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Should Service Managers Drive The Shuttle?

Service managers are often living in a state of emergency, putting out fires and rolling with the punches. And it’s only once they can start to think strategically, to rise above the day-to-day and really start to see the bigger picture, that the amazing results can start to happen. I don’t think that this line of thinking is really taught, but to me it’s service manager 101. And that brings me to this week’s topic of discussion. 

Should a Service Manager Drive The Shuttle?

If a Service Manager steps in to drive the shuttle on a busy night…Is it a badge of honor? A sign of great leadership? Or a failure beyond comprehension? If you know me, you probably already know how I feel about this subject. But before I delve into it, I’d like to pose a few other questions to make a point: 

  • Should a Service Manager fix the toilet in the showroom bathroom?
  • Should a Service Manager answer the phone?
  • Should a Service Manager wash cars?
  • Should a Service Manager write internal R.O.’s?

5 characteristics of high-quality technicians

Service Manager 101: A Story From Christian

When Christian was a Service Manager, he’d get up at 2 AM and plow snow at his dealership. 

I was working with Christian’s dealership at the time, and this was one of my first impressions of him. He was getting up at 1 in the morning, getting to the dealership at 2, and spending hours plowing snow. He’d do the aisles first, move the cars up, plow those spots, and then move the cars back. And he was doing all of that in the wholesale truck he couldn’t get rid of, a ‘92 Silverado Rear-Wheel drive with no heat. There was so much snow that winter that we actually had to hire a snow removal service to get it off the lot. 

Christian wasn’t ready to hear it at the time, but I slowly helped him realize that he was doing all kinds of things that he shouldn’t have been doing. He was stepping up and taking care of things like any great manager should, but he wasn’t figuring out how to get himself out of that situation in the future. 

Service Manager 101: The Symbolic Gesture 

If there’s truly nobody else available to drive it, and you’re just sitting there staring at a customer, maybe driving the shuttle isn’t a bad idea. In that moment, it’s truly the best way to provide high-quality service for your customer. 

But I don’t think that makes you a great service manager. Driving the shuttle is not in your job description, nor should it be. If a service manager has to drive a shuttle, and their employees aren’t EXTREMELY NERVOUS that they had to resort to that measure, there’s a much deeper problem in the dealership. When you’re in a moment of pure desperation, and you have to step in and drive the shuttle, you should be thinking to yourself the entire time: this can never happen again. If I’m driving the shuttle, this system is broken. All contingencies have failed. 

5 characteristics of high-quality technicians

Service Manager 101: Contingency Plan

This is a wake-up call. You need to have contingencies in place to make sure this never happens again. As Chris explains in the his anecdote about backstopping customers at his old dealership, there was always a chain of contingency options available. If a sales manager couldn’t backstop a client, then the online sales manager would step in. If she was busy, then the fleet manager would step in. If that manager wasn’t available, then Chris would step in. There was always a plan in place to make sure a customer never left the store without first speaking to a manager. And that logic should apply to driving the shuttle as well.

Now there are definitely some small operations out there where you have 1 advisor and 3 techs. The service manager is the warranty administrator, and maybe they do have to “drive the shuttle” so to speak. In that situation, don’t offer a shuttle. Don’t promise something that you can’t realistically fulfill. Focus on what you can do. 

Should Service Managers Drive The Shuttle?

All of this is to say no: service managers shouldn’t be driving the shuttle. They should be doing everything they can to optimize their efforts, and have those contingency plans in place, so that they can start functioning like a successful service manager. They can think strategically about the bigger picture instead of getting caught up in the stresses of the day-to-day.

If you’re struggling as a service manager, ask yourself a few key questions: Are you maximizing your full potential? Do you try to convert by inspecting cars? Are you increasing your effective labor rate with an optimal pricing strategy? Are you hiring the right service advisors and giving them the right training? If you were actually doing all of those things, you could afford a shuttle driver. 

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