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Are Your Express Operations Truly “Express?”

What is the definition of “express” (service)? One definition found in the Cambridge Dictionary is:

“Existing for the purpose of doing something quickly.”

This definition would seem to fit with the Manufacturer and Dealership goals of providing a service that customers want, leading to higher retention rates and profitability. Our customers have told us what is important to them, both verbally and through survey responses. Common wants and needs from responses include:

  • I want to be able to come in without an appointment for express service.
  • I want the service to be completed in 1 hour or less.
  • I want to pay a competitive price for the service.

Some of our competitors have been able to fulfill these needs, as is evidenced by the number of facilities operating within your area of responsibility. They have obviously found a way to be profitable while providing a service that customers want.

A lot of service departments struggle with a no-appointment process along with the 1-hour time commitment. The personnel required to fulfill customer needs may be considered prohibitive considering profitability. A commitment to proper staffing of the operation to handle these needs and the increased volume that is expected would be necessary. The assumption would be that express volume would increase as customers take advantage of a true express service experience.

The above commitment would have to consider new vehicle sales volume, customer retention data, current express volume, and the expected increase in volume based on units in operation within your area.

In situations where adding additional staff may not be in the budget or current volume doesn’t warrant the additional expense, there are some ways or methods that others in similar situations have adopted to meet the customer’s needs without adding additional expense. Below are some examples:

  • Have dedicated express advisors depending on the current express RO count.
    • How many ROs is each advisor writing per hour/day?
    • Do they currently have enough time to properly apply customer handling processes?
  • Express technicians operate in teams of 2.
    • “Wet” and “Dry” tech, each with designated responsibilities related to fluids and chassis work.
    • Increases throughput time and decreases opportunities for mishaps.
  • A variation of this structure would be to add a 3rd technician to the team designated to perform multi-point inspection in a timely manner. Any work found during the inspection can be reported sooner, and the customer can be notified while the express service is still in progress. If the work found is within the scope of the express inspection technician (usually maintenance work sold for 2.0 hours or less), then the work can be performed within the express operation. This would avoid the necessity to make another appointment for routine maintenance.
    • A few more advantages include:
      • Experience gained by the express technicians performing other tasks other than oil changes. All technicians can benefit from rotating the position.
      • A great way to train the next apprentice candidate.
      • A clearer career path for entry-level express technicians, less turnover.
      • Additional profit generated by the express department.
    • More complex work can be transferred to the main shop advisors to schedule.

Invariably, no matter how well you plan, there will be times when adjustments to the process need to occur. These adjustments often require the cooperation of non-express employees to maintain the flow of work. Main shop advisors may have to write up express customers, and main shop technicians may have to perform express services.

Assuming you have a commitment from all to assist express when necessary, ensuring all service employees are aware of a waiting express operation and the time promised is critical. Identifying express vehicles can be relatively simple – A successful method used by some is to hang a “time promised” from the mirror, letting everyone know the clock is ticking and action needs to be taken. A laminated piece of copy paper with a hole in it and a dry-erase marker is all you need. Other more elaborate methods have been employed; however, without commitment from the staff, success will be limited.

Utilizing the above methods may help with the transition from the current express volume to the increases expected. As volume becomes consistent and profits improve, adding additional staff may be more appropriate.

By allowing customers to do business with us on their terms, we can earn the right to do business with them a second time. Improved retention and profitability are sure to follow!

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