Working at the service desk or being a customer who brings a vehicle in for maintenance, it’s evident when a service advisor doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Perhaps it’s because I have somewhat technical knowledge of a vehicle’s workings. But I believe that today’s consumers are more educated than the average service advisor gives them credit for. The worst thing a service advisor can do is lose the customer’s trust, and that’s precisely what happens when you sound like you’re speaking from an orifice in your nether region.
Understandably, becoming a service advisor is a profession that pays well where years of education aren’t a prerequisite. But sustaining the career and being successful long-term should involve some training, and this time, I’m not talking about service advisor selling skills or people skills.
Most trainers in the industry will tell you that you don’t need to know how a car works to be an effective service advisor; that your role is to be a liaison between the customer and the technician. Your main role is keeping the customer up to date on how their visit is progressing and ensuring you can sell as much service work as possible.
While that’s true, it’s difficult – nearly impossible, really – to increase your gross profit amounts and average dollars per RO if you can’t communicate with the customer accurately.
A recent service visit I made was for routine maintenance on my wife’s vehicle. The service advisor went through all their usual upsells that I politely declined. Then they tried to sell me on a transmission service based on mileage, and on the wrong style of transmission. Rather than trying to sell me a drain and refill on a 6-speed automatic, they thought I should have a CVT transmission service. I politely corrected them, plus indicated that they were trying to upsell something at half its lifecycle according to severe use in the owner’s manual.
This is a soft example, sure. But it shows that when a service advisor can’t get the mechanical details correct, the customer isn’t going to buy the service or repair. Consider this hypothetical instance.
A customer comes in for clunking suspension. The tech recommends new front struts due to wear but when the service advisor speaks with the customer, they say the struts are broken. Perhaps they embellish and say the car is unsafe to drive. An alarmed customer would rightly be suspicious since the noise probably slowly progressed, and they’ll go for a second opinion elsewhere. Worse yet, they’ll want to see it on the hoist, and the technician will say something that completely goes against the story the advisor told.
Bottom line: the customer loses trust. I’ve seen it so many times, and one instance will demolish a customer’s relationship with the whole dealership. The solution?
One of the most important things for a service advisor’s ability to do their job is an understanding of the product. One of the best training programs is from ASE.com, and facilities like Universal Technical Institute do a great job preparing service advisors for their job. I’d encourage employers to make mechanical training mandatory within a period of hiring – two years from date of employment, for example.
And after the training is done, service advisors should spend time shadowing technicians in the shop for at least a week, longer is better. This helps them learn more about how a car’s systems work. This way, they can accurately communicate with customers in a more professional way to give your whole dealership a polished look.