The Day-to-Day Disaster
After all of the paperwork for 2017 was completed, it was my job to look back on the year to see how my fixed ops departments did. Although we had growth in both sales and gross, I had to conclude that my managers and I had not performed as we should have. Our customer satisfaction for 2017 dropped every month until it was the lowest we have ever had and we were rated in the bottom of our region. We had not been taking care of our customers as we should have and my managers and I used the fact that our business had outgrown our space and our staff as a crutch. My manager had become reactionary to our customers instead of being proactive and changing our policies and procedures to help us improve.
In 2016, we exploded with over 40 percent growth in all fixed operation departments to where we had maximized all of our floor space. When we started in 2017, we did not make adjustments for our continued customer base growth as our sales department continued to sell more vehicles. We kept scheduling our customers as if we still had room to grow. In 2017, when we scheduled an appointment at 9 a.m. for a one-hour job, our customers believed that their vehicle should be done before noon. However, in most cases, the vehicle was still outside waiting to be looked at because our technicians were unable to get to the vehicle. It got to the point that an appointment meant almost nothing since we could not even work on the vehicles that were already here.
So, when we did finally open the first expansion in early January, it turned into a major disaster and our customer satisfaction continued to drop. My two service managers were not managing the workflow our service advisors brought in the door, creating even more of a backlog. We filled the new nine bays the day we opened, but we still were unable to keep up with the workload. I had several meetings with my managers stressing the importance of customer satisfaction; we can be bursting at the seams now, but if we are not keeping up with our customers’ expectations, sooner rather than later they will stop coming in. However, my managers failed to make immediate changes in our systems to accommodate our customers.
So how do I stress the importance of controlling our customers expectations? I changed their pay plans.
First, I should let everyone know I am not an advocate of changing employee pay plans unless it is designed to stress areas of needed improvement or to provoke a change in operations that fit with the goals of each department. Since we needed both, it was time. I pulled out everyone’s job descriptions and found four mandatory minimums for each job that are achievable and easily trackable for each position. Then, I changed everyone’s commission rates to give them all a raise if they reach all four requirements. However, if they fail to reach any or all of the requirements their commission rate will be reduced up to 25 percent. But if they exceed their goals they can see their commission rates increased up to an additional 25 percent.
It was not my intent to reduce anyone’s pay. I really do want to see every one of my employees make as much as possible, continue to improve their lives and stay here until they retire. Since the explosion of 2016, I believe all of my people are paid extremely well and above the rest of the market. But when it comes to how well your business is doing, you have to look past the money and make sure that you have done all you can to set your business up for future growth—something I did not do very well in 2017. I got caught up with all of the expansion and improvements we were getting ready to do and stopped looking at our day-to-day operations.