As I wake the morning after Election Day, I ask myself how our country can be so divided? Our citizens don’t simply stand for different political ideologies any longer but carry with them an animosity like never before. A bipartisan government now seems more like a fading ideal than an important goal since two sides so vehemently disagree. This same division faces dealerships. How we hope all employees are working together for a common goal has been upended with internal policies and processes that cause infighting amongst departments.
When talking about store structure, it is often we see a sales department and service department at odds. Sure, they work together when they need to, but like the House and Senate, they’re always battling for positioning. What are we doing to cause turmoil among our two departments?
Here are a few ways we see division between fixed and variable ops:
- It is relatively common that I hear sales departments complaining they are required to pay the same amount for reconditioning work to get a new vehicle/trade-in “lot-ready” as customers, or sometimes even more. They feel the work they do to drive traffic to service should earn them an internal (discounted) rate. On the flip-side of this, we hear service departments bragging that they’re the real profit-winners of the dealership, never mentioning much of their total profit is made off the backs of the front-end of the house. This causes division.
- Quite often we see sales managers having to explain themselves to the Fixed Ops Director (read: put out fires) when a salesperson switches an in-store service customer from paying for a large repair bill to purchasing a new vehicle instead. Service feels as if they’re having profit stolen from them in those instances, whereas sales departments are looking to recycle and keep a previous customer in the dealership family. Just placing a permanent salesperson in the service waiting area, or offering trade-in evaluations for inbound service customers, can be met with disdain and animosity from departments.
- The wait time of reconditioning is often a headache for, not just ownership, but the sales floor. Leads pile up in the CRM from interested customers waiting to see pictures or schedule a test drive, but it is difficult for service to sometimes see the urgency in that, versus keeping up with their current in-service customers. Dealers must find a way to streamline this process and communication.
- I see a lack of reciprocal help being performed between departments. It is a part of many “road to the sale” processes that a salesperson is to perform a service walk with their customers, to introduce them to service and a service writer. The hope is to build value in the store’s service department and bring that customer back in for all of their maintenance. Sometimes this occurs right after a shopper has agreed to purchase as well. I’ve long asked why we instead can’t request a service writer to leave their department and come up into the showroom to introduce themselves personally to customers/new buyers? Is it required that introduction must take place in the service department? As if a service drive is a mystery that enamors shoppers? We must work together to build value in our departments and create reciprocation of help.
- At the same time, I strongly side with service that the sales team must become more involved in scheduling the first service appointment, making sure to greet, engage, and entertain their previous customers in for service. Sales should complete post-sale calls so these buyers become loyal clients ongoing to the organization. Heck, maybe even be their shuttle driver. Service scheduling can’t simply be done entirely by a service BDC or service writer. If the salesperson has the relationship, we should leverage that by scheduling first service appointments.
In the end, there are several policies between sales and service departments that may cause resentment. It is ownership and management that can set forth policies and procedures that allow dealership departments to be bipartisan. For the good of the store, we must work to cross the aisle (or showroom or shop) and work for each other rather than solely alongside each other. Much like determining results from our current election doesn’t happen overnight, nor does getting sales and service to see eye to eye. It takes time. But finding a cohesive way for these two departments to work together instead of apart is a benefit, not just to employees, but to customers as well. This is the way.