Time and motion studies? This is retail, not manufacturing.” I have received many comments such as this since my last article on operational excellence where I recommended such studies as a way to improve performance.
I do admit that while conducting time and motion studies may seem a bit out of place in retail, it is not as uncommon as you might think. McDonald’s has utilized such studies. Chick-fil-A is another, and if you have ever visited one of its stores you can plainly see how such intense self-examination brings continued success.
So why not utilize this proven technique in the automotive tire and service industry?
Well, actually I know of a few very well-known industry leaders that have implemented time and motion studies with some outstanding results. When you really stop and consider it, our industry is quite similar to manufacturing. We may not produce a new product, we do recreate many of the same procedures utilized in manufacturing. The main difference is that our end customer is waiting in the showroom for their vehicle to be serviced.
There is a natural complacency to continue to do things the same way that they have always been done. We just can’t help it. But many people recognized that times have changed and mounted efforts to keep up. Customer service – a process not a result – is one of these.
In a recent J.D. Power and Associates survey, it was reported that 86% of customers who switched service providers did so because of what they considered poor customer service, not product quality.
Poor customer service was identified by a number of specifics, but most centered on the store personnel not respecting them as individuals, not respecting their vehicle and, most importantly, not respecting their time.
There is no way to adequately reflect on every specific point of conducting an exhaustive time and motion study in this space, so let’s highlight a few key areas that should be considered.
Your goal is to create an environment that promotes a continuous production flow of vehicles through your facility as productively and predictable as possible. In other words create a win-win-win for your customers, your employees, and your facility. Considering the old adage about not seeing the forest for the trees, you may want to recruit outside help to execute a successful and meaningful time and motion study.
So let’s begin with what I considered to be a major (if not the most important) topic: staffing. Do you have adequate sales and service staff to provide high quality customer service? There is no way to delight customers and provide quality products and service without the “right” people. Some of the most common customer complaints deal with the amount of time it takes to:
• Schedule requested service
• Speak to service advisor
When considering the question of adequate staff, include:
• Quantity – the number necessary to adequately cover all hours of operation
• Quality – properly trained with appropriate Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSAs) for the specific job
• Customer focused – customer centricity is as important (or even more important) than job KSAs
Next, consider the service write-up process. Often, a lot of time and productivity is lost in this process causing customer dissatisfaction. Simple organizational techniques should be considered here. Are all the things necessary for the initial service write-up available and organized for quick access?
You should also consider:
• Access to appointment schedule
• Price lists
• Current work volume (for esti-
mating service time)
• Blank service tickets/printer paper
• Key tags
• Other items specific to your shop
Okay, now let me add something that really bugs me. When I make an appointment to have tires installed or for a specific service (like oil and filter change, shocks, etc.) why do I have to sit around and wait for the tires or parts to come? Based on the J.D. Power study, I’m not the only one that doesn’t like to be inconvenienced with this lack of respect for my time. It is very high on most customer complaint surveys.
Be resigned to the fact there is no 100% solution to this situation, unless you have an endless warehouse with every possible SKU. But what steps can you take to minimize that pain point for customers?
Looking in the Shop
Let’s move to the service department, starting with what’s happening around the service manager’s desk. This is often where production initially gets bogged down.
Look around: Is the desk organized? Is a procedure for scheduling when vehicles are pulled into a bay? And what service tech is assigned to the vehicle or specific service? Is the scheduling procedure obvious to all employees? Depending on the specific location and systems in place other items may be appropriate to consider.
The general flow of work through the service department is a major area to consider when conducting a time and motion study. Begin by observing how and where vehicles are pulled into service bays. Watch service employees as they perform various procedures. Pay particular attention to oil change and tire services.
Here are some questions to consider to help improve productivity and reduce wasted time and motion:
Is there a dedicated bay for tire and oil change services? Are the necessary tools and equipment for servicing tires located close to where tires are being serviced? Specifically look for these items:
• Hub cap puller, air guns, air hoses and gauges, etc.
• Tire changer
• Tire/wheel balancer and weights
• Tire repair station
How far does the employee have to walk to pull tires from the warehouse?
Are the necessary tools and equipment for oil changes nearby where the service is being performed? Specifically look for these items:
• Oil drain
• Oil rig
• Oil filters
• Filter wrench
• Filter catalog
• Fender covers
• Other required tools
Additional things to look for include how far and how many times does the employee have to walk during the service procedure?
Are there other wasted time and motion issues observed?
Now that you have observed these two services being performed at your location I have a few questions:
• What happens if additional service suggestions are discovered during the process?
• What happens of the customer says yes? Or cannot be contacted?
• How can you improve the efficiency and reduce the time it takes your employees to complete the service?
• Would doing so benefit your customers?
• Would doing so benefit your employees?
• Would doing so help improve your location’s operational excellence?
It is by no accident that I chose those two services for this article. After all they are the most often performed services by most locations in our industry. Simply addressing methods to improve efficiencies for these two services sets the stage for further opportunities at your location.
For instance, apply the same observation and questioning process to:
• Other services performed at your location regularly
• Review your stockroom layout for related efficiencies
I cannot wrap up this article without addressing one more item that really upsets me (and more importantly my wife) after having services performed. Upon returning to the service provider to pick up our vehicle we often are required to wait around while the clerk finishes filling out the invoice, locates the keys, finds related warranty or other documentation, etc. In other words, they waste a lot of time and effort.
Again, we are not the only ones this bugs. It happens to be one of the leading points of dissatisfaction pointed out in the J.D. Power survey. To help improve your location’s efficiencies here I would ask that you consider the following questions:
• Do you have a procedure for finalizing the invoice before customer arrival?
• Do you have a double check policy to ensure all services were performed and correctly?
• Does you have a place for filing completed invoices and keys?
• What other steps can be taken to improve efficiencies at this step of the customer experience?
As I mentioned earlier in this article, having someone else involved in a time and motion study of your facility may be of great benefit in uncovering areas of potential improvement. I can personally attest to this by my past experience running a store and I know the adage I quoted earlier, “cannot see the forest for the trees” is really true. I have also seen this process in action with the Twenty Group model, resulting in outstanding operational improvements being realized.
Let me leave you with one last thought: If you continue to do the same things the same way, how do you expect to change the results.