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Ujj Nath

Ujj Nath Founder & CEO

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Give Service Advisors a Break – It’s Time to Reduce the Noise

Many dealers and managers outside of the service department don’t realize how incredibly busy a service advisor (SA) is throughout their day. Keep in mind that these are front-line employees dealing directly with your customers. They have an extremely important role in the dealership. In fact, it could be argued that a SA has more influence on a dealership’s livelihood when it comes to customer retention and loyalty than any other position in the dealership. A single SA sees many more customers in a day than any salesperson.

Don’t believe me about how busy these guys and gals are? Try calling a SA between 4 and 6 pm (their peak time for delivery of cars) for assistance. You will likely go straight to voicemail. If you do reach them they’ll tell you they’ll call you right back – and you will have to wait a while for that return call. This is happening more often than most dealers realize. As a mystery shopping exercise, I would recommend that the GMs or principals of the dealership call their own main 800# between 4 and 6 pm, act like a customer trying to get hold of their SA, and see how hard it is. Start a stopwatch and do the exercise 10 times. If you do get connected to your SA directly, count it is a success.  

When we analyzed recordings of the main number, here are some statistics that surprised us.  It took an average of 3 minutes to get to a human or voicemail and the customer got the correct SA only 1 out of 10 times. Now put on the “shoes of the customer” who sees you once every 8-10 months, is this what you want happening?

I believe this has a lot to do with the general trend of automation. As OEMs push more and more responsibilities off onto the dealer, the service advisor has become overloaded and it’s time to reduce the noise.

I actually counted the # of tasks that a SA is responsible for at the dealership and I stopped counting at 15 ….:

1. Greeting customers upon arrival.

2. Performing a visual inspection of the vehicle for dings/dents upon intake.

3. Consulting with the customer about vehicle ailments and creating a repair order.

4. Dispatching the work to technicians.

5. Contacting the customer with the diagnosis and/or any additional service recommendations and maintaining contact regarding vehicle status.

6. Checking with the parts department for parts availability on the repair order.

7. Checking for any open recalls and/or TSBs for each vehicle.

8. Checking to see if vehicle is in warranty.

9. Looking at the vehicle’s history for any prior repairs that may affect the current problem.

10. Greeting tow truck drivers and liaising with shuttle drivers.

11. Handling calls and answering questions from customers and others with general questions about vehicle service.

12. Submitting factory and extended warranty claims.

13. Arranging for pickup and delivery of customers and/or vehicles.

14. Coordinating with the loaner desk to make sure loaners are available.

15. Staying up to date/certified on any OEM software and OEM certifications.

And this list doesn’t include all the additional internal forms they need to fill out and the training they need to complete to remain compliant with regulatory rules. It’s exhausting and its day in and day out.

The customer tends to get lost in all this noise. It’s similar to the medical profession today as things get more and more automated and digitized. There used to be an art to diagnosing and dealing with the patient. My uncle is a doctor and back in the day you would get a full physical exam which included tapping different parts of your body, listening on the stethoscope for clues to illnesses. Today your doctor will wheel in a computer and spend the bulk of his time entering data into a computer. The modern doctors have become dignified digital clerks!!  Do you want this to happen to your SAs?

This art of personalization has been lost in vehicle service too. If you would like your service department to be effective and provide a great customer experience, find a way to reduce the noise in your service advisors’ daily lives. Take some time to truly study the service department and I am sure you can find some ways to help increase efficiency so there is less noise and forms for the service advisors to fill-out. This will then help increase customer interactions and provide a better customer experience which leads to increased CSI and profitability. And then everyone wins.

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