The Secret to Profitable Service

By Paul Mac Donald

One and you’re done, that’s the secret. More commonly referred to as a First Call Complete (FCC) occurs when appliance repairs are completed on the first trip to a customer’s home and are crucial to a service company’s bottom line. Customer satisfaction is higher on first call completes as less time is consumed waiting for technicians and household downtime from a failed appliance are minimized. Margins on appliance repairs are generally slim enough that a second trip to a home generally delivers a breakeven scenario at best if not a loss.  Increased first call completes are the significant difference in a service company’s bottom line and all the more reason completing service calls in one trip has to be the goal of every service company. It really is the secret ingredient in a profitable service business.

Unfortunately, first call completes are impacted by many variables and are the biggest daily challenge for owners and service managers.  Independent service companies that do little or no warranty service generally have the highest first call complete percentage and Self-Sevicing Dealers (SSD) that service what they sell typically have the lowest percentage and often are losing money in their service department operations. COD only companies can and often exceed an 80% FCC while SSD companies should strive for a minimum 60% FCC goal.

It’s important to track first call completes. I firmly believe that you can’t manage what you don’t measure.  Service managers should know their current FCC percentage and set goals for measurable improvement.

“The right part at the right time” couldn’t be more accurate when discussing first call completes. Managing parts inventory is not easy and takes a lot of work but will yield the most returns when you take the time to get your inventory right. Having the proper truck inventory or access to the right inventory is a key ingredient for completing a repair in one trip. Service companies that use software to run their business will have history of their parts usage and can evaluate what parts should be carried on their truck based on past consumption. A part sold 3 or 4 times in a year should be in truck stock. Companies that don’t have history of their parts consumption can turn to their parts distributor for their company’s purchase history and  top 50 selling parts in their markets to make decisions on what their truck stock should be. Many parts distributors have truck stocking programs that will help manage truck stock and allow companies to exchange inventory that hasn’t sold in 6 months for inventory that is selling. Choose you parts distributor based on fill rates and quality of service and not on price. A parts distributor is a service company’s best partner and key to a service company’s success.

Pre-screening every service call before rolling a truck is paramount to first call completes in any service operation. Pre-screening a service call involves calling the customer to capture as much information about the failed appliance as possible. The model, serial number and a detailed description of the complaint including error codes and abnormal operating sounds are mandatory in pre- diagnosing a repair enabling a service technician to arrive prepared to complete the repair in one trip. Depending on the size of the service company, a service call may be pre-screened several times by more than one person. In larger companies, the CSR screens the call while recording the information for a call. The service manager should pre-screen all service calls the day before. He or she is looking to confirm how a call should be run, who will pay and what technician skill sets are required. The day of the service call the technician must pre-screen all his calls before rolling his truck. His goal is to confirm the customer’s details, including the street address, complaint, ETA and finally he is looking to pre-diagnose the repair and has the opportunity to bring the right parts for various scenarios. If the technician doesn’t have all the possible parts available, often he can pre-order parts on speculation and then run the call when the parts are available. Customers generally are willing to postpone a call a day or two in order to accommodate a first call complete causing them less time waiting for multiple home visits.

Companies that pay attention to and set goals for higher percentages of first call completes will enjoy increased profits and happier customers who repeat and refer more business.

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