Thinking Out of the Box - Aftermarket
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Thinking Out of the Box

By Ron Slee

Article Date: 04-01-2008
Copyright(C) 2008 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.

Who put us in this box in the first place? I want to talk to them.

Ron Slee For many years I have been
confronted with a phrase many dealers use when they talk about their performance: "That is thinking out of the box," they say. I have wondered for years what this is all about.This statement - and frankly this thinking pattern - allows us to be substandard performers. It gives us permission to continue to do what we have always done. It blinds us to opportunities.I have begun asking a question in all of my training sessions and talks in the industry. I receive a lot of knowing smiles and the occasional chuckle. "Who put us in this box?""Thinking out of the box" is not a bad thing to consider if it means that we challenge conventional wisdom. It is a terrible thing if we use this as an excuse as to why we should continue to do what we have always done. Here are some genuine ways you can truly shed the "box" in your dealership:Think in terms of the time-keeping aspect of the service department and the payroll. Many of you use two time cards: one for payroll and the other for work in process. When you use one time card you have the technician fill it out and then someone else enter it to the system. Why don't we have the technicians manage their own time and put it directly into the work order system themselves? Do the job once - not more than once.Think in terms of parts ordering in the service department. Many of you have your technicians fill out a piece of paper and walk it to the parts department, give it to a clerk in the parts department who then enters it into the computer while the technician waits, goes and picks the parts and gives them to the technician. The technician, who is on the clock, has been waiting quite awhile. Why not put a terminal in the bay and have the technician order the parts themselves directly?Think in terms of the parts inventory and the quantity that is ordered. The order cost component of the EOQ calculation is not zero, which means that the EOQ does not work as originally intended. Who is doing any work on that problem?The customer retention we are experiencing in parts and service is in the range of 85 percent on a year-over-year basis, yet most dealerships I am involved with do not know their own numbers. Why is that? Is it because that is a measure that is "outside the box?" It must be so because customer retention is one of the most significant measures we have for customer satisfaction.Parts backorders are a constant thing in any dealership yet we don't find every part that every customer is looking for on the same day that they are ordering it. Why is that? The most common answer I get is that the supplier has a backorder for the part and what do you expect me to do - find the part when my supplier cannot? The answer to that question is an emphatic yes!We have a very low level on market capture. That was clearly presented in the recent Product Support Opportunities Handbook. Yet we still do not "touch" half of our customers on a once-a-year basis. Isn't this another intriguing aspect of the box we are in? A loyal customer, who gives us all of their business, yet falls into a "small" category, gets rewarded by no one from the dealership talking to them. Imagine that. There's that darned box again.I am awfully tired of this box. I don't know how I got into this box but someone surely must have put me there. I think this is a classic example of us giving ourselves permission to be mediocre in the performance of our jobs. We get to some kind of equilibrium in our jobs - things work together in harmony, and we don't want to change it. But did anyone ask the customer how we were doing? They tell us very clearly when they stop giving us their business. They tell us very clearly with our low level of market capture. But I guess, like anything else in life, we are now used to it. We are in the box.I don't mind telling you I hate this box. I want out of it. Don't you?
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Article Categories:  Management  »  Product Support