How to End the In-Fighting

I've been asked over the years why the parts manager and the service manager do not get along in some stores. The parts department often is blamed for everything that goes wrong. The advisors will tell the customer, The reason we didn't have your truck done is the wrong part came in. Or they tell the customer some other outlandish story about how the parts department didn't pick up the part in time.

I've been asked over the years why the parts manager and the service manager do not get along in some stores.

The parts department often is blamed for everything that goes wrong. The advisors will tell the customer, “The reason we didn't have your truck done is the wrong part came in.”

Or they tell the customer some other outlandish story about how the parts department didn't pick up the part in time. Often those are fibs covering up such things as poor scheduling or the advisor forgetting to order the part.

The parts department hears bits and pieces, starts pushing back and the infighting begins.

The fight between the departments, if not addressed, can mushroom into war. One element is “ego” because neither department wants to be seen in a bad light by the dealer. The second is “ignorance” because neither side knows how to improve the situation.

Here is how to improve it:

The dealer or general manager needs to make the parts and service managers communicate with each other. It may be that you pull them both into the room, close the door and tell them not to come out until they have developed a written, workable improvement plan. Hold them to it. The plan should include:

  • Combined parts and service meetings and events.

    • These should be positive, without finger-pointing sessions.
    • Consider a dinner for them. Grill some steaks. If the dealer or general manager does that, it sends a team message.
    • Give the parts and service departments a sales goal. If they hit it, take the entire group on an outing, such as fishing or to a ball game.
    • This time of year is great to have a company picnic for parts and service employees and their families.

    Have both the service and parts managers sit down with each employee of the parts and service departments and interview them. The following questions can be asked:

    • We want to make more money for the dealership, serve more service clients and keep them coming back. In your opinion, what must we do to accomplish these objectives?
    • We are soliciting your opinion as to how we, as a team, can improve our operation. What are your observations?
    • If you were the dealer or owner of this dealership, what would you do to improve the parts and service departments?

    The service and parts managers must appear as a team. If the employees see them as a team working together, they will see that they will receive no “atta boys” for trashing the other side from their manager and the complaining will decrease greatly.

    The final element is their pay plans. Both the service manager and parts manager need to be paid off the combined performance of both departments.

  • The simplest plan that I recommend is total gross profit less controllable expenses times a percentage calculated on a monthly basis for the incentive portion of the plan. There are more elaborate plans, feel free to email me at [email protected].

  • The service advisors need some focus on parts sales. It could be as simple as a monthly spiff program based on the amount of parts sold. Never pay a percentage of the sales. The dealership will get the short end of this stick as time goes on.

  • The parts counter people should be paid a component of their compensation on an amount per flat rate hour produced in the service department. They have a gigantic impact on this. Remember, making money in the service department is a simple equation — flat rate hours times effective rate equals sales! Hours are the same as new or used car unit sales. You, as the dealer or general manager, can increase this number by simply asking the service manager every day, “How many hours were sold yesterday?”

Lee Harkins, president of ATcon in Birmingham, AL, is a dealership management consultant and industry speaker. He is at 800-692-2719 and [email protected]

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