With today's computer-generated repair orders, labor-operation codes or op codes serve several functions to help the service department run more efficiently.

Most dealer management systems have multiple fields that can be assigned and tied into specific op codes.

Examples of assigned fields are customer concerns, causes and corrective action. Op codes can charge the customer a specific labor amount and automatically flag a technician's time.

Labor skills can also be assigned to op codes to ensure that jobs are dispatched to the appropriate technicians.

Besides using labor-operation codes when the repair orders are first written, service departments can also add them to a repair order for up-sells as well as specific vehicle concerns.

Let's look at ways to use those codes as a marketing tool.

Vehicle Inspection Report

Offering a free inspection report is a win-win for the service department. First, it's great advertising since consumers love anything free. Second, it's great for finding additional up-sell opportunities.

A vehicle inspection report can also be used to follow-up with the help of labor operation codes.

Op codes can be assigned to specific concerns discovered during the vehicle inspection. They can also be used to report the specific condition of certain components. The box below contains an example of using specific op codes for the condition of tires and brakes.

Once a process is in place, either follow up by phone or create a direct-mail campaign using the specific op codes. For conditions that “require attention in the near future” the campaign may be performed a few months after the service visit. Naturally, campaigns for conditions that require immediate attention should be performed within days of the service visit.

Op codes assigned to specific concerns don't have to be limited to just tires and brakes. Batteries, wiper blades, air filters, shocks, belts and hoses are others.

Op Codes for Declined Repairs

Using a specific op code for declined repairs allows the DMS to run a report for easy follow-up. To make the declined-repairs follow up easier, the service advisors can enter information about the needed repairs into either the cause or corrective-action fields.

Develop a process to follow up declined repairs. Service advisors are familiar with their customers' concerns, so it's best for advisors place the follow-up phone calls.

Empower the advisors to make certain decisions, such as specific discount percentages, to entice the customer to return for the needed repairs. Include accountability to ensure the calls are made.

Advertising, Coupons and Op Codes

Labor-operation codes can also be used to track marketing efforts. Assign specific op codes to specific advertising campaigns.

Take, for example, an oil-change coupon that's used in several different print media. Even though each coupon may have the same price for the oil change, a different op code should be assigned to each separate advertising media. Print the actual op code on the coupon to make it easier for the advisors.

Once an advertising campaign is over, a report can be created using the specific op codes, and showing how much revenue was generated by each advertising channel.

Ad expenses can be compared to the revenue generated by separate campaigns. This lets managers decide the best use of their advertising budget.

The next time you are creating labor operation codes, think of them as more than just a means to help run the shop more efficiently. Think of them as a means to drive more traffic into the dealership.

Fixed-operations expert James Clausen is a veteran of the auto industry.