Auto Repair Scheduling: Four Ways to Keep the Work Balanced

By Joe Gatto on June 25, 2015
Tags: Data Collection, Productivity

Auto Repair Scheduling Four Ways to Keep the Work Balanced Auto Repair scheduling is one of the most frequent complaints auto repair shop owners hear from customers. Customers want their cars serviced as fast as possible, but you only have so much capacity at your shop.

And the problem becomes more acute this time of year. Most shops see a customer uptick in the summer due to air-conditioning work, vehicles overheating, and customers prepping vehicles for road trips.

And while having more cars than you can handle might seem like a nice problem to have, it really is one you need to address because angry customers won’t come back for additional repair services.

Much of your success depends on finding the right balance between the number of cars in your shop and the number of repair techs on your team. That's no easy task, and it's further complicated by the fact that both aspects of it – car count and staffing – are always changing.

Like other businesses, you experience customer dips and increases, often unexpectedly. You also experience unexpected staff turnover and illnesses. At these times, you may find your repair shop understaffed or overstaffed, and that means a loss in revenue due to inefficiencies. The good news is that there are some ways to plan for these unexpected changes so that you can ensure you are always operating at peak efficiency.

Automate scheduling

One way to smooth out your schedule is by getting as many customers as possible on the books early. Offer to schedule future appointments for them as they are checking out. Your staff can say something like, "Based on your vehicle's mileage, you'll need your next service check in three months. Would you prefer I slot you in for a morning or evening service appointment?"

If there’s a suggested service that came up during a courtesy check that the customer opted against at this appointment, suggest getting them scheduled in a few months to take care of it.

Of course, one downside of advance scheduling is it increases no-shows. When an appointment is set weeks in advance, people are more likely to forget. So once the appointment is set, staff members should send reminder emails a few days before the appointment.

Ask staff members to use an online appointment scheduling tool to schedule future service appointments for customers. This will ensure the schedule stays updated, accurate, and organized. You can even set it up to automatically confirm customer appointments and issue reminders. That way, staff will be able to spend more of their time focusing on customers in the shop and less of their time on the phone. Since the appointment schedule will be stored electronically via the app, it will also be easier for you to access it and plan your staffing schedule accordingly.

Retain existing customers and get new ones

Driving up car count means making customer retention, referrals, and service a priority. Customers who have a great experience at your shop are going come back and tell their friends. Here are some ways to stand out as a customer-oriented provider:

  • Always have a clean reception area, bathroom and service bays, use checklists to ensure they are inspected regularly; and require your staff and technicians to tuck in shirts and dress professionally.
  • Make thank-you calls to customers two to three days after their vehicle is serviced.
  • Initiate customer satisfaction surveys so that you are continually improving.
  • Provide special discounts to customers who refer others to you.
  • Claim your Google My Business site so that when customers search for auto repairs in your area, your shop appears at the top of the search results.

Optimize staffing levels

Driving up the number of cars in your service bays is one part of the equation. The other is making sure you have enough ASE certified technicians on hand to manage the workload, but not so much that you have expensive techs with nothing to do for long stretches.

To get the right balance, start by tracking the average number of customers per day throughout the year. You’re already recording the services you’re providing by documenting each customer with your repair orders. What you need is a way to keep track of those documents and aggregate the data.

You already have a sense of your busy days and busy seasons, but you need accurate data to understand how much busier Monday is than Wednesday and how much busier June is than March. Knowing exactly how many of those repair orders and oil changes were completed on particular days of the week or months of the year will give you that kind of insight, but to get that, you’ll need to maintain those forms electronically.

Another way to ensure you are ready for a business uptick is to have a solid recruiting and hiring process. That includes having strong connections with potential ASE certified technicians you can call on when you need to hire quickly.

Never turn down someone who expresses an interest in working for you, even if you feel that your staff is at full capacity. Instead, maintain an “always are hiring” approach to recruiting, especially with hard-to-find techs.

Have such candidates come in for a meet and greet, inform them that you are not hiring yet but may be soon, and check in with them routinely after that. That way, if you do need to hire someone unexpectedly – which, as you know, you might – you have someone you can hire immediately. 

Increase staff productivity

The next step to finding that magic number between staff and car count is staff productivity. You want your staff members to work as efficiently as possible so that you reach your full revenue potential.

At the end of each workday, you should measure productivity, both at the shop level and at the individual level. An electronic time sheet can help you determine how productive each of your technicians is, and if you find that some are lagging behind, work with them to help them get up to speed. An Auto Repair Checklist can help them stay on track throughout the work day and complete repairs faster.

Also, set technician and service adviser productivity goals, so that your employees know what your expectations are. To incent staff members to reach productivity goals, offer performance-based incentives. For instance, you might offer individual staff members a bonus if they exceed your productivity goals. It’s also a good idea to offer a monthly bonus to your entire team if they exceed the productivity level of the previous month. This will improve staff teamwork at your shop, and ensure staff members are sharing productivity best practices with each other.

Use Technology

With all of the low-cost technology available to shop owners today, such as auto repair scheduling software, there’s no reason you should fail to use it. Even simple tools such as tablets and other mobile devices can help you more efficiently increase your car count, schedule staffing, and boost shop productivity.

For instance, you can automate scheduling and increase productivity with mobile applications available in the GoCanvas Application Store or easily create on your own, a custom application. A simple way to start is to download the GoCanvas app to your own phone or tablet. Then sign up for a free trial to start making sense of your schedule.

Looking for another improve your shop's performance and efficiency? Check out all of GoCanvas's Vehicle and Truck Repair Shop's Service Orders, Estimates and Inspections

Want more tips on getting ahead in today’s competitive market? Download our eBook, 4 Ways Independent Auto Shops Can Compete With Dealerships

4 Ways Independent Auto Shops Can Compete With Dealerships

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