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Jason Unrau

Jason Unrau Freelance Contributor

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Why You Shouldn’t Expect Your Service Advisors to Do More

The service advisor's job is a juggling act. Do you answer the line flashing on your phone first, call the estimate an impatient tech just put in your hand, or perform a walkaround for the customer who just drove into the service drive? In this juggling act, there are always multiple balls in the air, and one is always close to hitting the ground.

Multitasking is a part of the service advisor’s role. But as service managers and fixed operations directors, it’s in your best interest to streamline their work. Here’s why.

Multitasking is Inefficient

Research at the University of California has found that it takes 25 minutes to resume a task after being interrupted. Think about it in your own life. When you’re in the middle of something at work or at home and you’re interrupted to perform another task, can you get right back into it when the interruption is over? In my life, I prove the research is true. I can’t make the mental shift back to task #1 immediately.

It doesn’t mean that service advisors should not be capable of juggling multiple tasks and prioritizing the order. It’s integral to the role. But what it does mean for management is that interrupting the service advisor’s tasks with something that’s outside their daily tasks should be planned thoughtfully.

For example, HR needs a short online course for OSHA compliance performed by everyone in the service department. Instead of putting it on their plate mid-morning, schedule it for the first thing after they return from their lunch break. Your service advisor can better devote their mind space to it.

Mistakes Happen

I know it’s true for me. When I’m faced with multiple things at once, it’s an opportunity to make a wrong call. Mistakes happen. It might seem like a really minor thing to add a point to a routine, but it leads to mistakes.

You’ve decided that your busy service drive needs to be streamlined and your service advisors should put floor mats and seat covers in so valets can focus on parking vehicles faster. Think about something menial in your store that might be similar to the example. It seems like a non-issue, but it requires mental capacity to change a habit. You’d probably prefer service advisors use that mental capacity for productivity, wouldn’t you?

And what happens if the service advisor misses it in their routine? The valet pulls the vehicle out without a seat cover, the technician is sick of picking up the slack and does the work without it, and you’re left with a detailing bill for the handprint on the customer’s cream-colored seat.

It Decreases Productivity

The same research shows that it takes 50% longer to complete a single task when you’re multitasking. That means that a 10-minute task takes 15 minutes. But since you’re doing two things at once, it means that each 10-minute task takes 15 minutes – what should take 20 minutes takes 30.


The takeaway is this: it pays to keep your service advisors focused on the tasks that are productive. They include greeting customers, performing walkarounds, reviewing maintenance recommendations and upsells, writing ROs, selling estimates, and keeping in contact with customers. Follow-up calls are also important.

It’s in a service department’s interests to strip away non-compulsory tasks that take away from productivity. In most cases, adding an extra support staff is a less expensive option than expecting service advisors to add to their workload. It isn’t an excuse for service advisors to not chip in when they can, especially if they have idle time. But if your service department is humming at full or near-full capacity, it doesn’t make good sense to demand more from the highest-selling people in your store.  

Joe Henry

Jason, so true about needing to be a centipede. And with your receptionist yelling “get the phone!” while you have a tech AND a customer standing in front of you, no wonder:

NADA study states the average dealership will lose 1 out of 4 Techs and 2 out of 5 Service Advisors/ASMs a year

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