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Jason Unrau

Jason Unrau Freelance Contributor

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Five Ways Service Managers Can Support their Service Advisors

Like all industries, there is often an ‘us versus them’ mentality between management and front-line staff. My guess is that your experience is similar in the service department. Service advisors feel like their always being admonished and corrected by management, and managers always feel like service advisors are trying to get away with something. In many instances, it’s true.

A service advisor has a tough job. I’d say it’s probably the hardest position in the dealership aside from the GM and dealer principal positions. They can sell hundreds of thousands of dollars in labor and parts monthly and at higher margins than any car sale. They speak to more customers in a day than almost anyone else, and there’s a ton of pressure for perfection in customer service.

What makes a service advisor’s job so much easier is when they have the full support of their manager. Here are five things service managers can do to support their advisors and help them succeed and thrive.

Forgive Mistakes

There’s a saying that goes:

“If you work a lot you make a lot of mistakes. But if you don’t work a lot you only make a few mistakes. And if you don’t work at all you don’t make any mistakes!”

The more responsibility a service advisor takes on, the more you’re bound to see errors. It could be mathematical, errors in judgment, or even mistakes in serving customers. As someone who’s been there, it’s important for an advisor to know that their actions that it’s okay to make mistakes.

It seems that once someone becomes a manager, they default to expecting perfection from their team. It’s unrealistic, obviously, since no one is. And we aren’t talking about ignoring mistakes either. It’s simply acknowledging humanity in falling short.

“Yes, it probably would have gone better if it was handled differently. I appreciate that you took action with the situation, even if it wasn’t necessarily right this time. Don’t worry about it – as long as you learned from it. What would you do differently next time?”

Unless actions are egregious, punitive action is rarely required.

Work Side by Side

Management has its own tasks to perform, no doubt. However, the strength of a team is dependent on a leader knowing what their team members are experiencing. A service manager should be equipped to step in and work beside a service advisor when the need arises. That may not mean writing ROs, although it could if the manager is capable. But it could be parking cars, greeting customers, and just being present along with the staff.

Being Decisive          

While no one likes making the wrong call, stagnation is worse. A great leader is decisive and shows that they are willing to take action when the situation demands it. Even when the decision someone makes is wrong or doesn’t work out positively, it reflects well on a leader when they make a decision and stick with it.

Now, we all know someone who won’t give up on a decision they’ve made. That’s not what is meant here. You’re free to change your mind if the action isn’t working out, but sitting around, humming and hawing about what to do, isn’t a quality that team members admire.

Always Keep Your Word

If you make a promise, keep your word. I can think of several scenarios form my career where a manager has promised a promotion, reward, or action that never came to fruition. There’s nothing more detrimental to relationships with your team members – or anyone in life, actually – than not fulfilling what you’ve promised. And don’t look for loopholes to get out of something either.

Managing People, Not Numbers

I get it. Everyone has a DOC to review, month-end targets to meet. It can become quite obvious where there’s a chink in your team’s armor. And if your solution is to go by the numbers to decide who is dedicated to the team, or who should stay or go, I truly believe you’re doing it wrong.

Someone might have a down month because one of their clients required hours of their time to solve a real problem. There may be someone who is dedicated to completely serving the customer rather than meeting sales targets. And everyone has struggles at home sometimes – a meddling mother-in-law, a medical emergency with a child, a financial crisis, divorce, and so on. Understand their situation to qualify their numbers.

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