A dealer unrolled his plans for a new service department. As he proudly presented the blueprints at a meeting, he mentioned the location of the cashier’s office.

Someone in the group asked, “Why do you have a cashier’s office? Why not have your service advisors be the cashiers?”

He stopped dead in his tracks. The meeting turned into a 4-hour heated discussion with passion from both sides. At the end of the day, neither side wavered from their original position.

But the ones supporting a “cashier-less” service department were the dealers who knew it worked. And work it does. It has many benefits to both the customer and dealership.

If you want to improve customer satisfaction and retention, this is a technique everyone should consider. Since this is such a different approach, many people will completely disqualify it, saying, “No way will that work in our store!”

Others will be excited and will want to start implementing at once.

But before you take the cashier out of your service department, let’s review some of the issues:

Cash box: Take a look at the percentage of transactions in your service department that use some type of plastic card. In many dealerships, it’s about 80%-90% of all transactions. How much cash is really handled?

If you have three or four advisors, one cash drawer with a small amount of cash may be all you need. Some office managers just have a fit allowing “those service advisors” handle any amount of cash. But how much cash do they really need? Maybe $150? If you can’t trust them with that, why are they working for you?

What do we do about the retail parts customers? Give the parts department a cash box as well.

The current cashier: What do you do with that person? You have two options:

1.You could just eliminate the position and release this person.

2. You could train them to follow up on unsold work, do maintenance reminder phone calls, file, manage the rental cars. Those are just a few necessary duties within a dealership.

The advantages with this process well outweigh the disadvantages. To those of you who have written service before, consider this:

How many times have you sent customers to the cashier’s window knowing you have exceeded your original estimate but you sent them anyway just to see their reaction? If they pay it, great! It they balk, well, we address it when and if that happens. But either way, we run the risk of losing a client. Can we really afford to risk losing any clients?

Training: Yes, there is some service-advisor training involved, but it’s not extensive. In addition, your customer satisfaction will improve when the service advisors are trained to take care of the customers from start to finish.

“Active delivery” is a process needed in all stores. If you want to improve your client retention, this is a requirement. With this system, the games end right away. The service advisor must explain to the customer the repairs in detail and answer any questions. The customer will appreciate the extra time the advisor spends with them.

The service advisors: With the additional duties, the number of repair orders an advisor can effectively handle may be reduced. You must ask yourself: Are you willing to give up quantity for quality?

Customer handling improves greatly. And the advisors who have been on this system for a while usually do not want it any other way. They love it.

This process requires a complete change in your current mindset.

Any old saying goes: “Continue to do what you have always done and you will get what you have always gotten.”

What do you have now with a cashier system in the service department? You have a system that has been normalized for many years, but has become outdated and can be expensive.

Ask your managers: “Why do we have a cashier?”

If the reply is, “Because we have always done it this way,” then it’s time to consider this option.

A cashier-less system improves customer satisfaction, employee morale and the bottom line. Everyone wins!

Lee Harkins, president of ATcon in Birmingham, AL, is a dealership management consultant and industry speaker. He is at 800-692-2719 and LHarkins@ATconSSE.com