Empower Your Service Adviser!
A good service adviser can make all the difference for your shop.
Do you have a service adviser or service writer? How important is he or she to your business?
Consider this: They are the main contact for your business. If the service adviser is not successful, neither is your business.
The service adviser has to get the correct information for your technician, price the job and sell the job.
But a service adviser is more than someone with a clipboard who gathers information from customers. A skilled service adviser will guide and inform your customer through the repair process. That adviser should have many skills and be able to multitask.
Would you want to do business with your service adviser?
After surveying the ASA Mechanical Division Operations Committee, the top quality that members cited for an adviser to possess is “personality.” A service adviser needs to be a people person. We can learn many things, but it is hard to teach “likeability and caring.”
Remember: People do business with people, but more important, they do business with people they like and trust. Greeting a customer with a smile and genuinely listening to their concerns can make such a difference.
The service adviser needs to be a problem solver, not only for the problem with the vehicle, but with a host of other considerations, including alternate transportation, time issues and money problems. There also can be personal issues, and we all would want to discuss these issues with someone we feel comfortable with.
We need to be a caring friend. Longtime relationships are what we are trying to form. This begins with the attitude of the service adviser. The service adviser should have a positive, “can-do” attitude.
A service adviser should be willing to teach the customer about the value of every repair we recommend – from basic maintenance to an engine replacement. But an adviser cannot teach what he or she does not know. This means a successful service adviser must be open to training. An adviser needs enough technical knowledge to know the correct questions to ask when the vehicle is dropped off, as well as how to explain the recommended repairs.
Every service adviser has strengths and weaknesses. Many advisers have strong technical knowledge, which is of great value, but may need help with writing or typing skills. The technical adviser has to be careful not to perform “driveway diagnosis,” and really listen to the customer. Listening is not just waiting for your turn to talk.
Some advisers are great with customer care and listening skills, but need help selling the job. Others need some basic mechanical knowledge. It is difficult to sell a service you do not understand or see the value in. Look for customer service classes, keyboarding classes, sales classes. Read related articles, like this one.
Many of our vendors offer informative classes. BG Products offers a great series of classes on understanding and selling maintenance. Many radiator shops give cooling system classes. And you can even offer some technical classes for your advisers. Your adviser can learn a great deal from a basic cooling system, A/C system or lubricant class. This will not obligate them to work on the vehicle in the shop.
If you are fortunate enough to have local ASA meetings, ask the vendors to offer a class for your members. Most jump at the opportunity to speak to ASA member-shops. Just like our technicians, service advisers never know it all and should have an open mind to continued education.
Speaking of technicians, they can be the greatest teachers of all, if everyone is willing to communicate. Technicians can help your advisers by giving them information. If an adviser does not have all the information he or she needs to sell the complete job, everyone loses. This cannot be a front-against-the-back situation. Advisers and technicians should speak to each other with respect and help each other to be successful.
Often I go to one of my technicians and ask them to give me more information, “Make me sound smart,” I say. We have to have a meeting of the minds. I try to approach it as if it were my vehicle. What would I want to know?
A service adviser needs to have patience and control his or her temper. Patience with the customer for whom you have answered the same question over and over, patience with your technician who forgot to tell you about another recommendation after you have already called and gotten an approval, and patience with your parts suppliers who said they would have that part to you hours ago. But patience, especially, with disgruntled
Dealing with a disgruntled customer can be an uncomfortable situation no matter if the shop is right or wrong. How these situations are handled not only can affect the loss or retention of the customer, but also what that customer shares with others. Take a deep breath and let them vent (within reason, of course). And try not to take a customer’s venting personally. Remember, they are upset with the situation and you are standing right there. Express empathy, offer help in the repair or ask what they think is a fair solution. You may be surprised with their answer sometimes.
When a bad situation escalates, no one wins that argument. Hopefully, this happens seldom.
A word of advice: Do not be on the front line if you cannot take the heat occasionally.
Empower your service adviser. Give them enough freedom to do the job you are expecting them to do. Ask for their ideas and suggestions. So much of being a successful service adviser is self-confidence. Allowing the adviser to be that problem solver is important. Most of our information systems have customer questionnaires that can help gather all the necessary information for our technicians.
Nothing bonds a customer to you more than knowing you will come to their rescue when needed, and nothing makes an adviser feel more confident than to have been someone’s hero that day.
Knowing the shop’s policy with credit options is important also. Some shops allow the adviser to give minimal discounts when appropriate, usually with a limit of $50 to $100. Some have “free oil change” coupons to give out when needed. Others pay their service advisers a percentage of service sold as an incentive. This is a greatly debated option. Knowledge is power, and the more knowledge your service adviser has, the better he or she can do the job.
Service advisers learn so much from their superiors. They learn quickly the philosophy and ethics of the shop. Learning the “why we do it this way” is important. Remember: You are setting the example of how you want your customers treated. Take a good look at your service adviser – he or she may be a reflection of yourself.
Being a service adviser can be a challenging position, but there is never a dull moment. Take a moment to tell your service adviser he or she is doing a good job. Positive reinforcement is music to a person’s ears.
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