When Joe Miller became service manager of Webster Groves Subaru in suburban St. Louis in October 2018, he found his shop didn't have enough time or space to do its work.
While the service department typically filled 40 to 50 repair orders a day, it carried over another eight to 10 tickets to the next day.
"We couldn't get all the work done that people were coming in for," Miller told Fixed Ops Journal. "We were having a tremendous amount of carryovers and frustrated customers."
Almost immediately, Miller extended the store's Saturday service hours to 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; the shop previously had closed at 1 p.m. Last December, he also extended the dealership's weekday service hours — previously 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. — to 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. He overhauled his technicians' work shifts to accommodate the longer hours, and he hired two more techs to fill out his team of 10 line techs in the eight-bay shop.
The changes contributed to increased sales, Miller says, because service customers appreciated the shorter waits and greater convenience. The techs were happier too, he adds, because their schedules were more flexible and created more consecutive days off.
As demands for service increase, limited shop capacity is a growing problem for many new-vehicle dealerships. Cox Automotive reported in its most recent Service Industry Study that customer wait times are getting longer as use of service bays grows. As 86 percent of dealership service bays are in use on a typical day, the study notes, 30 percent of consumers reported their biggest complaint with dealership service was that it took longer than they expected.
To address these issues, "more and more dealerships [are] offering service hours in the evenings and on weekends, even on Sundays," says Darrel Ferguson, director of performance management at Cox Automotive's Xtime subsidiary. The Cox study suggests that about half of dealerships are handling higher demand by scheduling more service on weekends. Extended hours also enable a dealership to bring in more techs and keep them busy without adding service bays, analysts say.
Terry Weszner, fixed operations manager at Kupper Subaru in Mandan, N.D., says his shop was scheduling appointments as much as two weeks in advance because his techs couldn't keep up with demand, even when they doubled up on using service bays. Weszner couldn't add a bay, so he extended his shop hours to 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. six days a week. The shop previously was open weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The expanded schedule allowed him to hire four techs.
"It's definitely reduced our wait time," Weszner says. "We went down to a couple days as far as booking out, and sometimes customers can even get in the next day."