You’re already working hard: You carefully monitor your three main inventories — new cars, used cars and car parts — to bring down overhead costs and maximize profit.

You know what you spend on these tangible assets, and you work to turn a profit on those deals. But there’s a fourth inventory at your dealership, and neglecting it costs you hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit every year.

That fourth inventory is the service technician’s time.

Your invisible asset

When assessing the value of your inventory, it’s easy to forget about time. You can’t touch time. You can’t buy time at auction. But your technicians’ time is a major source of revenue for your business.

Every unfulfilled appointment is a revenue opportunity lost that can never be recovered. Time is a fully perishable resource. Once it’s gone, you can’t get it back.

Maybe you think this is only a problem for the other dealers. But even if your phones are ringing off the hook, there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

In analyzing Xtime’s 6,000-plus customers, we found that these dealers can conduct 32 percent more business if they effectively promote and pre-sell unsold time slots. But amid the chaos of a humming service department, it’s easy to overlook these gaps. In a fast-paced environment, no one feels underworked — even when they are.

Unless you pay close attention, these opportunities can add up fast; that 32 percent translates to a potential gross profit increase of more than $800,000 every year.

Fortunately, there are ways to reclaim that profit.

Seeing is believing

Without a way to visualize your dealer capacity, the best you can do is see empty service slots after they occur — and by then, it’s too late. For lasting, useful change, you need to be proactive. Make all of your inventory visible. Scheduling software enables you to monitor and chart your team’s service schedule in advance. This gives you an accurate picture of your unused shop capacity, revealing trends and giving you time to react.

Once you’ve identified when your downtime occurs, you can use price elasticity to fill them with paying customers. Adjusting your rates to drive demand is basic economics and it makes good business sense. You adjust prices when cars aren’t selling, so why not do the same with your time? Discounts, incentives and special offers are excellent motivators to bring in customers during off-hours. How does "Oil Change Happy Hour" sound?

You can get even more sophisticated by matching these offers with the right customers. Scan your customer records and you’re bound to find several due for an oil change or major service. Marketing software can help you generate messaging that addresses these customers’ needs directly, increasing your odds of getting customers to respond.

Lost souls = found revenue

While you can use the above promotions to optimize your invisible inventory, don’t forget about the potential customers you can’t see. Some customers regularly hit their service appointment milestones, but there are others you haven’t seen in years. These "lost souls" visited you for service in the past but haven’t scheduled an appointment in 18 months or more.

They’re prime candidates for your service department. After all, a lot can happen in that time; chances are they need routine maintenance at the very least.

Whether it’s for a quick fix or a complex procedure, it’s worth the effort to bring these lost souls back into your service department. Using marketing software to generate targeted messaging is proven to help reclaim them, and the benefits to your bottom line are impressive. On average, dealers who take this approach recapture 24 lost souls per month. And since it’s typically been almost two years since their last appointment, it’s no surprise that when these customers do come in, they spend money — $358 per person, in fact.

Reclaiming lost souls benefits your entire business. These valuable customers might need new brake pads or spark plugs, which is beneficial for your parts department. If you deliver an outstanding experience, they’ll return next time they need service — great news for your technicians. And if you really impress them, you might see them on the lot when they need a new car.

From invisible to invincible: time is money

Time might be an easy resource to overlook, but optimizing it has impressive results: Your service department is fully utilized, your customers become prime candidates for repeat sales and thousands of dollars in once-invisible profit flow right to your bottom line. With a well-managed fourth inventory, everyone wins.

Jim Roche is the senior vice president of sales, marketing & managed services at Xtime.