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     There probably aren't many marine dealers who would not like to raise the profitability of their service department. For some great ideas on how to do this we contacted Valerie Ziebron, for her advice. " A lot of marine stores don't believe it is possible to have a profitable service and parts department," she says. "Yet there are stores of all sizes in different markets relying on service and parts to be a profit center by using solid business practices that are relying on service and parts to be a profit center by using solid business practices that are customer focused."

    Service departments are certainly not all the same, but there are guidelines that can be applied to maximize their efficiency. Here are ten solid ways Ziebron says the majority of marine stores can increase profitability.

1. Keep a tangible work schedule.

    In Parts it's easy to tell the customer you either do or don't have what they need. But most stores don't consider service time the same way. Scheduling the shop's available time the same way. Scheduling the shop's available time on paper or on the computer ensures that you can deliver the work you've promised and ensures your techs have enough work to keep them productive.

2. Do walkarounds to limit liability and increase sales per visit.

   Ideally do this with the customer when they drop off their boat, but at the very least do it before your first call back to the customer.

3. Track progress of open work orders on a route sheet or computer.

    A top customer complaint is that Service doesn't keep in touch. Keeping a route sheet for each job shows the last time you talked, when you're going to call them, and the job status. Anyone who answers the Service phone can see it.

4. Pre-load the shop with tomorrow's boats and pre-pull the parts.

    Organizing tomorrow morning's work before you leave for the day helps techs hit the ground running. Parts should be pulled and ready before everyone leaves for the night. Creating a staging area where lot personnel can pull the next boats to be serviced also helps efficiency.

5. Create internal work orders and bill Sales for related parts and labor.

    Service time as well as parts are often given away to sales instead of being billed. This inflates sales profitability at the expense of service and often gets the new customer started on a bad note.

6. Track and post the shop's billable hours for all employees to see.

     If the techs aren't turning wrenches the Service department isn't making money. Posting the department's billable hours reinforces the need for the service team to keep focused and honors them for their high productivity.

7. Maximize hours per work order by having techs find other needed work.

    Many shops want to hustle boats in and out while preforming only the requested work. Considering the time and resources required to run a boat through the service department, it's more profitable to identify and perform all needed work at once.

8. Proactively call customers in a timely manner.

     Upscale customers have grown to expect the same treatment they receive at luxury car dealerships. While many outcomes cannot be promised ( parts availability, guaranteed completion date, etc.), you can always promise and deliver-clear, prompt communication.

9. Tie pay plans to productivity for the entire team. 

    Behind every productive tech are great service and parts department staffs- including their management. Structuring the payment plans to benefit everyone for improved Service performance helps guarantee higher motivation and efficiency.

10. Quality check the boat before the boat before the customer sees it.

     Comebacks are costly on every level- from bad public relations to reduced Service productivity as you can shelve other work to resolve the original problem. Make sure to look at every job through the eyes of your customer before releasing a boat.

Ten Proven Ways to Boost Your Service Bottom Line