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Service managers oversee the entire service department and are responsible for the department's reputation, efficiency, and profitability. Service departments use computers to increase productivity and improve service workflow by scheduling customer appointments, troubleshooting technical problems, and locating service information and parts. Service managers oversee all service department operations and are typically responsible for hiring and supervising all department personnel, including technicians, service consultants, the shop supervisor (foreman) and dispatcher, the warranty administrator, and the cashier. The Service Manager also provides training on administrative policies procedures for all department personnel.
The term "service director" or "fixed operations manager" is used in larger dealerships to refer to someone who oversees not only the service department but also the parts department and the collision-repair and refinish shop. (Fixed operations refer to business that is independent of vehicle sales.) Both the Service Manager and the Parts Manager typically report to the Service Director. Service directors establish the policies and procedures for fixed-operations activities. They are typically responsible for developing and implementing advertising and marketing campaigns that promote the dealership's service department and parts department -- the latter for the benefit of "do-it-yourselfers."
The mission of the Service Manager is to satisfy the service and repair concerns of all customers who bring their vehicles in for service, and to operate the department so that it contributes to the dealership's profitability. It is the responsibility of the service manager to keep the service team focused on this mission, and to ensure that service is performed with the highest level of quality. This often means encouraging technicians to keep their skills up-to-date through periodic technical training offered by the automotive manufacturers on new systems and components.
Many service managers have been promoted to Service Manager after serving as Shop Foremen. They have an extensive technical background with management training, and typically have been in the business for 15 years or more.
Employees with automobile dealers work longer hours than do those in most other industries. Eighty-three percent of automobile dealer employees worked full time in 2008, and 35 percent worked more than 40 hours a week. To satisfy customer service needs, many dealers provide evening and weekend service. The 5-day, 40-hour week is the exception, rather than the rule, in this industry.
Earnings for service directors vary depending on experience level, and the dealer's geographic location and size.
First-line supervisors/managers of mechanics, installers, and repairers -- a group that service directors fall into -- earned a median hourly wage of $29.17 in 2008, which equates to an annual salary of about $60,673.* More recent data and specific figures for earnings of service directors is not yet available.
*Source: U.S. Dept. of Labor
Requirements for service directors vary from dealer to dealer. Many service directors hold ASE Master Technician Certification and have at least some postsecondary education; a growing number have bachelor's degrees in business administration or a technical field.
A strong understanding of automotive technology is definitely an asset, so an associate's degree (or more) in auto technology can be beneficial. A solid background in business, mathematics, computers and science is desirable. Excellent communication skills are vital, as service directors must work often with employees, customers and dealership vendors. The service director represents the dealership when interacting with these various groups, and so must always leave a positive impression.
In some dealerships, the new service director may receive on-the-job training from the previous service director. Some colleges offer courses in service and marketing management. Many service directors begin their careers as automotive service technicians and then climb the career ladder to service consultant, to shop supervisor (shop foreman), and then on to service manager. Experience in administration is also helpful. Some vehicle manufacturers offer supplementary management training classes and seminars, as well.
Generally, years of experience in service or administration are needed to advance to managerial positions in automotive dealerships. Persons with 4-year college degrees in business administration and marketing increasingly are preferred for most managerial jobs, particularly by dealerships that are larger, more competitive, and more efficient.
Transcript: I've been a service director with Toyota for 23 years. I was 21 years old when I became a service manager. And it's an exciting job and it changes every day.
So basically you're doing an express lube and then recommending four tires on it?
Do you do a complete inspection on it while it's here? OK. Breaks, things like that. OK.
I'll come in in the morning and go through the shop, greet the technicians, make sure all the associates are getting ready to go for the day's work. I'll go into my office. Do some financial analysis, where we are month to date.
The financial assessment of the operation's pretty critical. My primary responsibility is to return a profit to the dealer principal through customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. So I spend a lot of time observing associate's behavior as well as the financial performance of the dealership.
The skills for this particular position are kind of unique. It's a people business so personality plays a big role in it. And you really want to be enthusiastic. And you really need to be a problem solver. It's not necessarily a college degree type position to get into. But you need to be very customer sensitive and you need to be able to get out there and work through problems and have a positive result.
Yeah, well let me get you a labor quote on that thing.
Customer satisfaction in our businesses is priority number one. So you really need be attentive to those clients.
Mr. Hogan's vehicle, he has a 40,000 mile service, but he also had a warranty concern on his breaks?
Yes, we've have already taken care of that.
Did you take care of that?
It's perfect, he's ready to go.
OK, he's waiting in a waiting room.
I'll bring it right in.
We take in about 100 to 125 vehicles a day. About 80% of them are by appointments. So again, we're addressing their concerns whether they be a warranty or just routine maintenance.
My job over the last 21 years has really changed dramatically, Especially in the technology arena. These cars are extremely complicated and training has become a critical issue for us. Also for the front line personnel as well as technicians. And also customers have become a lot more demanding. With internet the way it is nowadays they're much better, they're much more informed consumers. And you really need to be on top of your game.
This particular tool that Karl's working on provides us the latest in diagnostics of all the computer control systems on the vehicles today.
I would say the golden moments in this career have been a lot of traveling with Toyota. Had an opportunity to the Bahamas, been to Alaska, been to Hawaii on the incentive trips along with my wife. Other golden the moments are really watching the young people grow. I'll meet them when they're engaged and they'll get married and buy a home. And next thing you know they're having children and hiring people and nurturing people, mentoring people. Building a department.
Building a successful team is a extremely rewarding. My career path was law enforcement. And I decided at that time that that wasn't for me. It was a pretty negative environment. And I had an opportunity to work at a car dealership. And from then on it was my pleasure.