Think about this scenario for a moment: You have a customer that calls wanting to know how soon you can service or repair their equipment. You may say something along the lines of, “It’s probably going to be at least a week before we can get to it,” or, “Drop it off and I will put you in line and we will get to it as soon as possible.”

Think about how you would feel if someone said that to you. Let’s say that your car or truck needs some work done. You call the dealership you purchased it from a year ago and say, “My ‘check engine’ light is on. How soon can I bring it in for you to take a look?” Let’s say the service manager says, “It’s probably going to be at least a week before we can get to it,” or, even worse, “Drop it off and I will put you in line and we will get to it as soon as possible.”

If you’re like most people, you would reply, “What do you mean drop it off and you will get to it as soon as possible? I need my truck to get back and forth to work. Can’t you at least let me set up an appointment sometime this week to get it in?” What if their response was, “Nope, we don’t do appointments?”

You would never expect to hear that from your car or truck dealer. Instead, they would tell you not only when to bring it in, but also when you could expect to have it back. How is it possible that they can do this, but you can’t? It’s because they measure the average time it takes their technicians to complete a work order and use that as a part of their scheduling system.

Watch Your Numbers

I encourage you to begin watching numbers in your shop. The calculation is actually simple and, in most cases, you will be able to run a report that will actually give you the data. So, here is the magic formula: Take 90 days’ worth of a technician’s work orders, add up the total time they took to do the repairs and divide that time by the total number of work orders. It’s that simple.

Let’s say, for example, that I am one of your techs. Over the last 90 days, I have closed 80 work orders and it took me a total of 540 actual hours to complete the service and repairs. You would simply divide 540 hours of wrench time by the 80 work orders and find that, on average, I took 6.75 hours to complete each job. Understand that some of those jobs will have taken 8 hours and others 4, but my average completion time is 6.75 hours.

Now, let’s say you have a customer call in to find out when you can repair or service their equipment, and this is a job you would normally schedule for me to do. As you look at the open work orders you have assigned to me, you see there are 5 jobs scheduled ahead of this customer’s repair. While you can’t know exactly how much time is needed for the job, you do know that my average completion time is 6.75 hours per work order. With just a little math, you’ll figure that I have about 34 hours of work ahead of this customer. If this call happens to come in on a Monday, this means that in all probability I will have all the work scheduled for me done by early Thursday morning. You can then let the customer know that if they bring their equipment in by Tuesday so you can triage it, you feel confident you could have it ready for them by no later than Friday afternoon.

If the average completion time is accurate, and it is, you would have no problem turning this customer’s work around for them by Friday afternoon, assuming you have all the parts you need to do the service or complete the repair. I am a firm believer that you can schedule work into your shop before it actually shows up, and you can meet or beat any deadline that you give that customer.

Are there times it might not work, because a part that has to be ordered? Sure. That’s no different than at the car or truck dealer. However, if you follow good service processes, I’m confident in your ability to schedule work in advance, meet your promises on delivery and create a “wow” experience for your service customer.