Service techicians must write down everything they see wrong with the system.

Last month, I discussed ways to increase replacement productivity. This time, I'll discuss ways to increase productivity in service departments.

Remember that in service departments you are selling labor. Period. The parts are a great add on. However, you rarely sell parts without the labor to attach the part, unless your customers come to your shop and you allow parts purchases. With that said, to maximize service productivity you have to maximize labor productivity.

Here are some ways to maximize labor productivity:

1. The service technicians must write down everything they see wrong with the system. They owe it to the customer to let him know what is going on in his professional opinion and what to do about it. It is the customer's right to make an informed decision. And without all of the facts, the customer can't make an informed decision.

The interesting thing that happens once the service technician writes everything down is that the dollars per service ticket start going up. I don't mean the technician should recommend parts replacement or services that aren't truly needed. However, those that are, or those that are on their last legs ( i.e. pitted contractors) should be brought to the attention of the customer. Most customers, when educated, will choose to replace the parts. And, there is only one trip; there isn't the question of a callback (and another trip) if a part recommended for replacement fails a few weeks after the service was performed.

2. Start the service technicians from their homes. They are on their first call at 8 a.m. and you don't have to pay for travel time to the first jobs. Some contractors still do; however, it is a gift. If the service technicians stay out of the office in the mornings, they are more productive because they don't "see their buddies" and talk instead of going to the jobs. Give the service technicians their first calls the evening before. You may choose to not book a first call for the service technician who has been on call the evening before so that any emergencies can be handled.

3. Have a standard parts inventory on the trucks. And have a standard placement for that inventory on the trucks. This saves time looking for parts, eliminates unnecessary trips to the supply house and prevents damage caused by parts flying around in the back of the truck. It saves dollars and time.

4. Know the capabilities of the service technicians and match the technicians' abilities and personalities to the customer as much as possible. If you send a technician to a job that he is unfamiliar with and he hasn't worked on that type of equipment, he is likely to take longer on the job and cause a callback. But how do you get him to learn, you ask? Send him with a senior technician. In the long run, it usually is less expensive than having the technician fail by being on his own.

5. Plan the technicians' day. Try to make the travel time as short as possible. For those of you who do commercial work and bill for travel time, the customer will appreciate short travel times. Emergencies do come up where you have to have a long travel time; however, those instances should be the exception rather than the rule.

Next month, I'll discuss office productivity ideas.