The Keys to Scheduling Work Effectively

Feb. 27, 2020
If your shop is struggling with scheduling vehicles, you need to reassess which employees you entrust to that task.

If you’re struggling to schedule vehicles effectively at your shop, know this: you’re not alone. 

I have yet to meet any shop operator that has scheduling down pat.  

At my shops in Alaska, it’s still an occasional struggle. We’re in a busy time of year right now, for instance. As you’re probably aware of, winter weather can wreak havoc in this area. So, if you’re struggling with scheduling, I can certainly empathize. 

The best pieces of advice I can give with regard to scheduling are the following. 

Don’t schedule with off your gut. 

Don’t allow yourself to be guilt-tripped by a customer, or cave in when a technician says “I need more work.” 

Instead, schedule based off numbers. In other words, you’ve got to figure out how much you typically produce with the staff that you have at your disposal. 

You’ve got to look at the statistics. What can your shop typically produce? Then, you have to figure out, for every job that comes in, how many hours are you adding for a supplement? How many typical tow-ins are there, or what we call “cold drops,’ where the customer shows up and their car isn’t safe to drive down the road, so we take the keys. Typically we schedule everyone out. 

When it comes to scheduling, I’d suggest making sure you know your shop stats, that you know what your shop can produce, and then schedule the best you can based off that. 

Let CSRs handle scheduling. 

Our lead CSRs, specifically, typically handle scheduling for us. We have a call center, and those employees help, too. But we took scheduling away from our estimators because they often have an emotional attachment to the customer, and the customer will often beg them, saying something like “Please just get me in on Monday,” and the estimator can easily feel pressured to comply with that request. Then, the next thing you know, you’ve got 17 cars that come into your shop on Monday.  

So, we took scheduling away from employees that have that emotional attachment to customers. Because we realize that that emotional attachment is almost unavoidable. I mean, I get my own friends asking me “Hey, can you get me in tomorrow at your shop for an estimate?” And, of course, I say yes. But, if I have 32 estimates tomorrow, why would I do that? The only reason is because there’s emotion involved. 

So, we choose employees that are able to separate that emotion well. And that, for us, has typically been our lead CSRs—employees that aren’t being begged by the customer to bend the rules. 

Work to get buy-in from your staff. 

That, of course, is easier said than done. We have discussions about this on a seemingly weekly basis. But we just remind our employees that, when you shuffle things around with regard to scheduling, the problem usually just moves. 

We’re in a remanufacturing business. So, if the paint shop has 22 cars to paint, well, we can’t just turn everything off. So, we have to work through the issue. And that’s why we have discussions about scheduling all the time. 

We talk to our techs about how their performance dictates how we schedule for their team. Just like how insurance companies reward us for good performance with more work, we do the same internally. As a multi-shop operation, we also work to reward locations that are performing well with an increased workload.