April '20

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Page 26 of 104

24 • RV PRO • April 2020 rv-pro.com We agreed with Jack. Along with the potential increase in efficiency in the ser- vice department, if a service writer is doing the job properly, the communication between service and customers, service and sales, and service and management will improve. Defining Job Roles is Critical With that, Jack asked, "Can you help me further define the role of my service writer and her relationship to the foreman?" "Jack," we asked, "have you consid- ered making job descriptions for your employees?" Jack smiled. "I didn't think our dealership was large enough to need that. But then again, last month I didn't think we needed an orga- nizational chart." We laughed and presented Jack with the job description for the service writer. He studied it and said, "I'm surprised to see it fits on one page. I thought it would be longer than that." "Jack," we said, "a job description that is longer than one page is usually task-oriented. A result-oriented job description can usually be summarized on one page. It is the result that manage- ment should be interested in defining. In accomplishing a goal, people do different tasks. Therefore, task-oriented descrip- tions are usually conflicting." Jack said he thought he understood, but that he would have to think about it some more. He then remarked, "I see that the service writer reports to the service manager. Should we change that to the service foreman?" Our answer was no. When a dealer- ship is not large enough to have a service manager, the service writer reports to the general manager. To be able to afford a service manager, a dealership must employ between seven and 10 full-time techs and riggers. A dealership with fewer than seven service people usually requires a service writer and a shop foreman. The service writer reports to the general manager, and the service writer and the shop foreman work together 95 percent of the time to solve shop problems. The general manager need only be involved occasionally, when major changes or decisions are required. To achieve this state of affairs, the general manager must delegate certain authority to the service writer. In reviewing the service writer's areas of authority, we added brief notes of explana- tion to help Jack (see "The Service Writer's Authority" on page 25). It is the role of the service advisor to buffer the shop foreman and keep him from standing around giving out free information. This is especially true when the do-it-yourselfer buffs "drop in to visit." Nevertheless, when a customer of the dealership needs help of a technical nature, the service writer should get the foreman involved in order to keep the customer satisfied. Jobs & Assigned Authorities After listening to these explanations, Jack sat back and said, "I see the value of assigning authority to each position. In glancing over the responsibility list the same value is apparent. What I anticipate is that the service writer will start making many of the decisions that I have made in the past." Jack was correct in his observation. What happens in too many dealerships is that the general manager doesn't clarify the authority and responsibility of the position. Consequently, many managers end up con- tinually making simple, routine decisions that could be made by staff employees. Then, when sales pick up, the general manager is so busy with thousands of little details that he cannot do his primary job – manage. When that happens, it is like a basketball coach who jumps into the ballgame to help the players: No one is sure of what plays are appropriate because they no longer have a coach. Addendum: Thoughts from John Spader in 2020 Spader Business Management has always said, and still agrees today, that the service writer is a key position in the deal- ership. There's no one the service writer doesn't interact with, from accounting to sales to parts to retail customers; they are the hub of the dealership. At times, it can be one of the most thankless jobs, but it also can be one of the most critical jobs, allowing everyone else to excel and keeping the dealership running smoothly. A few things I might add: • When the dealership does have a service manager (if its size warrants one), how do the roles fit together? The service manager's role should be focused on people and processes. Service managers hire, fire, and manage the people (including technicians), and they manage key processes in the service department. The service writer and shop foreman are supervisory (not management) roles, that should be structured around admin- istration, operations, tasks and tech- nical processes and issues in the service department. Higher-performing service departments understand and separate these roles properly. From working with dealers, we have developed two different job descriptions for the service writer role: One for ser- vice writers with a service manager, and a second one for service writers without a service manager, because the service writer job changes somewhat depending on whether the department has/needs a service manager or not. • The service writer is a more important position than ever – and it's critical to get the right people in the position. With today's high-demand customers, stiff warranty requirements, changing advanced technology, etc., it's more important than ever that you have people with the capabilities and motivation that match the job. There are many assessments and tools to help you get the right fit for this key role. • Collect-able efficiency levels that were considered "good" 15 years ago are now considered to be at the bottom or below acceptable levels in today's environment. Why is this? Unit sales markets are more competitive; you can't make the margins on units to cover for an inefficient/ unprof- itable service business. You need to make the service department efficient, or the dealership doesn't make money. And, as industries evolve, they mature. Service departments overall are getting better at being efficient and customer-re- sponsive – raising the bar for all.

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