Monday, October 21, 2013

Diagram Processes to Improve Service Lane Performance

Nearly every time we talk to dealer Service Managers, we hear complaints about warranty claims. The process is different depending on which part the claim is for...and just when everyone has it figured out, the rules change. No wonder Techs and Service Advisors can’t keep up. Even though we hear the most complaints from dealers, they aren’t the only ones hurting. Dealer confusion means the OEM needs more warranty claims specialists and help desk staff to handle incomplete submissions and answer questions.

There’s a reason warranty claims are a problem – they’re complicated. Warranty claims are just one of many dealer processes that involve multiple variables, such as different parties, different parts, and different requirements for those parts. Maybe you can’t fix the warranty claim problems immediately, but there’s a way to simplify the complexity: a process diagram.

Diagrams make complex processes easier to follow. Process diagrams put events into the proper order, clearly identify the responsible party, and account for decisions. Service Managers can create their own diagrams, or OEMs can distribute diagrams of common processes to dealers. Regardless of who creates them, these diagrams will help dealer staff. Service Managers can tack a copy on the wall of every space the process is used. Staff will be able to see at a glance what their next step needs to be. Everyone (technicians, service advisors, and anyone else) will be working from the same process. By the time an issue gets to the Service Manager, he or she will know who’s performed which steps, and who to go to with problems.

Below is a diagram of a sample warranty claims process. Whether you work at a dealership or for an OEM, you only need to know a few things to do this yourself:
  1. Who is involved? The horizontal bars (called “swimlanes”) represent different people in the process. This sample process has Technicians, Service Advisors, and a Service Manager.
  2. What are the actions? The squares represent an action, for example, “Review Claim.” The box is located in the swimlane of the person expected to perform the action.
  3. What are the decisions? The diamonds represent a decision, for example, “Drivetrain issue?” There are always at least two routes from a decision, typically labeled “yes” and “no.”

We used graphic design software (Microsoft Visio) to make the diagram you see above, but you don’t need any fancy programs. You can sketch a diagram on a whiteboard and take a picture with your phone. Function far outweighs form here – you’re going for clarity, not an award for artistry.

At first glance, process diagrams look like glorified checklists. So why not make a checklist? Because process diagrams perform better in two ways: how they depict who performs which actions, and how they depict decisions. Here’s the sample warranty claims process in checklist form. You can see how quickly it becomes confusing – it’s hard for a user to find where they need to look.

High-Level Warranty Claims Process
  1. Service Advisor investigates customer issue and checks warranty status
  2. Technician diagnoses vehicle issue and reviews warranty status
  3. Technician checks to see if issue covered by warranty
  4. If not covered by warranty, Technician refers to Service Advisor who informs customer of the issue
  5. If covered by warranty, Technician checks to see if the issue is related to the drivetrain. If not drivetrain-related, proceed to step 8
  6. If the issue is related to the drivetrain, Technician photographs affected part
  7. Technician then uploads photos of affected part to dealer portal
  8. Technician fills out warranty claim form in dealer portal
  9. Technician submits claim to Service Manager
  10. Service Manager reviews claim
  11. Service Manager either approves or denies claim
  12. If Service Manager approves claim, he or she submits claim to OEM
  13. If Service Manager denies claim, he or she refers claim back to Technician and Service Advisor
  14. Service Advisor and Technician work together to revise claim, then return to step 9, repeating this cycle until complete
The checklist gets the job done, but the diagram presents the same information in a format that’s faster to read and easier to understand. As a rule of thumb, the more complex the process, the more useful a diagram.

Bottom Line: Odds are that you’re struggling with at least a few processes right now. But if you can’t fix the problem, diagram the process. Diagrams put everyone on the same page, add consistency, and make it easier to pinpoint problems. If you’re an OEM, make diagrams for your dealers. If you’re a dealer and your OEM hasn’t taken this advice, make the diagrams yourself. They’ll save time and effort and improve the speed and accuracy of your key processes.

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