre-book. Before the customer leaves, get their next appointment in the schedule. That way, the customer doesn’t have to think.

“Set it up so you always have work coming,” Hayes says. 

Davidson recommends not asking to schedule work, just doing it. He also hands a “For Your Calendar” card with the date of their next appointment on it to customers as they leave. 

Take time to reach out. 

Ahead of or on a slow day, the down time can be used to reach out to existing or potential new customers, a strategy that both Davidson and Hayes recommend. According to Hayes, the right email can easily bring in four customers for service. Davidson says that utilizing MyShopManager to target customers that need work can bring in 5–6 cars per day for his shop. 

Hayes says that whenever there is a slow day, there should be dedicated people within the shop reaching out to customers through email, texts and phone calls, which will help drive car count. (See Breakout: Tips for Bringing in Customers). 

“You’re not cold calling people—these are your customers. It’s our professional obligation to do this. Part of the compensation package is to drive revenue,” Hayes says.  

Hold staff accountable. 

The way Hayes looks at it, the hours that an employee is at work, it’s up to that employee to fill those hours. At his shop, Davidson stresses the importance of the service advisors staying on top of everything and being proactive.

“They need to keep techs in the bay,” Davidson says. 

 Davidson has a term in his shop, which he calls “e -time.” The term is used when a technician has nothing to work on. He says that his staff responds to “e-time” with the same urgency they would if there was a fire in the shop. It’s up to the service advisors to make sure that technician never have an open bay—it’s not the technician’s responsibility.  

“We have taught our service advisors that their biggest asset is the technician and it’s their job to keep them busy. Every advisor knows when a tech doesn’t have something to work on,” Davidson says. 

Incentivize productivity. 

The more techs are encouraged and excited to work, the fewer “slow” times there will be. 

Hayes and Davidson have different takes on what should be used to encourage staff to keep productivity levels up. Hayes encourages competition among the shops that he owns.

“Every store that we oversee, from the minute they open, we play moneyball,” Hayes says. “Every sale gets posted and we compete against each other for revenue.” 

Hayes says that making a friendly game out of it has really helped push his shops to find ways to bring in additional revenue and avoid slow days. 

Davidson builds productivity and efficiency into his pay structure for both service advisors and technicians. The more work they turn out, the more they get paid. 

Find the root cause. 

Davidson’s piece of advice for shop owners that are struggling with slow days is to sit down long enough to discover why you’re having this issue, and use staff as a resource. 

“I’m a leader that tries to discover by asking questions. You should take time to listen to your staff to find out what happened,” Davidson says. 

For the month of August, Davidson says his technicians were under the hood 95 percent of the time. His benchmark is 90 percent or above. He says that if there’s a dip for a week, he won’t necessarily say anything because “things happen,” but if he begins to see a pattern, he sits everyone down to find out what’s going on. Whether it’s a need for additional training or the service advisors not knowing the schedule, Davidson finds the issue and works to rectify it. 

“I’m not looking for someone to blame,” Davidson says.

 

Tips for Bringing in Customers 

Mike Davidson, owner of Parkway Automotive in Little Rock, Ark., has a plan in place for slow days—even though they are few and far between for him. 

Here are a few tips that he has on his list as far as what service advisors can do to bring in more customers when there are open bays. 

 

Service Advisor Slow Day Plan 

  • Call previously requested estimates and offer a discount for today and tomorrow 
  • Call current tow service and local AAA wrecker services and let them know bays are available    
  • Call recent customers who had recommendations that they did not want to do and offer pick-up and delivery or rental car loaner 
  • Call future appointments to come in early 
  • Go to nearby businesses and offer discounts or services on their cars 
  • Send an email to customers with a limited percentage off of labor on all maintenance made by staff    
  • Deliver “we appreciate your business” donuts or cookies to new merchants for referrals 
  • Review repair orders for factory or shop warranties due to expire

 

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