Led by Axel Esser of HGS, the service managers for the dealerships of a German premium automobile manufacturer meet twice a year for mutual discussions in an open and trusting atmosphere. In June 2015 the venue was Bad Homburg. The group of automotive service managers has been meeting at this two-day event since 2006. The participating dealerships take turns in hosting the meetings. This way the managers are always right in the middle of the action, learning something about the history of the dealerships involved and, during workshop tours, gaining some insight into the service flow. The host for the summer 2015 meeting was the service manager of a car dealership with nine affiliates in eight locations, with a company history starting in 1927. The manager has been serving in this capacity for 15 years and has already won several awards for innovation in the service sector. Axel Esser of HGS Concept initiated and designed the program. He has moderated the meetings from the beginning, and he picks topics in consultation with the participants. He sets procedures, collects and processes all the relevant company data, and manages presentations and discussions on new ideas and fields of business. The group has grown together over the years, developing trust and openness. The exploration of experiences and results is interesting and useful for all participants. This month's meeting was held under the motto "customer loyalty". The agenda also included discussions on extended warranties and direct reception via tablet PC. On the subject of "customer loyalty" a study was made of how many new car customers come into the workshop for their general inspection. Some of the participants write to the customers via their current service advisor - 40 percent is considered a good return. Sixty percent can be achieved by those who call the customer directly using the CRM system to arrange an appointment. In the trucking segment 50 percent rate of successful calls can be achieved, in the field of commercial van transportation 37 percent. Additional points of discussion under this topic were the manufacturer’s bonus, the fixed price for a general inspection, the quality of data in the CRM system, as well as dealing with the German data protection laws regarding phone marketing. The latter is mostly handled not by a separate marketing campaign, but by the service assistant asking customers to sign a release during their visit to the dealership. So far about 65 percent of customers have signed. Another item on the agenda was the issue of extended warranties for new and used cars. Here the focus was the exploitation of service potential: ideally 60 percent of the vehicles sold should return again for service. In this context, the active co-operation between Sales and Service was addressed, as well as the related commission. The goal is to sell 800 extended warranties per dealer-ship in 2015; for 2017 the target is 1,000. On the other hand, in the area of service for vehicles that are older than six years, the participating companies still need to catch up. However, this does not include the special field of classic cars; here the personal commitment of the employees is essential. Young, interested mechanics are currently being introduced systematically into this special area. Vehicle direct acceptance via tablet computer was also discussed in detail. The question is: How to span the time until the manufacturer delivers a unified system? Should each dealership install its own software? There are stormy waters to navigate, for example interfaces and connecting with other software used by the company. If direct reception of a car previously took 30 minutes, it should only take 20 minutes with digital support - not 40 minutes. Comparison of key figures gives a clear message: The ratio of productive to unproductive time is currently deteriorating – regarding both material and staff. All participants see the need for action to reduce the cost per order. "We have 16,000 workshop throughputs per year. If we can only speed up the writing of an invoice by three minutes, that's a lot of dough“, commented one participant. Speaking of invoicing: The managing director of a software company presented his system for automated auditing to the group. The application, which works as a kind of inspection of invoices, provides a quick and easy control. It helps to avoid cancellation or recalculations. The director of the host dealership also made a contribution to the event. He talked about current and future challenges in the automotive business from the perspective of the entire dealership chain. As a continuation of the previous group meeting in Büdingen, his contribution was marked by openness and transparency. With an emphasis on the subject of personnel, he stressed that it’s always the people who make up a company. He took the position that "the 360 days in a year can’t always go by without any conflict. Each day in a dealership is different, many things go differently than planned. It often depends on little things, in all aspects. We need to practice every day to become masters". To complete a productive event, everybody went to Frankfurt in the evening. With the opera as a starting point, they took pedicab rides to Sachsenhausen for a cozy get-together drinking Äppelwoi (cider from Frankfurt). "A great meeting, which gave me a lot of momentum. However, if I think about everything I’ll have to do now, I will need a day with 48 hours," concluded one of the participants. The next meeting in 2015 will take place in Münster.
Exchange Rather than Competition: Automotive Service Manager Meeting