Dick Chitty retired in 2003 from Toyota, where he put his signature on an approach to parts and service that helped make the Lexus luxury brand an industry benchmark for customer care.
Legendary Lexus exec tells how he evaluates a service department
Chitty remains an active watcher of fixed operations — so much so that he shared his recipe for success with Fixed Ops Journal.
It starts with Chitty's own process for sizing up a dealership's service and parts capability, based on the hundreds of stores he visited as the factory guy.
That four-part process started with a "first-glance impression" and a walkaround and conversation with shop personnel, Chitty said, "to judge fairly quickly for myself, is this a good operation based on what I am observing and learning?"
Only after he informally assessed what he called discipline and attitude would Chitty move onto financial matters and issues of customer loyalty and retention.
Here is Chitty's outline of his process, with additional comments.
Clean parking lot and customer waiting area. "I started looking as soon as I pulled into the lot. In general, does it look like a place that's ready to do business?"
Organized service and parts departments. "Another first impression. Is there good flow? You'd like to see that there isn't any clutter, no open boxes sticking out into the aisles."
Clean workshop floor and tool benches. "Look in the corners. Are there boxes full of junk or scraps? You don't want to see any places where people have lost track of stuff."
Clean uniforms. "Do [shop employees] have clean uniforms? Do they take some pride in how they look? It also shows how well the store supports its technicians and staff."
People are friendly, pleasant and positively engaged. "I always wanted to go out into the shop and parts area and ask questions. You can tell whether people are engaged or not."
People demonstrate professional appearance. "This is more about attitude than uniforms. You want to hear people saying things like 'we just organized this' or 'we're planning to do this,' because it shows they have pride of ownership."
People walk with a purpose. "I call it a kick in their steps. It's not a saunter, but more, 'I'm making this happen.'"
Service and parts volumes show steady increases year to year. "I didn't look at the books until I'd walked through the back of the store and talked to everybody. Then I'd gather the dealers and managers around a table for some coffee conversations. There should be a pattern of growth if everybody's paying attention to basics."
Profits from service and parts are solid and overall operations are balanced. "It shows the dealer and managers consistently manage all phases of operations. They're not just lurching from crisis to crisis. You get a feel for a general manager, if he's just about sales or if he's really involved in service and parts. Does the owner talk about all departments?"
Customer-linked dealership technology system in place. "This is really important, but not every dealership is really focused on following up. They have to keep track of their customers after they buy and they must understand what happened to buyers who didn't return for service — what went wrong."
[Customer relationship management system] is fully integrated throughout dealership, used to retain high percentage of service customers. "A few stores are really good, but others are really not. If you don't concentrate on customer loyalty and retention, that's just money thrown away."
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