“I want it, I want it, give it to me, give it to me, me, me” (tech jumping up and down).
“What! I don’t want that freakin’ dud. Give it to the new guy, buster. I’ve been here too long to work on that loser – whatsamatterforyouanyway.”
There’s an old saying about dispatch results – “If absolutely everyone is ticked off, the dispatcher is doing a great job,” meaning there ain’t any butt kissing goin’ on. For those of you who haven’t had the distinct pleasure of attempting to make customers gratified, writers satisfied, techs joyful and parts happy (as they get), while managing an out-of-control appointment and customer show-up surprise party – well Bubba, you haven’t felt angst.
Dispatching, whether it’s through a lowly newbie writer from the drive, or King Kong atop a five-foot elevated podium (ahhh memories of GM and Ford specialty days), is a territory fraught with grenades. These days I can’t help but note how dispatch personnel get enthusiastic over the installation of electronic dispatch in their sphere, since everyone else can now blame and vilify the impersonal DMS rather than them.
The proper dispatching of flat rate hours is a complex science, considerate of multiples of time commitments, skill level requirements, parts availability, diagnostic requirements, technical readiness, daily technician earnings, attitudes, internal pressures and special circumstances of all natures (i.e. emergencies, regular comebacks, really ticked off comebacks, sold units, so-called friend(s) of dealer, relatives, etc.). However, it’s almost always handled more artsy than near scientific, especially in shops with long-term employees. Here seniority often prevails over best case scenarios, and that reality has really ramped up in the past decade with the size of the average maintenance package shrinking from a plateful to a teaspoonful.
“So what,” you confidently proclaim. “We get the job done. The CSI is comparatively good, we make money, and the egotistical general manager we have stays off my back. I feel triumphant.” True, true, my guiltless friend, but another test measures how much service bill-paying money (gross profit) is missed due to dubious dispatching techniques. One of my client’s “really smart” fixed ops director (we’ll call him Bob May), in upstate New York, asked me to help his team understand the importance of proper dispatching, and its effect on the generated labor gross profit and effective gross profit per hour. Good stuff I thought.
So, to that end I constructed a spreadsheet to calculate what my notable friend asked for and it yielded some stimulating results. For instance, in a medium-sized shop of 11 techs, 95% output, an overall effective labor rate of $90, highly skilled techs paid $24, B techs at $18, and maintenance techs at $13, the percentage of “flat rate hour distribution” had a tremendous impact on the department’s net profit.
The accompanying chart shows an increase of $68 to $73 gross per flat rate hour, which creates a surprising additional $100,000 in annual net profit (gross turns into net in this situation). This increase was accomplished simply by changing the dispatching ratio per techs. Up the tech count to 20 and it creates over $180K additional gross. Of course, one has to staff to actual workmix, but the workmix today versus only ten years ago is upside down, while dealer service has reacted to this transformation at the pace of snail wearing wrong-sized Crocs.
The challenge of remaining competitive in the aggressive maintenance market environment partially depends on the ability of service management to measure, staff, and dispatch to the actual workmix, so that the cost of sale is minimized. The fact is brethren, we need less highly skilled techs than anytime in auto history (as a ratio of all skills), but we need more “skilled” (professional) maintenance techs (not hacks) than ever before – quick, alert the misdirected tech schools which seem to be clueless.
But wait …
If you would like this Excel spreadsheet to do your own calculations just send me a note to firstname.lastname@example.org and put on the subject line “Dispatching For Dummies” and I will send it along right away. But wait, there’s more. If you reply this decade, I will include a special bonus. I will include an Excel spreadsheet specifically for calculating your workmix versus your actual staffing needs for four easy payments of zero. Then you can apply the exact ratios to the dispatching calculation worksheet to determine how much more net is available to your department. Man, I shoulda sold vacuum cleaners on TV.