Do you complicate the Service Advisor’s job?

April 26, 2023
Fixed Operations Trainer/Consultant

Additional technology is no match for old fashioned personal customer service

Service Advisors are probably one of our most valuable resources, however the job continues to be one of the lower paying and most stressful in a dealership. We continually add things to their plates that are supposed to make the job easier and better, however, most of these additional tasks only add to the growing list of things to complete with each customer.

Very recently I purchased a used vehicle which had a couple of outstanding recalls. I called to book an appointment with one of the larger ownership group dealerships. The call was answered promptly, however, the person answering did not have any real knowledge or experience pertaining to my call. They were able to book my car on the same day for what was to be a one-hour appointment, allowing me to wait at the dealership.

When I arrived at the dealership I was greeted promptly, and the person took my keys, confirmed my appointment and told me to wait in the customer lounge. During my wait, a few staff members said hello to me, however, no one met with me regarding my vehicle. After about 45 minutes I walked outside and noticed that my vehicle had not moved. Another 20 minutes went by, at which time a Service Advisor asked what I was waiting for, which I quickly explained and they notified me that a repair order had not even been opened yet.

They were extremely apologetic, and offered to book me in the following day. I explained I was travelling the next day, and this would not be possible. At that point the Shop Foreman wandered by, and the Service Advisor spoke to him about the situation and he said he could do the work in about 15 minutes if I could wait. If that hadn’t happened, I would have left the dealership and possibly not come back to them to get the recalls completed. The job was completed quickly, and I was on my way.

After the service was completed, I received a text with a video from the technician explaining what he had done and that the work was in fact completed. I also received a checklist specific to my vehicle, however, it was blank as all that was done were the recalls. I then received numerous emails about my experience, including a survey, and a note that I would be contacted by the manufacturer with another survey (and “anything less than a 10 was failing grade” etc).

Here’s why I share the details of this simple service visit; the only thing that mattered to me was getting my vehicle into service in a timely manner and to be kept updated while I was waiting. Instead of all the “frills”, it would have been a far better experience to have a properly trained Service Advisor (dressed in a manner that identified them as an employee in the service department) and to have a process in place for the Service Advisor to keep track of all their respective repair orders.

I really didn’t need a follow-up video of the technician telling me that the recalls had been done. This just added additional time before they were able to get another vehicle in the shop. Every time we add another process to a Service Advisor’s workload, something else suffers. Most of the time the Dealer Principal/General Manager has been sold on an idea or solution that has been developed by people/organizations who have never performed the job at hand. They have most often never opened a repair order and had six people lined up waiting for them to get their vehicle into service.

Technology is often seen as the solution, however in a lot of cases all it does is add another cumbersome step to an already incredibly stressful job. Senior management and suppliers must come to understand that many technology solutions/add-ons do not 100 per cent integrate with the existing DMS, and in turn, actually adds tasks that need to be duplicated numerous times to get completed.

The solution is communication with the front line. Service Advisors need to have input when new products or systems are being considered, and, (more importantly) need the same level of training provided to our sales teams.

I am not simply referring to training that focuses on how to sell more per repair order, but training that addresses key Service Department processes; how to manage the work flow through the shop, how to communicate and update customers on their vehicles progression while being worked on by the technician, and when the vehicle is completed for pickup.

All the system generated e-mails, texts and videos will never have the same impact as a person reaching out to their customer with quick, concise and accurate information.  Even in the current world of incredible technology, people still remember and appreciate the personal touch. Personal touch is the best retention tool you will ever have at your dealership.

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