I’ll be the first to say I don’t know much about Obamacare, but it drove a discussion I had with a group of dealership service managers.

In my understanding of the new health-care plan, employees are considered part time if they work 30 or fewer hours a week. The question was raised how we could create a schedule for the service advisers to work under 30 hours? We ran with this discussion and we developed the following considerations that turned out to have nothing to do with Obamacare.

Most advisors currently work 9- or 10-hour days. The burnout factor can be a concern. What if we instead had two part-time advisers working 5 hours per day?

One service adviser would work from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., with an hour lunch starting at 11 a.m. A second adviser would work 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. with a 4-5 p.m. lunch break. Their working hours would overlap from noon to 1 p.m.

This is a new concept we developed during our conversation, and I see great value in it for many stores. Understand, this is venturing into uncharted territories.

Many managers will view this and say, “That will never work.” Those are the ones who will continue to do the same as always. The managers who run with this will likely succeed, maybe not by using this structure, but because they are open to new ways and are solution-focused rather than problem-focused.   

The customer must be the first concern when considering an overhaul of your current method of doing business. The process change must be made to ensure the quality of service is maintained or enhanced.

When additional people are added, it requires a disciplined method of communication.

The hour overlap is a key to ensuring this type of structure will work.

This period is designed to ensure a detailed passing of the customer from one adviser to the other. The advisers must brief the customers on the team approach during the write-up process.

The advisers must discuss each and every customer and pass on the customer’s details to each other. A summary of each repair order must be kept up to date and completed according to the established written process. The key is over-communications.

A part-time employee obviously would be a savings for the dealership. Think, too, about the talent pool in your area, how many potential professional customer service people have disqualified our industry because of the hours.

This type of schedule would be perfect for the parent who wants to be home in the afternoon with the children after school, or the retired professional who wants to play golf in the mornings and work into the afternoon. The options are endless.

Many dealerships are busy on Saturdays, but many employees don’t like to work long hours on that day. This type of schedule could address that issue.

Some managers would like to extend their hours, but have a difficult time with their current staff because no one wants to work the hours. This structure could be the option you are looking for.

Fixed-operations consultant Lee Harkins heads M5 Management Services based in Pelham, AL. He can be reached at 205-358-8717 at leesv40sw@aol.com.