Are You Giving Your Service Manager Your Full Support?

May 3, 2022

This MTD exclusive was provided by tire and auto industry veteran Randy O’Connor, who is the executive director TEN (Training and Education Network)

Keep calm and be kind.” You’ve probably seen this sign at a retail store. It’s a great reminder to consumers that the stress they’re feeling shouldn’t be projected onto our teams. 

It’s also a great reminder that consumers’ behavior and expectations change dramatically when they’re stressed. But for those optimists among us, stress means opportunity. 

I liken the processes of the tire and auto repair business to businesses in the restaurant industry. Many restaurants employ “expeditors,” who are like service managers. 

The expeditor is the liaison between the wait staff and the kitchen and synchronizes the flow of work between those departments. Expeditors know each piece of the order and how long the order will take. They ensure quality control and maintain standards. They help the wait staff deliver each meal to each table at exactly the right time. They make sure comebacks are handled in the correct manner. Chances are the best meal you ever had was the result of an ace expeditor. 

Now envision your expeditor - your dealership’s service manager - and the role he or she plays. Nothing happens without the oversight of your service manager, who can make or break a customer experience and both your short-term and long-term profitability. It’s truly the hardest position in our business. 

How do you ensure that your service manager succeeds? By involving the rest of your team. By including them in the design of the workflow process, you will gain buy-in and create a culture that will last for years to come. 

Let’s say you have a goal of increasing net profit from 7% to 12% by the end of the year. Get all of your key players together and brainstorm all of the ways to reach your goal. (I advise that you only speak when necessary during this process - giving your team full autonomy to be creative.) 

Once your team creates a list of action items, ask them to identify strategies that would move your business closer to its net profit increase objective with the least amount of effort and investment. The team then should prioritize these strategies from most impactful to least impactful. 

Most of the net lift you’re looking for should come from a couple of really big ideas. Then determine which department within your dealership has majority control of these heavy-hitter ideas. 

The leader of that department then takes his or her team and holds another brainstorming session where they come up with all of the actions that would lead to goal achievement. 

At this point, you’ll need to make sure your team leader knows that quantifying the impact - assuming all other factors remain the same - will be necessary. I personally think gross profit dollar per vehicle is the easiest and most impactful measure to use. 

Ask the team leader to prioritize strategies by their impact. Then bring all of your teams back together and have each present its case. 

You reserve the right to either accept the strategy that the teams put before you or help them create one that’s acceptable. 

From there, put together a scoreboard that allows each team to monitor its progress on a daily basis. Next set a day and time each week to meet with your team leads. 

During the meeting, which should last no more than 30 minutes, each team leader agrees to take responsibility for specific actions and behaviors - reporting exactly what impact those behaviors did or did not have. (An actual digital scoreboard would really help!) 

Promise each team that you will meet with them on the same day, at the same time — every week. 

During these meetings, you will present the scoreboard and allow each team member to speak to the items they promised to handle the previous week. 

Celebrate each success and coach every opportunity. Reassign action items for the following week and get back to the grind. Make sure everyone sticks to the scoreboards and never let anything interrupt the process. 

Teams then will now know exactly how to run the same type of meeting with their people. 

While it may sound like a lot of work, a process like this will help your teams define the strategies that will lead to the success you and they both deserve. In order to meet your business goals, you need to synchronize those goals with your teams’ daily activities. 

When done right, you’ll gain buy-in, success will breed success and everyone will know they have skin in the game. They also will be able to see the results of their efforts on a regular basis. 

It’s very likely the processes and behaviors your teams outline will pass through your service manager’s hands. Give that person what he or she needs to succeed. 

About the Author

Randy O'Connor

Tire and auto industry veteran Randy O’Connor is the Owner/Principal of D2D Development Group (Dealer to Dealer Development Group.) He can be reached at [email protected]. For more information, please visit