For months now, I have written about my struggles with the new store and the work involved with getting it operating using the same process I have in place at the main store. I have really enjoyed the challenge of going back in time and building our new business and customer base out of the ashes of a poorly run store. Unfortunately, this has caused me to spend a lot of time away from Leavenworth—which has now started to cause issue at the main store.
Although I believe I have some of the best managers around, I missed all of the indicators of an explosion of service request and the inability of my managers and staff to handle the increasing volume. It all became apparent in May, which is nothing new because we have always been busiest when school is out. Where I failed was to notice that since the end of last summer, our customer demand for warranty and major repairs has continually grown each month, so when summer started, we were already at capacity for what my main shop employees could handle.
With Ford pushing the development of electronic and autonomous computer systems, we failed to react to the changing diagnosis and repair times required to fix our customers’ vehicles. We continued to schedule repairs based on our customers’ concerns instead of what type of system their vehicle had. For example, a customer would call in with a steering concern and we schedule him or her for the same time, whether his or her vehicle had a hydraulic or electric-assisted system. These two systems have very different diagnosis times, which will throw the entire schedule off. Trust me, it happened.
By the second week of May, we were trying to schedule appointments for the main service department 10–14 days out. This just made everything worse. When the day of the appointment came, we could not guarantee that we would even be able to get the vehicle into the shop, which really started to irritate our customers. First, they had to wait two weeks to bring their vehicle in, then we had so much carry over that we did not even look at their vehicle when they had an appointment. Totally unacceptable and this practice was starting to affect our CSI and social media scores and stress me out. If one person got sick, our entire business could crumble.
In an attempt to help, I spoke to the sales manager and informed them that all vehicle concerns brought up by our customers would have to go back to the internal service department or the quick lane to try to reduce the confusion on the main drive. Then we moved one of the quick lane advisors out on the drive and hired another experienced advisor to help us at least communicate effectively with our customers. We wrote out a script and gave it to everyone, including the sales staff, so everyone in the dealership understood our situation and had the same response when customers called.
Unfortunately, this only addressed the communication problem with our customers and not our problem of a major workload backup. The main issue was still that we did not have enough factory-certified technicians to handle our workload. I hired a job posting and vetting company, so when we posted a job, it would go to all of the job boards not just indeed. We posted four different technician jobs for everything from entry level to certified. But as everyone knows, there are not that many certified technicians looking to move.
We started hiring entry-level people and trained them for our quick lane. For the past year, we have been lucky enough to hire four technicians in our quick lane who want to become certified and have working on their own time to complete several of the online training that is required before we can send them to hands-on training. Once we had enough trained technicians to replace them in our quick lane, we started teaming them up with our master technicians with the hope that they will continue to grow into a certified technician but for now, they should be able to help our master technicians get more work through the shop.
I also wrote an open letter to our customers explaining our situation and letting them know that, for the time being, we would not take in any new diagnostic work on Thursday. I also let everyone know that if their vehicle is undrivable or unsafe to drive, we will take their vehicle and provide them a loaner or rental vehicle until we can get the vehicle into the shop and address their needs.
For now, and probably the rest of the summer, I will only be visiting the new store for a few days per month to help them continue to grow.