How to Quarterback a Shop: The Duties of a Service Manager

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Heavy-duty service managers, how busy are thee? Let us count the ways.

First off, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page as far as what a service manager is. For most shops, a service manager or shop foreman are one or two people who oversee daily operations and have techs under them. In larger shops, you may find service managers have additional service writers under them. For the purposes of this article, we’re talking about the general shop boss who is divvying up everyone’s duties.

Now, as we mentioned, in big shops, you may have dedicated service managers with varying duties. In smaller shops, the owner may wear that hat (along with several others). The job looks different in every shop you visit, and the title may look a little different, too (we’ve seen them called service writers as well), but there are essentially 11 service manager duties that need attention every day. Dropping the ball or not following through on any of them can make the difference between having a well-run, profitable shop and an inefficient shop that barely gets by.

11 Service Manager Duties

1) Yard Check

First thing in the morning, the service manager goes through the yard and makes note of what trucks are and aren’t there. Maybe some units weren’t there the night before, and some that were might disappear by morning’s light. Knowing what’s at your shop without having to look makes you look good to customers when they call about their trucks throughout the day.

2) Dispatch Deliveries and Pickups

If your shop offers pickup and delivery service, you need a list of what trucks in the shop need to be delivered and what trucks, including tows, need to be picked up.

Something to keep in mind: sending a tech to pick up and deliver is expensive. They should be turning wrenches. If you don’t have a non-skilled, entry-level employee to run trucks and you need to send your techs to pick up and deliver, then you absolutely need to charge for drive time.

If you are sending your techs out on deliveries and pickups, consider offering mobile repairs. It’s convenient for the customer and the techs are doing what you hired them for even when they’re out of the shop.

3) Assign Work to Technicians

Within the first 15 minutes of the day, you need to get your techs to work. Once they clock in, they’re making money…but the shop isn’t making money until they start working on jobs. Know who’s there, who’s working, and who needs work. Don’t hesitate to assign jobs before the parts arrive, either. You’ll have to time it right, but a tech can start on a tear-down so the job goes quickly once they have the parts in-hand.

4) Seek Out Work

One of the essential service manager duties is to take repair requests and convert them into service orders. But beyond that, your service manager should be part of drumming up work in the first place.

In one of our recent Diesel Stories podcasts, David Saline, the VP of Sales at Drive, told us some stories about his days running a shop. “We had a rule: If the phones aren’t ringing, it’s the service writer’s job to go out and make them ring.” Besides their regular duties, his shop’s service writers had a quota of cold calls to make each week; usually 50, which broke down to “about 10 a day.” They often used a service called Fleetseek to help them locate new customers.

In the same episode, Fullbay COO Chris O’Brien agreed that service managers have a role to play in bringing customers into the shop. “If you have a chain, what do you think is more effective, pushing the chain or pulling the chain? This is the same concept with this business. You got to pull business into your shop, you don’t push it into your shop.”

5) Turn Repair Requests Into Service Orders

However you end up receiving requests—whether through email, phone calls, or walk-ins, don’t procrastinate on getting them into the shop’s system. Taking immediate action keeps jobs from falling through the cracks. It also eliminates the problem of having no documentation once the job is done.

Make sure you include as much information as you can get. Record the mileage and pass on the customer comments. Managers who used to be technicians can diagnose issues, too. Any pre-work you can do will help the tech once he gets into the job.

6) Write Up Work

This is the part of your job where you can make the most impact setting up your techs for success to do quick, quality work. Some jobs are straightforward and don’t require any diagnosing — think missing mud flaps or wheel seals that need work. Jobs like that, along with PMs and other work you see frequently, should be “canned jobs,” or global services.

Assigning global services saves time because the tech knows exactly what to do and what parts they’ll need. Techs can get in, do the job, and get the truck back out quickly with these types of services.

7) Review Service Orders

Every service manager should be reviewing service orders to make sure estimates are accurate and that invoices are complete. This is especially true if your service managers aren’t the ones doing the invoicing!

Looking over service orders gives you the chance to remove or update incorrect or inappropriate things before sending out estimates. After the work is done, it’s another chance to ensure the invoice-to-be is clean and all parts, labor, and supplies are included.

8) Work Authorization

You’ll often need to obtain work authorization from a customer before you can get started on a job, which means it’s even more important to create a clean estimate.

As you prepare the estimate, make sure the labor time that goes on it is reasonable and that the parts markup is accurate according to your shop’s price matrices. Even in cases where the customer pre-authorizes work, prepare the estimate and check it against the approved dollar amount. That gives you a chance to give the customer something in writing if the job runs over authorized cost.

9) Place Finished Jobs in the Pickup or Delivery Queue

Service managers should keep a list of completed jobs and note whether the trucks should be delivered or if the customer plans on picking them up. Make sure you check the customer’s credit status, too, so you know how to manage the hand-off. For example, if the job is COD (Cash On Delivery), you want to have that information handy, so you know to collect payment before releasing the truck. That not only ensures you get your money, but it preserves the relationship with the customer, as well.

10) Help Your Technicians

Whether or not you were a technician in a past life, service manager duties include helping current techs. That means jumping in with an assist as needed. Whatever skills you can offer are useful. You might diagnose an issue, help determine the best way to handle a repair, or troubleshoot problems with the diag laptop. If you’ve got the background and skills, you could also find yourself doing DOT inspections and actual repairs, too.

Pitching in is part of the job. Not only does it help increase tech efficiency, but it also creates a positive, teamwork-based environment.

11) Motivate Techs

The best service managers do two important things to get the most out of their techs:

  1. Thank them for doing a great job.
  2. Hold them accountable.

People want to be held responsible. But unless you’re also expressing appreciation for a job well done, your techs are going to feel like you’re just looking over their shoulder.

Appreciation can be as simple as a verbal “thank you for being an awesome tech,” or could be incentivized with efficiency bonuses. Motivating techs is easier if managers know who is clocked into work and who is clocked into a job, as well as which techs are having a hard time getting their jobs done and need extra assistance.

Being aware of your techs’ status will help you be a better overall manager.

Getting Help With Service Manager Duties

Any position in a repair shop is made easier with the right tools, and the service manager is no exception.
Fullbay was built from the ground-up to help service managers accomplish multiple responsibilities every day. You can create detailed service orders that convert to completed invoices with the click of a button, and even allows you to incorporate customer service requests to help you keep track of workflow in the bays. You can also check in on your techs in real-time, seeing who’s clocked in, who’s working, and who’s ready to jump on another job.

Fullbay automates the authorization process and includes a lockdown threshold that kicks jobs that exceed specified dollar amounts back for customer approval. In short, it’s the tool you need to track your shop’s efficiency and make corrections as-needed throughout the day.

Ready to learn more? Check out our free demo to get a feel for how Fullbay can help you quarterback your shop!

Suz Baldwin

About Suz Baldwin

Suz Baldwin got her start in the automotive industry, writing and editing for several motorcycle and classic car magazines straight out of college. In the years that followed, she’s written all sorts of copy for brands big and small while consuming enough coffee to paralyze a dinosaur.

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