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Ten Reasons Why Service Departments Should Throw Away Their Appointment Book and Route Sheets

By Greg Vrigian, Director of Customer Services
Old habits die hard, in spite of all the recent technological advances and ‘best practices’ designed to increase productivity and profitability. Consider that even today, entrenched at the core of many service operations, lies the most inefficient of tools: pen and paper. More specifically, the Appointment Book and Route Sheet are still occupying much needed space on many service desks all across the country.
While great improvements have been made with the pen and paper since the first Curved Dash Oldsmobile rolled off the line, technological developments have long ago rendered them obsolete. Electronic Appointments and Repair Order (RO) Management tools are vastly improved replacements that are most likely already installed and available, as they are an integral part of many Dealership Management Systems.
Sometimes, people do things because that’s the way they’ve always done them. Why change? For starters, here are ten good reasons why service departments should consider throwing away the Appointment Book and Route Sheet for good:

    1. Electronic Appointments allow the user to easily attach requested services to existing customer data, reducing the time needed to create an appointment. Modifications are also easy; just pull up the appointment in the service module and modify the date, time, requested service etc. In the Appointment Book, the user has to scratch out or erase the appointment, then write the whole thing over on the new date or time.


    1. Electronic Appointments and RO Management can be made available from ANY workstation. This eliminates the need for employees to run to the service desk to create appointments or push fellow employees out of the way in order to update an RO status. Statements such as “Where’s the Appointment Book?” and “It was here a minute ago”, would be fond anecdotal recollections. It is much less common for a workstation to go missing than the Appointment Book.


    1. Converting a system appointment to an RO is extremely fast with an RO Management tool, requiring only a few clicks from start to finish. With an Appointment Book, the information must be manually replicated onto an RO.


    1. When using a Route Sheet, all holdovers must be carried over by manually re-writing all the information onto the next day’s Route Sheet. An RO Management tool performs this function automatically.


    1. Re-ordering of additional pages or books is not necessary with Electronic Appointments or RO Management systems.


    1. Another advantage of electronic recordkeeping is that a customer’s entire appointment and RO history can be easily accessed, a task which would be virtually impossible with an Appointment Book.


    1. With Electronic Appointments and RO Management, service managers can run a variety of reports, such as ‘no shows,’ for follow up and rescheduling.


    1. In some DMS systems, the Electronic Appointment application allows e-mail reminders to be sent for future appointment confirmation and reminders. At the very least, most systems can generate an instant report for upcoming appointments so that a service employee may call customers.


    1. Many Electronic Appointment systems allow for Tech/Team concepts or Shop Loading principles to be applied, making it easy to maximize shop capacity and sell more labor hours. No matter how resistant they may be, it is hard for service personnel to argue with a single screen that clearly shows any unscheduled time available for any given time slot. Many systems have the ability to forecast shop hours by tech, team and/or advisor by day, week or month, to more accurately predict and report on shop capacity status.


  1. On the lighter side, you cannot spill coffee, ketchup or grease on Electronic Appointment and RO Management systems.

If there are so many benefits, why not change? Fear, uncertainty, and doubt all contribute to the resistance of trying new things. Before implementing a new system, dealers and service managers may want to encourage its usage by establishing an incentive. Part of any good communication plan is to tune employees into their favorite station: WII-FM (What’s In It – For Me). If service employees understand how new technology translates into more money for them, they may be quicker to embrace the idea. The core message is simple: more efficient scheduling = increased sales = more money available in the pay plan.
Through proper planning, throwing away the outdated Appointment Book and Route Sheets should be relatively painless, while switching to an Electronic Appointment and RO Management system will have an immediate, positive and lasting impact on service operations.

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