© 2023 Auto/Mate, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
by Ken Rock, Customer Care Manager
When dealership management system (DMS) vendors introduced auto dispatch years ago, many service managers tried it and quickly gave it up. The first auto dispatch systems were buggy and complicated, so avoidance by service personnel was understandable.
As programming and features improved, auto dispatch became more user friendly. Many service managers tried it again. Perhaps slightly less quickly than before, most gave it up. In my experience, the three main reasons why the majority of service managers still aren’t using auto dispatch today include:
So why bother at all? Auto dispatch assigns the right tech with the right skill to the right job at the right time. Service departments that successfully transition to auto dispatch see a 15-50 percent increase in labor hours sold. With auto dispatch, everyone in the service department makes more money. Once the transition to auto dispatch has been made, service personnel love auto dispatch.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Here are three reasons why your greatest fears about auto dispatching are unfounded.
Auto dispatch is not designed to replace anyone; it’s designed to increase the productivity of current employees. Conditions in service departments are always changing, so auto dispatch will always require human intervention.
For example, say that your shop foreman currently spends 70 percent of his time manually dispatching jobs, 15 percent of his time training technicians and 15 percent doing high-paying diagnostics work. With auto dispatch, his dispatching time is reduced from 70 to 10 percent, his training time increases to 40 percent, and now he can spend 50 percent of his time doing high-paying diagnostics work.
Because auto dispatch systems are designed to be flexible, they allow manual overrides in certain circumstances. Most auto dispatch systems allow technicians to place a job on hold and view the next job assigned to them. They can choose to work on that one instead, or if they don’t like the next job, they can place that one on hold and view the next job.
This behavior causes obvious problems, including jobs not getting done on time and the “less desirable” jobs always being assigned to the techs who are honest and gamely accepting the next job in line.
In order for auto dispatch to be successful, the service manager must enforce the process. One reason why service managers don’t enforce the process is because they might have “favorite” techs that are used to getting plum jobs assigned to them. Another reason the process might not be enforced is because the managers get tired of hearing techs complain about the system.
Whatever the reason, it’s critical to stop technicians from cherry-picking the best jobs. Believe it or not, the computer knows when the service manager, foreman, tech or advisor should be working on which jobs 90 percent of the time.
Today most auto dispatch systems have features designed to stop cherry-picking. In Auto/Mate’s Auto Dispatch Module, service managers have the ability to control how many active ROs a technician can have open at one time. You can also disable the technicians’ ability to place jobs on hold, or require a manager’s approval in order to do so. If there are some technicians that can be trusted more than others, permissions can be adjusted accordingly.
Depending on the size of the shop, it can take anywhere from two days to two weeks to set up all the parameters for auto dispatch. It will take several months to a year to transition from a manual system to fully automated. Once established, regular maintenance is required.
Ideally, the service manager or dispatcher should allocate 15-20 minutes every day for ongoing maintenance. Finding the time to do this shouldn’t be a problem because auto dispatch frees up more time.
Some managers are reluctant to let a computer take over such an important responsibility. What if a bottleneck occurs? What if the system “screws up,” causing chaos?
As with any technology, remember this saying: garbage in, garbage out. Auto dispatch is not something you can “set and forget.” During the transition, parameters need to be constantly tweaked until you find what works with your processes.
It takes commitment to switch to auto dispatch. But once it’s humming smoothly, the time you spent (plus, a whole lot more) will be realized on the back end. Service departments will be more profitable, personnel will be making more income and customer satisfaction will increase due to quicker turnaround with fewer technician errors.