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Losing Focus Part V

20 Sep, 2002 By: Wes McArtor imageSource

Losing Focus Part V

am often amazed, when visiting dealers, at the apparent misunderstanding of how
your parts manager and dispatchers affect the overall function and efficiency of
your service department. Both of these areas are absolutely critical when it
comes to your customer’s perception of your business and a significant share
of your service department manpower requirements. Technology, such as Automated
Dispatch Systems (ADS), has done a great deal to improve the overall accuracy
and productivity of the technician’s interface with dispatch, but even with
ADS you cannot overlook the value of your dispatchers and how they influence the
customer’s perception of your business. Due to the fact, a computer program
cannot replace human interaction, there are several factors that can help
dispatchers and technicians work together cohesively.

1: Breaking The Ice

It goes without saying, that the individuals who interface with your customers
can make or break much of the relationship with your company. After the salesman
is long gone, the first contact with your business will be when the customer
calls in for service.

they arrive, technicians know that much of the customer’s temperament will
already have been determined by how the dispatcher dealt with them at the time
they placed the call. For instance, each time the customer calls, it is usually
to let you know that they are having a problem. Therefore, it is of the utmost
importance that dispatch is trained in customer service skills. Defusing an
angry customer can go a long way, because it allows the technician to put final
closure on the problem the customer is having. Gathering all the information
about the customer’s situation is also the key to their ability to empathize
with the customer.

2: Documenting

Each interaction should be carefully documented, not only for the benefit of the
technician, but also for the benefit of everyone involved. Why the customer
called, their state of urgency, the current call load, and who can best solve
their problem, are all helpful pieces of information that can be gathered and
correlated by dispatch. It then becomes obvious that any time and training
investment made in your dispatchers (i.e. making sure that they know how to
handle your customers, how your automation software works, and if it is
appropriate, how to effectively keep your technicians priorities in line with
the customers) is money well spent. A good dispatcher can take advantage of the
fact that they know where the techs are and where they are needed, and then use
that information to reduce your customers wait time. Dispatch can also reduce
the amount of time wasted by the tech by ensuring they are where they are
supposed to be.

3: Interaction Among Your Staff

Depending on your basic territory structure, having dispatch familiar with your
geography can be helpful with decisions about which tech can get there the
quickest from their current location. I also believe it is to everyone’s
advantage to rotate technicians into dispatch, so they can understand what goes
into what they have to manage, as well as putting dispatchers in the field with
techs for the same reason. Both can learn a lot from each other, and the
experience of working together can improve their job performance.

and inventory control managers, in my opinion, are far more valuable than most
give them credit for. For the average dealer in our customer base, this person
costs the dealers as much as 10+% of the total technician manpower requirement.
Why? “The reason is because the average dealer will have an average of 18%
(I’ve seen as high as 100%) of the total calls generated by the customer,
resulting in an additional calls because the technician does not have the
necessary parts.”

about this for a moment. Is it realistic to expect a 0% percent repeat call
rate? Impossible! However, if you could lower your hold for part rate to 8%,
which is about as low as I have seen it realistically maintained, this
represents a 10% reduction in overall calls. So, if your company does 1000 calls
per month, 100 of those calls would go away, and either allow you to reduce your
staff or provide the improved response time equal to one additional tech. Does
this require higher inventories? I don’t believe so. (Refer back to the
inventory article “Losing Focus Part1: Are You Running Service...” from
Image Source May ‘02.)

4: Qualified Candidates

My experience is, that a good parts manager is constantly balancing the primary
need of getting the technicians the right parts at the right time, with the need
to constantly adjust the on-hand inventory to its minimum. So, not only can this
individual cost you un-necessary manpower, but they can also cost you huge
dollars in obsolete and excess inventory. It seems almost illogical that dealers
put someone in charge of hundreds of thousands of dollars in inventory, as well
as making them almost a quarter way responsible for your required technical
staff. Yet more often than not, this person has no formal education in inventory
control or distribution. In some cases the parts manager is a former warehouse
employee or ex-field tech. Although some of the individuals could be quite good,
you can quickly determine if hiring a more qualified manager is justifiable, by
simply taking a look at the amount of inventory (or obsolete inventory) and the
percentage of “no parts” calls.

5: Proper Parts Stock

I think most dealers wrestle with parts inventories and the effectiveness of the
techs in this regard, but you must look at the source. Proper selection of the
parts manager and support personnel who help that person get the right parts at
the right time, can be worth far more than you will likely have to pay to get a
highly qualified manager.

only a small percentage of your “no parts” calls will be caused by the
vendor being out of parts. In my travels, I have been able to document that
better than 80% of the average dealers “no parts” calls are for parts the
technician normally had in his car inventory. What is happening here is that
parts are not restocked often or fast enough. Therefore, he has used-up the
on-hand inventory and now requires additional parts. The response to this
problem is to increase the on-hand quantity of that item. Simply shortening your
restocking time will accomplish the same task and is generally much cheaper.

will always be unusual parts that rarely fail or that the vendor is backordered
on. This is the exception though, not the rule. A qualified parts manager will
understand that better forecasting means lower shipping expenses, consistently
lower inventory amounts and fewer no part calls. If you currently have a parts
manager who is doing a good job, get them enrolled in courses designed around
distribution and inventory control. This additional education will payoff with
huge dividends in the end.

do not overlook the value of these key players in your service delivery system.
Making the right choices and the right investments can significantly improve
your customer’s perception of your company’s “customer care program.”

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