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   In tough times like these, it is natural to make an effort to bolster your service department in an attempt to maximize cash flow. As consumers are putting money into what they've got, rather than buying new, there are many dealers marketing their service departments to take advantage of every available boating dollar.

  As you consider leaning on your service department for survival, there are 10 things to consider:

1. Involve the team in marketing and promotions to ensure that you don't promote something that is difficult or impossible to deliver. Promotions may involve more staff, hours or parts, and these needs should be run past the departments responsible for providing the service. I've seen some great ideas that come from involving the team, such as using the boat show to hand out discount cards for the new service customers that do work with you during the slow season, or launching education clinics on the effects of ethanol and what services can be done to prevent problems.

2. This is no time to have your tech plunging toilets or changing the oil in your car. Review all the things that are keeping your techs from turning wrenches and work at removing these revenue robbers.

3. Parts and paperwork need to be organized now more than ever. Track the open repair orders, the job status, the sublets, and organize the boats on the lot so you can get to the jobs with minimal effort.

4. Remember the old Queen song, "We Are the Champions," and apply it to your service department. The people who work in service department. The people who work in  service and parts tend to be very motivated by recognition for their ability to "get'r done" when times are tough. Let them know they are your champions and they are likely to pull harder for you.

5. Customer communication is vital. If you stay in touch, you can charge $1,500, and the customer doesn't hear from you, you could knock $500 off the bill and they will still be mad. So much money can be made by staying in touch and offering additional work to the tickets you currently have open.

6. Track each technician and their efficiency, and the total shop hours billed daily. Share this information with them to keep the communication and labor hours flowing. Tracking efficiency is as simple as looking at how many hours you are able to bill, including internal work, warranty work and customer pay work, compared to how many hours we were at work today. It does not have to be fancy or complicated.

7. Crank up the hours per R.O. (repair order). This is a number that, along with efficiency, should be reviewed regularly. What else can we sell? What else does this boat need? Pull the service history on the boat, run a recall and TSB info report and look at the boat as if it were yours. What would be a nice upgrade? Some new electronics? A prop? Just a good solid detail? Every boat you see has something else it needs if you would only find it and sell it.

8. Dig through this past year's work orders history to see what work was not done that you had documented as a need. There are so many reasons why the work was not done. It could be due to parts not being available, no time to do the work, customer wanted the boat back asap, etc. Dig and find the available hours. Some may be jobs we already spent the time diagnosing and creating a parts list for. It is time to collect.

9. Go on a "treasure hunt," looking for all available dollars floating around the service and parts department: warranty work, parts, claims, unpaid work orders, the pile of scrap metal that can be taken to the dump. There is bound to be something back there.

10. Lastly, you may need to revisit the job descriptions of your team. Have you cut staff? Have you put additional responsibility on certain peoples' plates? Make sure the job descriptions reflect this- even if it is only temporary.

     The work we do tweaking our service and parts efficiency and attracting new customers to our service department can really help us to gain market share when things turn around. No matter what the market is doing, it is always beneficial to have a service and parts department that you can count on.

10 Tips for a Strong Service Department