What Does the Service Department Really Sell? The Answer May Surprise You

By Ted Ings, Executive Director

Do you know what your service department actually sells? 

Many automotive professionals have no idea what the service department sells. Is it parts? Knowledge and skill? Indeed, all of these are pieces of the puzzle, but the main product is something you may not have thought of – and that’s time. 

Time: the service department’s real product

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A well-known saying is that time is money. And it’s true, particularly in the automotive repair industry where the primary product is the technician’s – and to some degree, every employee’s – time. Every second is an unrecoverable, perishable commodity that must be sold properly to achieve success.  


What can your department do to make it happen? To start, everyone must work together. Although advisors are on the frontline, techs also play an essential role in marketing billable hours. 

The following tips will help your team generate the most revenue from every second. 

1. Don’t give away the goods

You wouldn’t give away a set of brake pads or an alternator; so why give away time? Some customers feel they should only pay for intense, wrench-turning labor. But if a technician is working on a vehicle – in any capacity – you should bill for the time. 

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2. Stay organized 

Obviously, the more you sell of your main commodity, time, the more profitable your department will be. Stay organized, by accurately tracking appointments and workflow, and you’ll be able to squeeze more billable hours into every day.  

3. Accurately bill for diagnostics 

Tracking down a difficult problem can take hours (sometimes even days!). Don’t undersell diagnostic time; charge for every moment spent analyzing a vehicle. Some service departments also have a higher hourly rate for diagnostics, which makes sense, since the work generally takes more skill than a basic R&R job. 

4. Take external factors into account 

Older vehicles – and those that are severely weathered or abused – take more time to service than cars in good condition. When a technician encounters an issue that may require additional time, such as extreme rust, the service advisor should be notified. That way, the customer can be contacted for extra labor before the job gets started. 

5. Keep track of time spent 

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There are apps available to track time spent on activities in your personal life (i.e., exercise, entertainment, etc.). The idea is to monitor your schedule so you can identify time sucks, such as unnecessary social media usage and excessive television viewing. 


A similar concept can be applied to the service department. Track how time is being spent, both in the shop and on the service drive, and identify activities that can be cut to maximize productivity. Every moment you save goes toward more billable hours. 

Start making every second count 

Time is your service department’s number one product, so treat it accordingly. Adjust your mindset and train employees to value every second. When everyone knows they’re selling time – and works together to market it – you’ll see an increase in productivity and revenue.