Or, as I like to put it: “Prior Planning and Preparation Prevents Poor Performance”

There is no greater requirement for a Service Manager than to be prepared. I learned the art of preparation during my time in the Army and – 20 years later – still apply the rules every day.

I ask the businesses and management teams I work with –

If you could change one thing today to enhance your business tomorrow, what would it be?

I ask this question to gain an insight into the people I’m talking to and their business, and where they perceive they need my help.

Boy_Scout_sThe answers to the question are varied but there are three recurring ones:

1.  Time – not enough hours in the day.
2.  Communication – the left hand doesn’t always know what the right is doing.
3.  Customer Satisfaction – how do we know we are doing the right thing by our customers?

All of these challenges can be improved through excellent preparation.

Preparation is the Boy Scouts motto. The more prepared you are, the more easily you can attend to unexpected occurrences. Staff need to be well informed regarding work expectations, to ensure customers are informed of changes, and to ensure that workflow is not affected.

So – preparation is the key to your work day. The expectation is not for you to do everything, but to manage the process.


Communication is the exchange and flow of information and ideas from one person to another.

Before you communicate, understand what you are trying to achieve. What do you need to communicate, and who are you communicating with? What is the most effective medium for the message?

Effective communication occurs only if the receiver understands the exact information or idea that the sender intended.

Communication processes must be two way. This ensures that all communication is sent, received, and given feedback.

This is one of the keys to effective management. There are many personality types to deal with in your department who have different styles of communication. Consistency is achieved (in part) by ensuring that communication is clear and open to all staff through regular staff meetings as follows:

[icon icon=”icon-cog” size=”8px” color=”#58E”] Gather front line staff for 5 mins before work commences, to provide the landscape for the day ahead. Meetings must have a stated outcome that can be followed up during the day.

[icon icon=”icon-cog” size=”8px” color=”#58E”] Then, gather warehousing, dispatch and technical staff to communicate the day’s workload. Any unplanned tech absences can be covered at this point.

[icon icon=”icon-cog” size=”8px” color=”#58E”] Finally, the 10 @ 10 meeting with key staff members (managers and controllers) for an update on status of the business for that day and the week to date.

Time Management

Disciplined use of time is critical to a manager’s effectiveness. Time management will be improved through application of the following disciplines:

(a)    Create a daily list of tasks

          Be open and write down everything you think of, even though they may not get actioned.

(b)   Give each task a priority rating

          Use ABCD (1234) where A (1) = Top Priority and D (4) = Not Important.

(c)    Work on all the A’s (1’s) first

          Remember that someone else’s priority might not necessarily be yours.

(d)    Minimise switching between tasks

          Be consistent and deal with each priority as it appears in the list

(e)    Don’t postpone anything

         NOW is the best option

Customer Satisfaction

For most Service Managers CSI scores (Customer Satisfaction Index) are the real test of the experience the Service Department provides to its customers. It is important to remember that vehicle service and repair is – for most people – an inconvenience and a grudge payment.

Providing an exemplary level of service always goes a long way in customer experience. You may think that you have done everything right, but if the customer will not recommend you to others then you have failed in your delivery of customer service.

“Loyal customers, they don’t just come back, they don’t simply recommend you, they insist that their friends do business with you”- Chip Bell, Founder Chip Bell Group

The frontline staffers are the “face” of the department, but they are not responsible for the total experience. There are too many forces in play for them to own the experience, even though they will probably have the biggest impact on the outcome. It is the responsibility of the whole team.

 Preparation is everything – “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression”. – Will Rogers.

Do you use the feedback from your customers to continuously improve your customer service? You need to share this information with the staff, making sure you highlight both the good and bad feedback. Staff will appreciate the feedback, and it is important for everyone to know the responses; it will be digested better as a team rather than individually.

A working group (“Continuous Improvement Group”) is often of value in driving business improvement. Using 5 – 6 people from relevant areas of the business, assign a challenge that needs to be addressed. No managers should be a part of this group.

Set aside at least 30 minutes of their working time, provide them with a room, and get them to come up with their top 3 fixes for your issues. Pick the best one, and implement it. It empowers the staff to have accountability and ownership of the continuous improvement. Your people are your best asset, and you need to provide opportunities for them to contribute.

Remember – it’s not your boss who pays your wages, it’s the customer.

Workshop Manager Magazine

This article was published in the Workshop Manager Magazine in Mar/Apr 2015