I have visited a lot of dealerships in my 39-year career. The things I see never cease to amaze me.

One area I focus on is the appearance of the service department. When I walk in, I try to view it from the customer’s prospective. Most employees and managers have become accustomed to their surroundings, and this is the one dealership area I see as great opportunity for improvement.

While your service department is closed, tour it with your managers. Start in the service reception area. Stand at the entrance and just look and smell. Yes, smell. It’s one of our senses that help us shape impressions. Frankly, some service departments stink!

Here is what I would recommend to clean things up.

Remove negative signs. The one that gets me is: “Due to insurance regulations, no unauthorized personnel is allowed in the service department.” I have asked many service managers if that’s true and no one has been able to confirm this.

Take the sign down and consider replacing it with something to this effect: “Shop tours are available upon request.”

Tire displays should be neat and filled. Empty spaces look bad. Tire wraps are an eyesore. Get rid of them.

Make sure service write-up desk areas are neat and clutter-free. Are there posted notes on the wall and computer screen? Take them down.

Trash containers need to washed and cleaned. I sure hope they are empty and not running over.

No one should be allowed to eat at their desks. The smell of onions left over from an adviser’s sandwich is unacceptable. 

Work areas must be free of grease and dust. Computer connection cords need to be hidden, not tangled up and exposed. Hand-out brochures should be kept orderly and current.  Equipment should be stored neatly.

Have the proper equipment and supplies for cleaning up spilled fluids.

Work benches and bays should be presentable. Some auto technicians just aren’t organized. I get that. But any improvement would be a help.

Bright back-shop lighting is an asset as long as it is not highlighting messes.

Make sure the customer lounge is clean. You shouldn’t have to ask why.

Why should we be concerned with overall appearance? Pride in workmanship is one reason. Good impressions are another.

Lots of dealerships have invested big money into upgraded facilities. It’s only right for the staff to take care of that investment. You will be glad they did. So will they. And so will your customers.

Fixed-operations consultant Lee Harkins heads M5 Management Services based in Pelham, AL. He can be reached at 205-358-8717 at leeharkins@m5ms.com.