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  Management Feature

Turn Your Service Adviser into a Superstar

Posted 09/1/2013
By Bob Cooper

What to look for and cultivate in a service adviser who can make your shop shine.

Far too many shop owners hire service advisers who they feel are good at what they do, and then they like to “get out of their way and let them do their thing.” Unfortunately, that’s a mistake. Now, I’m not suggesting that you need to micromanage your advisers, or any of your employees. However, over the years I have employed many of the top advisers in America, and through our sales courses I have had the opportunity to meet hundreds of the industry superstars, so I can tell you from firsthand experience: if you want to turn your advisers into superstars, then it’s no different from grooming world-class racehorses. What they need is the proper care and attention.

Here are some tips you can use as a guide to help turn your advisers into superstars.

1. Make sure you have the right people. When it comes to service advisers, as with all of your employees, you need to look for attitude, aptitude and ethics. If they are missing any of the three, you and your company are going to struggle. You also need to make sure they have the natural talent to sell. Please don’t confuse talent with skill, which is a learned behavior. Talent is the natural ability to do things exceptionally well. The talents I look for in service advisers are a natural ability to engage people in a conversation, quick-wittedness and a natural smile. Provide people who have these talents with the necessary skills, and they can take you and your business right to the top.

2. Set clear expectations. For example, your adviser could have a monthly sales goal of $80,000, a gross profit goal of 65 percent, and a customer satisfaction goal of 100 percent. You need to then break those goals down into weekly and daily goals, and you need to set a daily car count goal that is based on your daily sales goal divided by your average repair order. By taking this approach, each day your advisers will come to work knowing their daily goals. If they reach their daily goals they will feel good about their accomplishments, and it will provide you with an opportunity to praise them. On the other hand, if they fail to reach their daily goals, the following day will be a brand new day for them. As with managing any employee, you also need to have clearly defined minimum levels of acceptable performance in place, with deadlines. Using the above goals as an example, at the end of each quarter you would have an expectation that they would have sold at least $70,000 in services, generated at least a 60 percent gross profit, and produced a customer satisfaction score of at least 95 percent.

3. For advisers to excel, they need to work in an environment that has clearly defined inspection processes in place. This includes vehicle inspection procedures, and the documentation of all discoveries. Your advisers should also be required to accurately estimate all of the discovered services, and fully disclose all discoveries to their customers. Any failure in this regard will cost you in lost sales, vehicle failures, and in the ultimate damage to the reputation of your business. This is why clearly defined procedures are an absolute must.

4. Make sure your advisers have the right tools. They need a robust shop management software program, feature-rich warranties they can use as sales tools, point-of-sale items such as fluid samples, and third-party financing options. They also need technicians who can produce daily goal sheets to track their performance throughout the day, and digital voice recorders so they can critique their own sales presentations. In addition, they need to have quick-reference guides that list the benefits of your most common services. Your advisers can then quickly review the guide prior to presenting their recommendations to their customers. For example, under the “maintenance” heading you would list: protects the vehicle warranty, prevents costly breakdowns, maximizes fuel economy, maximizes the resale value of the vehicle and protects the environment. Advisers also need quick reference charts that reflect the cost justification of the more common services you offer.

5. Service advisers need to have their performances monitored and measured, and they need consistent feedback. At Elite we recommend that owners (or managers) perform a repair order review with their advisers at least once a week. The purpose of the review should be to analyze the declined sales, and have a dialogue about what could have been done differently to close the sales. You should also use this time as an opportunity to praise their performance, as well as to reinforce your commitment to ethics and customer satisfaction.

6. Make sure you have the right pay programs in place. There is no question that the behavior you get is the behavior you reward, and when it comes to advisers, the three behaviors you should reward are for generating sales, gross profit and happy customers. Regardless of whether you pay your advisers on commission, hourly rate, salary, or any combination, one thing is certain: they need to be rewarded for the right results, and they need to know that their income will be predicated on ethical sales, and on meeting all of the relative marks.

7. As is true of all professionals, advisers need ongoing training. To stay sharp, they should attend an ethics-based sales course at least once a year. These courses will allow them to tune up their sales skills, they will pick up the latest techniques that can be used to help their customers make good decisions, and by sending them, they will see that you care enough about them to invest in their careers.

8. Know your job as a business owner. The job of a shop owner is not to fix cars, chase parts or clean restrooms. The job description of a business owner is very short, yet very profound. As a matter of fact, there are only five responsibilities that you have: 1) Set the goals of the company. 2) Create the plan. 3) Hire the superstars. 4) Bring out the best in the people that work with you. 5) Ensure the success of the company.

In closing, the best advice I can give you when it comes to turning your advisers into superstars is to give them the leader that they so desperately need. Know your job description, live it each day, and live by the principle that one thing everyone in your company will never do is put money ahead of people. Do your job, live by this principle, and there is no question that success will be yours.

Editor’s Note: This article is one in a series of management articles contributed to AutoInc. by Automotive Management Institute (AMI) instructors. To learn more about AMI, its courses and instructors, visit AMI administers the distinguished Accredited Automotive Manager (AAM) program.

Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite Worldwide Inc. (www.EliteWorldwide, an ethics-based company that helps both struggling and successful shop owners take their businesses to new levels through one-on-one coaching from the nation’s top shop owners. The company also offers shop owners sales, marketing and management seminars, along with service adviser training and 20-groups. You can contact Cooper at or (800) 204-3548.



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