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As I travel throughout North America, consulting and coaching my clients with a focus on customer satisfaction and retention, the “Express” department almost always becomes a topic of conversation and observation. Some clients view express service as a necessary evil to appease the manufacturer and consider Express a financial drain on their department, while other clients are optimistic about the potential of profitability and customer pay repair order growth.

Typically, I will review 60 days of the most recent C.S.I. surveys of express customers so I may obtain a proper perspective of our customers’ experiences. Customer retention has become the industry’s “Hot Button,” and it’s apparent that defection to quick lubes and mass merchandisers are challenges that we all must overcome. With most manufacturers’ surveys, the questions regarding the quality of work, fairness of charges, and time to complete impact the final scores. I typically find that quality and charges are acceptable to most customers, with time to complete being our opportunity for improvement.

When basic maintenance express service exceeds forty-five minutes, our guests’ loyalty to our business will significantly drop off. With the assistance of my clients’ fixed operations managers, we conduct time studies of each leg of the express experience with the achievement of the following goals:

  • Vehicle reception at the service drive – 0-2 minutes
  • Service advisor introduction, menu presentation, walk around, and repair order completion – 2-7 minutes.
  • Staging of the vehicle and dispatch – 7-10 minutes
  • Technician(s) to bring the vehicle into the bay, set lift, raise the vehicle, complete a multi-point vehicle inspection, and drain oil – 10-20 minutes.
  • Completion of inspection results, presentation to the guest from the advisor, and approval of additional express operations – 20-25 minutes.
  • Completion of express maintenance service – 25-40 minutes.
  • Customer invoiced and cashiered, with an active delivery – 40-45 minutes.

The above seems like an impossible challenge to many, but express teams all over are successfully implementing this benchmark daily. The task here is to identify and remove the obstacles that prohibit us from victory.
Let’s take a look at each area of opportunity.

  • Customer reception: Is our signage user-friendly to our guests, clearly marking the express lane or parking areas? Do you have a valet or greeter directing traffic, or separating the express traffic from the main shop?
  • Is the service advisor staffing adequate for your work mix and scheduled appropriately for high express peak hours?
  • Are necessary resources readily available? Floor mats, seat covers, electronic tablets, hang tags or hats, manufacturer vehicle reports, service menus, etc.
  • Are there printers properly placed either in the write-up area or technician bays to accept the repair orders?
  • Do you have a designated staging area for express vehicles that are ready to be dispatched?
  • Are all the technicians properly trained in the choreography of the process? One- and two-man teams, order of processes, who is responsible for which step, and proper timing.
  • Work bays to be properly equipped. Mirrors to check lights, oil drains, bulk oil fills, express parts kiosks, torque sticks, oil capacity, and viscosity charts, inspection forms, wheel lock keys, oil filter wrenches, impact guns, tire and brake depth gauges, tire pressure gauges, and other necessary tools.
  • The simplicity of parts acquisition and pricing. All express parts should be family-priced, eliminating the necessity of involvement of the parts department.
  • The work bays and customer waiting lounge, and service advisor stations should ideally be in close proximity to each other.
  • Have we trained your express team on our processes of inspection, presentation of the multi-point and additional estimate, and approval process?
  • Have we trained the advisors to keep the guest updated on the status of their vehicle, and reset the clock should the vehicle need to be moved for additional labor operations not involving express, the completion of maintenance, and preparation to send to the car wash?
  • Do our technicians have daily goals of production hours and additional compensation opportunities that may reduce unapplied time?
  • When all parts have been charged to the repair order, the service advisor should prepare the final invoice for payment.
  • The customer cashier step should be performed with an active delivery, reviewing future needs, the next visit, and review of survey possibility when applicable.
  • Porters or valets should have a designated delivery area for convenience to our guests.

I would encourage you to review these recommendations and compare them to your current situation and evaluate the areas that can be improved upon.

I recommend that a two-technician team, (wet tech and dry tech) be assigned per lift. We can provide specific training to provide the most productivity and efficiency to develop your Express Service into a valuable profit resource to your fixed operations and provide growth in customer pay repair orders, additional service sales, and customer retention.

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