Well, it’s January again, and you know what that means – every dealership in the country is panicking about their repair order count! “RO count is way down! We gotta pump those numbers up, or we’ll go under!” Then, the madness ensues as Managers demand more and more volume without an ounce of strategy behind it.
But pumping up the car count is the lazy way out. You might as well walk out to the Service Drive, bend over, and let your Technicians kick you where the sun don’t shine while you’re at it. Sure, you could OCD out on volume without infrastructure, capacity, efficiency, or happy customers in place… But why make your life so difficult when there’s a better way?
See, I’ve been there and done that. I get the obsession over RO count. But after over 25 years of turning around dealership Service Departments, I learned car count means jack when your systems and procedures are totally overloaded and under delivering already.
The Myth Of “More ROs Will Save Us!”
I have a revelation for you: unless you just opened in a new market, RO count is rarely the problem, let alone the solution.
Most dealership Dervice departments in the country are booked out for 2-3 weeks already. You’re overwhelmed with demand – you just don’t have enough Techs and capacity to handle the work! Before you mention RO count, here are three things to look at:
- Hours Per RO – Are your Techs turning enough hours on current workloads, or are Advisors shortcutting inspections and pumping out thinly-written ROs?
- Maintenance Penetration – For every 10 repair orders, how many alignments, batteries, brake jobs, etc., are you selling? 50% penetration suggests you’re reaching max capacity before we worry about volume.
- Advisor Headcount – Okay, I’ll give on this one. Sometimes, you do need more Service Advisors writing thorough inspections to handle calls and drive traffic. But NOT before having the Tech team and shop flow to back it up!
See the difference? There are easier ways to drive revenue results without taking on the challenge of acquiring new customers – Especially when you don’t have the capacity and loyalty to handle them.
Why Chasing Car Count Creates Chaos
I know you’ll argue that research says more repeat customers drives exponential growth. But let me ask you this – what good does pumping out ROs do when 80% of customers still defect to the indie shop down the street?
Dealership Service Departments consistently deliver an experience that pushes 8 out of 10 customers away for good within a few years. Yet we kill ourselves obsessing over car count before fixing systemic issues driving away current business.
This will be hard to hear, but here’s the hard truth:
If you’re forcing volume when your systems can’t deliver consistency or follow-up, you create a warranty nightmare, providing FREE comebacks and cementing customers’ decisions to ditch you forever.
Cranking up the hamster wheel won’t cure turnover issues or bad word of mouth – It just digs a deeper grave. And chasing ROs is an easy trap to fall into.
Hear me out – The fastest way to EXPONENTIAL growth is by delivering quality and building fierce loyalty before worrying about car count. Do that successfully instead of taking shortcuts, and happy customers will create more demand than you’ll know how to handle!
But The Owner Is Hounding Me For More ROs!
I get it – I really do. Dealership Management operates on sales DNA. All they understand is chasing volume, so ramming more cars through the shop seems like the obvious answer.
But leadership may not comprehend how upside-down that thinking is for Service Departments already bursting at the seams. This isn’t used cars – blanketing harder in a Fixed Ops world just pisses away efficiency and loyalty.
Volume on the sales floor brings acceleration. Let’s say your Service Advisors average 15 repair orders each. Forcing them to 20+ per day shreds quality, shortcuts add up and customers stay pissed.
But those same Advisors could easily handle 17-18 ROs daily if systems are airtight first. Smoothing processes, staff accountability, and customer experience allow for capacity jumps WITHOUT self-destruction! See what I mean?
The Magic Formula
Want the magic formula to exponential growth without headaches? Here it is:
- Build a Bombproof Service System: capacity, quality, consistency, loyalty
- Increase Efficiency: standard operating procedures, staff development
- Watch Word of Mouth Work Magic: Referral Sales, retention
- Let Demand Drive Volume: book solid, add staff
Anything else outside that sequence is just asking for chaos.
The Bottom Line…
Don’t have capacity or efficiency down yet? RO count better be the last thing on your mind. Show your leadership the differences between variable and fixed. Show them benchmarks proving you deliver efficiency already.
And stop obsessing over car count when you’re booked out weeks in advance! Hire another Advisor or two, and improve service times and conversion numbers. Building the machine to perfection needs to come LONG before pumping volume into the beast.
The takeaway here: RO count is rarely the cure-all. And even if you need more volume, creating it outside the bounds of quality systems is an expensive path to failure.
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