The Service Shuffle

A look at service department pain points and potential solutions from MRAA’s recent Pulse Report.

To be an elite dealership, you need your Service & Parts Departments to follow and maintain a tight, structured schedule, yet remain flexible to effectively upsell and schedule future work to add cash flow. However, it’s not easy to be elite and adaptable. Chances are your dealership is successful and has achieved great things, but can still improve.

It’s hard to focus on upselling when service is already swamped with normal maintenance and repairs, parts delays still persist and your technicians — if you’re lucky enough to have a full crew — are already at capacity. How do you schedule more work when you don’t have the time or the workforce to make it happen effectively or efficiently?

The Service Shuffle - MRAA Pulse Report

We understand. The recent MRAA Pulse Report (in partnership with Baird and Soundings Trade Only) points to some shared service pain points at many dealers across North America. Responding to the question “What’s not working at your dealership?” survey participants stated that it’s still considered the hot summer season, so upselling and service scheduling future work needs to wait until the fall and winter. Others spoke about their high service demand and staffing issues, or a lack of qualified service techs, as reasons for service delays and missed upselling opportunities. Additionally, dealers have concerns about adding too much work and stress to their techs’ plates since service is already running at a high volume.

  • “Don’t need to and cannot. We are oversubscribed and have been for years.”
  • Can’t find techs, so can’t upsell service. Just service what we sell due to lack of techs in our area.”
  • “Our Service Department is stuck in panic mode from the previous 3 years of overwhelming demand. And now they are having trouble ramping back up to ‘sell’ service.”
  • “In the fortunate position that we cannot [serve] the current volume of service on our schedule. Absolutely missing opportunities by not upselling, but we are over our capacity of scheduled work.”

To overcome some of these struggles, other Pulse Report participants spoke about taking a more proactive approach, incorporating better scheduling, menu selling and using technology to enhance the upselling process in order to create more efficiency and profitability in service.

“We do everything by appointment just like a car dealer,” an anonymous dealer explained. “We do not take any walk-in customers at the moment. This helps us plan our techs weeks out so we can get customer boats in and out, so they have access to use them more than traditional dealers in our area that do not do appointments at all. We are the only dealer in this area that does appointments.”

In addition to this appointments method, dealers shared tactics for greater upselling success:

  • Offering service special packages, discounts and storage options to drive more traffic.”
  • Deferring larger jobs to winter months to remain available for smaller service jobs.”
  • “Offering early sign-up discounts for winter storage, to schedule service into the fall and winter.”
  • Educating their customers about regular maintenance while suggesting additional services.”
  • “Using aggressive online marketing, advertising and manufacturer promotions to drive sales and service.”
  • “Implementing inspection sheets and creating more standard jobs.”
MRAA's Training N Tactics logo in blue, light blue and white

Upselling and presenting service packages (ABC or Gold/Silver/Bronze offers) help you create options and highlight additional service jobs as a way to reduce the number of times your customer has to come back to you. This month’s MRAA Training ‘N’ Tactics session taught us that this also translates into improved CSI scores. For those dealers in the snow-and-ice belt, a service menu is an additional tool to send out with annual maintenance or winter storage agreements. It will help you streamline the check-in process and boost your off-season work.

You want your service-and-parts team to have the necessary resources to reduce repair event cycle times (RECT), and strategically maintain your parts inventory so there’s time for upselling. That’s why it’s important for you to know and implement best practices to keep your customers satisfied.

You have two opportunities to help your dealership improve now and as you plan for 2024:

  1. Your chance to learn about specific tools and tactics from industry experts and your fellow service peers is at Dealer Week 2023; in the Service and Parts Pathway Sessions. The annual MRAA conference educational sessions will guide you to a more effective service and parts team with several in-depth courses, including:
  2. Get on the A-List for Premium Service Success
  3. Apply Action Leadership in Your Service & Parts Departments
  4. Solve Your Parts & Service Customers’ Problems

And that’s just three of 15-plus education courses available to you and your team at Dealer Week, Dec. 4-7, in Tampa, Fla.

  • Can’t wait until December? Then check out MRAA’s Spotlight page, which underlines timely and important issues affecting our industry and offers you strategies, tools and resources to address these obstacles head on. Yes, even your current service challenges.

Do you have any advice for your peers or proven best practices you’ve implemented that has allowed your service team to upsell even when they are crazy busy? Let our team know. Email me at