AutoInc. Magazine
Current Issue
Ad Index
AutoInc. Archive
How to Contribute
Reprint Permission
Subscription Info
Letters to the Editor
Top 10 Web Sites
Software Guide
NACE Online Daily News
How's Your Business?
Ad Opporunities
Media Planner
AutoInc. Mission
Meet Our Staff
  Management Feature

How to Create a Highly Motivated Service Team

Posted 06/1/2013
By Matt Winslow

A productive service team is attainable!

Do you ever feel you’re running a daycare center for adults instead of a professional automotive repair shop? Then here are a few tips to turn your employees into the motivated and highly productive service team you want and deserve. Creating your high-performance service team starts with you becoming an effective leader and manager. What’s the difference between an effective leader and an effective manager?

Effective leaders define purpose and create energy. They clearly define what their team needs to do, why they need to do it, and how they benefit by succeeding. They know how to get their team members excited and get them to bond together for the greater good of the whole team.

Define clear goals

Effective managers define exactly how to get where the leader says the team needs to go. They clearly define goals and processes, and they hold each member of the team accountable by creating standards and measuring their performance.

How can you apply these principles in the everyday activities of your shop? Let’s use your courtesy check program as an example.

You spend a lot of money getting customers to visit your shop. On some services, including oil changes and tires, you may find you break even once you factor in your marketing costs. How can you make money in this business? By finding and selling additional work on your customers’ vehicles, and that means you’ve got to have a consistent, effective courtesy check program. Sounds easy, right? Yet owners and managers tell me they struggle getting their technicians to do thorough inspections, and struggle even more trying to get their courtesy check forms filled out consistently and completely.

Why is something so basic and important so difficult to implement? Motivation starts with purpose. Many owners and managers tell their team members that the purpose of the courtesy check is to “sell more work.”

Selling your noble mission

Do you want to sell more needed work? Absolutely, but that’s the wrong thing to tell your team. “Selling more work” isn’t a higher purpose they can rally around. Maybe they’re paid hourly and don’t want to sell more work. Or maybe the work they find is difficult and they don’t want to do it. Or, maybe they don’t maintain their own cars and they assume your customers share their same values. Using “selling more work” opens the door to individual interpretation, inconsistent checks and conflict between your technicians and your service writer.

You’ve got to become an effective leader by defining a higher purpose your team can rally around. Instead of using “selling more work” as their motivation, why not talk about why you’re in business and who you’re trying to serve – Mom with the family car, for example. What does Mom want from her car? Safety and reliability. What does Mom want from you? Peace of mind knowing her car is safe and reliable at all times. So your higher purpose is taking care of Mom, and the purpose of your courtesy check is to fulfill that promise.

Sell your noble mission to take care of Mom and you’ll find getting the cooperation you need is much easier. By the way, this isn’t something you do just once. When you find your team slips back into their old ways of inconsistent checks and improperly filled out forms, it’s time to have a shop meeting and remind them of your higher purpose!

Establish shop processes

You also need to become an effective manager by first defining the process your technicians should use. Second, create an accountability system to measure their performance. And third, define standards your team should meet.

Let’s start with the first step: Define the process your technicians should use. Your goal is consistency. Consistency means anyone who inspects a vehicle in your shop should give the same report. You need to define exactly how you want these courtesy checks to be performed and they need to practice your procedure.

Start by defining a specific route for a road test. An effective road test can identify steering and suspension problems, reveal wheel misalignment, brake problems, and engine and transmission performance problems.

Next, define which items your technicians should check with the vehicle on the ground including interior lights, warning lights, exterior lights and excessive suspension bounce.

Then it’s time to look under the hood. They should inspect for leaks, fluid condition and fluid levels. Low brake fluid often means worn disc brake pads, which they can verify later with a visual look at the pads.

While they’re under the hood, they should also inspect the condition of belts and hoses, and check the age and condition of the battery.

Then it’s time to raise the vehicle to eye level and inspect the under-carriage. They should look for fluid leaks, torn bushings, and leaking shocks and struts. They should check rack-and-pinion steering gears for leaks in the bellows and look for looseness at the inner and outer tie rod ends. They should pull on the parking brake cable, if it’s accessible, and see if it moves freely.

Then, they should lower the vehicle to waist-high, and check the tires and brakes.

You may be thinking, we do it differently. That’s fine, but make sure everyone in your company does it the same way. How? By holding regular standard operating procedure (SOP) meetings.

Pick at least three different vehicles and ask each technician to inspect and fill out your courtesy check form on each one. If you have three vehicles and three technicians, you should end up with nine forms filled out.

Then, compare each form. Did they identify the same problems? Did they document their concerns in the same way? If not, you have a consistency problem. It’s time to discuss your standards for inspection, recommendations and documentation. Everyone should provide the same information and fill out the form the same way. This creates consistency and gives your service adviser the ability to sell needed work with confidence and conviction.

Keep your employees accountable

Hold them accountable for consistency and quality by doing a courtesy check form audit each week. Start by looking at the forms. Each form should include the vehicle’s age, mileage and your repair order number.

Look at their recommendations. If you see a lot of older cars with few recommendations, it’s probably time for another SOP meeting. If you see a lot of recommendations, but your sales are low, check your repair order history. See if your service writer took the time to create an estimate for each recommendation.

Make sure they at least made your customer aware of the needed work and gave them an opportunity to buy it from you!

Remember, there are four keys to creating sales with effective courtesy checks: inspection, documentation, estimating and sales skills. And, by doing a weekly courtesy check form audit, you’ll be able to quickly identify when you need to give your team a “tune-up” and whether you need to work with your technicians or your service writer.

Let’s review

To create a high-performance service team you have to become an effective leader and manager. Become an effective leader by creating purpose and energy by defining a higher purpose your team can rally around. Become an effective manager by defining how you want things done, create an accountability system, and define your standards.

Don’t forget to continually “inspect” what you “expect.” You’ll enjoy higher quality,happier employees, and best of all, happier customers who reward your efforts with their business and their loyalty.

If you’d like a copy of ATI’s courtesy check form, then send me a note by email. I’ll also send a link to a helpful video on how to do a courtesy check.

Matt Winslow

Matt Winslow is the director of speakers and training for Chubby’s Automotive Training Institute in Baltimore, Md. His email address is



Copyright 1996-2012. Automotive Service Association. All rights reserved.
Anti-spam form protection provided by