Special Report

logoWard’s
Dealer 500

New-hire training doesn’t end quickly at Criswell Chevrolet’s service department.

The Gaithersburg, MD-based dealership continues training long after employees have shed their rookie status.

Director of Service Operations Mark Harne thinks that’s why the dealership’s service department continues to thrive 35 years after it first opened.

The training fits into Criswell’s basic principles: Hire the best and keep the place clean. That leads to customer satisfaction and interdependence of the sales and service departments.

“It’s crucial,” Harne says. “Customer retention is extremely important. It’s a highly competitive market, and probably 70% of the sales we have are repeat buyers.

“When customers come here to purchase a vehicle, we retain them as a (service department) customer so they can purchase their next vehicle here.”

The department services about 160 vehicles a day. Harne estimates an average of 30 were purchased at other dealerships.

Service department personnel hold weekly lunch meetings at which they discuss previous week’s events. They’ll even highlight certain situations through role playing.

Harne describes his department as a lateral-support system. Each service advisor works with a group of four technicians, one of whom serves as a group leader dispatching repair orders.

“He is responsible for making sure the requirements are met, and the service advisor is responsible for collecting the work, selling the work and maintaining a relationship with the customer,” Harne says.

Since this system was implemented six years ago, the service department has seen profitability surge.

“It doubled our profitability within an 18-month period,” says Harne.

Criswell Chevrolet ranks 69th on this year’s Ward’s Dealer 500, with revenue totaling $177,935,421. Of that amount, the service department sees $6,723,127.

Recently, the department began what Harne calls a ‘dab-a-lube’ process. Instead of telling customers their vehicles need particular fluids, technicians show them the color and condition of the current fluids.

“It’s a show-and-tell,” he says. “It’s much easier to get a customer to purchase something at that point than telling them over the phone something needs to be changed. It builds integrity, and it builds the value of what we’re trying to do.”

It’s that extra mile that makes all the difference, Harne says. “It’s not OK just to be average.”

egenoff@wardsauto.com