[313] 506-8069


The cyclical nature of the marine service department can often bring feast or famine. It's ironic considering we are usually too busy to eat during the feast time of year! Unfortunately, the rush to get jobs done can cut into profitability and customer satisfaction. Here are ten things to consider if you find yourself in a situation where your shop is booked days (or weeks) out, at any given time.

Organize those repair orders.

   When we have less time, we need more order. Avoid the temptation of letting work orders pile up and take over. Make the time to place each one soon after the write up, and review their placement daily. A route sheet can help with this. The work orders can be separated based on jobs needing diagnosis, jobs waiting on parts, jobs waiting on approval, and jobs involving individual technicians. Organized work orders keep customers from slipping through the cracks.

Make the time tangible.

   Knowing how much time we have available to sell is easier if we have a tangible schedule. Include your diagnostic time, and consider making time in each day to diagnose new work orders so the parts can be ordered in time for the work to be preformed. Extra time should be put aside for rigging, especially when there are boat shows, events, or even key selling weekends on the horizon.

Prioritize jobs.

   Each job should be examined and objectively prioritized. It makes sense for most dealerships to prioritize new boat customers, fixed-first visit comebacks, and customers who rely on their boats for their livelihood. Management should also determine if it makes sense to prioritize quick service and basic maintenance. Even if you have no new news, a quick call or email letting them know that they are still on your radar can make a big difference. It is also crucial to stay in contact with your team. the techs, parts, detail, sales, management and sublets all need to be informed and motivated with frequent contact.

Consider quick service.

   Few people are going to wait weeks for basic maintenance. One way to ensure you get the good 'gravy' work is to offer quick service. This can be done by designating techs specifically to quick service, or by dedicating a check of time daily for easy jobs. Tickets qualify for this feature if the line items consist of only quick jobs. Some shops charge a premium service fee in high season for this. Another big benefit to this is less boat congestion on the lot, and subsequently less lot damage.

Order in.

    It sounds like a small thing, but ordering lunch or even dinner into the dealership can be a huge morale booster at a time when you really need the team to work hard for you. As an added advantage, lunch in the shop can also become a shop meeting and may lead to a shorter break time, especially if your employees are paid based on productivity.

Get the most out of your team.

   This tends to work best when you ask the team for their ideas on how to best leverage their talents to get more done. Ideas can include productivity-based pay, staggered shifts, overtime, support staff assistance with moving boats, running parts and work orders etc. One of the best ways to motivate employees is to ask them for possible solutions for your toughest problem. If you truly listen and reward their input, you will be amazed at the increase in their productivity.

Get help

    When looking at the numbers, there may come a point when it makes sense ( and dollars) to add additional staff, even if only on a seasonal basis. This decision should not be made based on a gut feeling: it should be based on the return on capital. Do you have enough work to profitably employ another staff member?

Be honest.     

   While it is a good quality to want to make every customer happy, it is dangerous to become a compulsive people-pleaser who says 'yes' to every customer request. Make sure you give estimates of both time and money based on fact. What is the job truly going to cost? When is the boat really going to be evaluated? Be honest and upfront- even when it hurts. The customers may not like the answer initially, but they will learn to count on you to always tell the truth. That quality builds a long-term trust that 'yes-men' will never gain.


    The worst sins of service often rear their ugly heads this time of year. In the rush to get jobs completed, it is tempting to cut corners and lose our hours per R.O. Many of the extra needed maintenance items don't take much time, and they may save the customer and you another trip in- perhaps even a comeback. Take full and proper advantage of the time each boat is in a work day. Diagnose and repair properly, and keep your focus on quality control. Keep in mind the old adage: ' If you are going to do a job, do it well.'

   In the service department, the switch from bored to backed-up can happen very quickly, so it is important to be aware of the increase in volume and handle it as proactively as possible. Taking the best care of each customer, ensures our bust season is also our profitable season.

You Are Backed Up in Service - Now What?