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Why can't your Service Department run like this?

It Can...

As soon as we begin to look at our business a little differently...

What does a good running, profitable, high CSI department look like?

  • Organized?
  • People performing their assigned tasks, consistently?
  • A warm feeling of happy interactions with the guests?

It all begins with taking a proactive approach to every routine activity that happens in the department. Some of these activities include:

  • Appointment Process
  • Customer Reception
  • Work Assignment
  • Production Management
  • Technician Training
  • Warranty Requirements
  • Customer Communication
  • Shop Supply Usage
  • Discounts
  • Quality Control
  • Active Delivery

For most managers, these activities can be overwhelming, more like juggling balls, rather than a swinging a pendulum. A manager can only juggle so many balls, so they either focus on the 3, 4 or 5 items that are most important to them (or the dealer) and either delegate the others or pray that they don't get too far out of hand. The key to moving from a juggling act to a pendulum is in the understanding and planning of the activity.

Step 1 is to understand what the process looks like. How many employees do not have a job description? So, if an employee does not have a job description, we are counting on them to perform to their own expectations, not ours. We can critique them when they make a mistake. This is juggling! Once you understand what the process should look like, you must define the process, in writing.

Step 2 is to define how this process will be managed. Please understand that all processes have to be managed. Many processes will self-manage, to some degree. This is the pendulum effect. Other processes become the juggling balls. In order to be an extremely good manager, you must determine which processes will be "pendulum processes" and which processes will be "juggling processes".

These management techniques are better known as:

Structured Operating Technique - The "Pendulum"

Operational Operating Technique - The "Juggler"

A Structured Operating Technique is a process that is designed, created (written) and implemented that, when followed, should cause a predictable outcome. In the example of the job description..when properly prepared and implemented, the employee should perform their job with relative success. Another Structured Technique example would be a can-for-can shop supply policy. In this example, the technician turns an empty can of brake cleaner, lubricant, etc, in order to get a new can. This does a reasonable job of assuring that the technician is not taking shop supplies home. Using a Structured Operating Technique is the pendulum. Because the force, weight and motion are defined, the outcome is predictable for a given period of time. What is important to understand is "predictable period of time." Unattended, even the best pendulum will eventually stop due to the friction created by air. Similarly, even the best Structured Technique will eventually stop if left unattended. How many of your daily responsibilities can be implemented as a Structured Operating Techniques? Who has the time to prepare these processes? My question is "Who has the time to not prepare these?"

An Operational Operating Technique requires hands-on management to maintain integrity. If we hire a new employee and let them go to work without any formal direction, then we either have to constantly watch and correct them or accept them to "create" their own job description.
It is certainly important that we manage with a balance of Structured and Operational Operating Techniques in our workplace. We begin by creating a process document or flow-chart that will instruct our people to perform at the level desired? As an example, flat rate pay plans would be considered a Structured Operating Technique. The pay plan causes the technician to be responsible for their own production. If left alone, with no Operational Operating support, we leave it up to the technician to determine their own ability. The challenge with this is it tends to create the perception that nobody really cares.
Where we go wrong, as managers, is not realizing that a successful Structured Technique always requires an Operational Technique. This is more traditionally known as "Inspect what you Expect"!
As you create a technique to solve the challenge, you must create a technique to monitor the performance. An example might be that you set technician or advisor production objectives. The technician and/or advisor agree to accomplish their objective...and you have it in writing. You will typically see an immediate increase in performance. But if left alone, the increase will be temporary. In this case, you would need a system to provide feedback daily.
I cannot tell you the number of times that technicians tell me: "We've tried that before but it never sticks".The Operational Review philosophy must be applied to every process that you implement, otherwise, you're wasting your time! 

In Summary, as a manager, your task is to develop policies, processes and procedures that your department operates by. The most successful managers develop policies, processes and procedures as a Structured Operating Technique whenever possible. The most successful managers then have time to create Operational Operating Techniques to manage the policies, processes and procedures. In the previous example, a properly on-boarded flat-rate technician would have the following:

  • Well defined Job Description - Structured Technique (Technician understands expectations)
  • Well defined Flat Rate Pay Plan - Structured Technique (Technician understands how to make money)
  • Agreed upon Production Objective - Structured Technique (Technician understands fairness of dispatch and expectation of their production)
  • Management review and counseling - Operating Technique (Checks and balances of Structured Technique)

Consistent application of this type of policies, procedures and procedures will assure great results. 


Fixed Ops Resource founder Charlie Waters has over 40 years of dealership fixed operations experience. After an initial 3 years of automotive technical training, Charlie began his career as a Ford Technician. In the 40+ years following, he held, essentially, every job in fixed operations, including 30 years of management. During this period, he held the position of Fixed Ops Director for a group of 10 dealerships. Charlie has spent over 7 years of his career consulting with hundreds of other dealerships, in 39 states, for each and every brand, from KIA to Bentley and even Harley-Davidson. He has always been a student to all of the new technologies and advanced processes known to fixed operations. He has worked with several new vehicle manufacturers developing materials and conducting training for Parts Managers, Service Managers and Advisors. Charlie offers the knowledge, tools and training to assist in overcoming the many dealership challenges. He is a certified Pacific Institute facilitator, a certified DiSC and Predictive Index trainer and a Disney Institute graduate. 

In summary, Fixed Ops Resource (FOR) is your Fixed Operations Director on demand. Because we understand that when your fixed operation is making little to no money, the last thing that you want to do is spend money. With Fixed Ops Resource, the good news is: "You can use as little or as much as needed and only pay for what you need." We can even be a Fixed Operation Director's assistant to help in difficult situations (management turnover, annual forecasting, etc.). We desire to be a sounding board for you and your fixed ops team. There is not a situation in your fixed operations that we cannot assist you and your team on...without you spending a lot of money.

The Fixed Ops Resource Team is a proud member of the new Fixed Ops Consulting Alliance. This is a prestigious group of consulting companies that share ideas, resources and concepts to assure that your team is always equipped with the latest knowledge and techniques. While many consulting companies offer you a "canned" product, we, and the members of the Alliance, understand that no two dealerships are exactly the same...we tailor our concepts to fit your dealership's personality.


"We assist dealerships in developing and sustaining profitability and customer delight by creating a focus on functional opportunities that the business would not otherwise see!"


"We exist to develop Parts, Service and Body Shop Managers into Fixed Operation Superstars!"