Best PracticesAug 21st, 2023

Is your Service Scheduler a Minefield? 3 Tips to Maximize your Shop Capacity


Many of us remember playing “Minesweeper” to pass the time on our personal computers. You’d click boxes to expose a numbered box that indicated how many mines it was in contact with, plant flags where you suspected mines were, and try not to explode.

It might feel like your dealership’s service appointment scheduler is navigating a similar logic puzzle. How do you prevent customer scheduling mishaps, manage correct expectations, and effectively load your shop?

Understand Your Scheduler’s Capabilities

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating an amazing customer experience in your service departments. Examining every entry point for your customer’s service visit might feel overwhelming. Still, due diligence is necessary to prevent mismanaged expectations or miscommunication that lead to poor customer satisfaction. Many scheduling solutions help business development departments, service advisors, and service managers manage the daily workload, but it is important to understand the capabilities of technology.

Without understanding and monitoring the scheduler to ensure the flow of business into the service drive remains smooth for the customer, a dealer can accidentally create a snowball effect in the shop.

If tackling the examining of capabilities to their fullest potential seems too daunting or time- consuming, consider reaching out to a trusted resource such as the technology’s performance manager. Alternatively, outside consultants may also be able to help you structure the system more effectively as business needs change.

Scheduling Mishaps, You Can Prevent

No business wants unhappy customers. When bottlenecks occur because cars get backed up in the shop, everyone in the service department feels the tension. Dealerships may choose to address these situations as they come up on a case-by-case basis, but the best solution is to take a step back and examine if the original customer entry point needs improvement. This strategy benefits dealerships that service 30 cars or 300+ cars a day.

First, examine the entry points for customers to service their vehicle with your store. This includes phone calls directly to an advisor, calls to a general service group, calls to a business development team, calls to a receptionist, chat, web appointment scheduling, any other app scheduling, and walk-ins. Next, you’ll need to examine the existing processes for scheduling. Are walk-ins encouraged because there’s no appointment availability online? Is your phone tree routing calls to a receptionist when no one answers the phone in service? Is your team utilizing the appointment scheduler to book appointments when a customer calls? Are members of your team doing their own thing instead of following the process? In each of these entry points for your service business, the customer might encounter a challenge that creates the potential to either defect from scheduling an appointment or choose a less ideal path forward.

Once you’ve examined these avenues, it is time to manage your scheduler. Are all the opcodes for routine maintenance up to date? Are there any new recalls that need an opcode in the scheduler? Are there issues with availability if a customer has multiple lines scheduled? Is your scheduler designed for booking appointments by advisor or by shop?

Each store will have its own unique work mix, but the goal is to maximize the potential of your scheduler and processes to be close to what your technicians are capable of. Creating time for periodic check-ins to review this information is critical. If you haven’t examined how your scheduler is functioning on a monthly basis, you could be missing out on customer opportunities.

Setting the Correct Expectations & Shop Loading

A customer books an appointment online for routine maintenance. When they show up, their advisor tells them there is no way to get the work done today because they’ve had other work come in earlier. The advisor asks the customer to drop the car off overnight or reschedule for another day. The customer is agitated because they need their car completed today, and now other plans are interrupted. They wish someone would have told them about the delay. The advisor apologizes and says there’s nothing else that can be done and offers to reschedule again. The customer chooses to leave and get the maintenance done elsewhere. Similar situations like this are playing out at dealerships all across the country. But why? While there’s not one universal solution to addressing this problem, there are areas we can correct and better equip our customers with the right expectations. First, let’s go back to the scheduler. How many appointments are available daily to be booked online, by phone with someone at the store, or through other methods?

A common pitfall in scheduler availability is creating arbitrary appointments that don’t truly reflect what work can be done. What does that mean?

Bill is an advisor. He has 15 appointments available to be booked on Mondays under his name. Bill’s ledger is full on Monday. Bill decides he’ll also let some people he knows bring their cars in without an appointment. Bill now has 17 customers scheduled to see him on Monday, but only 15 are on the calendar. In this example, all of Bill’s customers need repairs and maintenance. Not every tech is able to do the repairs that Bill’s customers need. Bill’s ledger has just overloaded the shop without even meaning to. The work Bill’s customers need has to be dispatched differently than originally scheduled, which slows down getting the cars in the shop. Bill is not the only service advisor who has a full calendar. Before you know it, technicians are slammed, and advisors start trying to do damage control. To fix it, the service manager lowers Bill’s appointment availability to 10 on Mondays. This may free up a little time for Bill, but it doesn’t prevent the situation where Bill’s calendar is loaded with all repair appointments, and the shop gets inundated again.

To address the challenges of setting and delivering the right expectations, we must build our schedulers to truly represent what the business needs to achieve in the shop. You can build many scheduling systems around shop capabilities while also giving the advisors the opportunity to keep customers retained. Once built, it’ll create steady work that leaves technicians happier and allows for customer emergencies or other unexpected work without much disruption.

This scheduling conversation has to be unified between the shop foreman, service managers, parts managers, and any other invested management. It may take culture, technology, and communication changes, but investing in them today will secure your service in the future.

    Sarah specializes in dealer training solutions across BDC, Sales, Fixed Ops, and Leadership. Having spent over a decade in automotive retail, innovating new operations and capacities within the dealerships that she worked at, Sarah’s people-first approach, coupled with her industry knowledge, has allowed her to grow, impact and influence the automotive community.

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