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How to Keep Your Service Advisor Happy

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More often than not, your service advisor is a customer’s first and longest-lasting impression of your shop. Whether calling with a quick update or walking a customer through the steps of a complicated repair, it’s likely it’ll be your advisor who will become the face of the business. Customers may not remember their last name, but they will remember your advisor’s attitude, quick wit, patience, empathy, and the time taken to explain even the simplest of fixes.

"Stellar advisors are optimistic, energetic, and friendly and they’ve got to be on all the time,” says Jen Monclus, certified sales and leadership trainer at Elite. “They’re ‘people’ people who thrive off helping others. They’re the ones getting people in the door and increasing car counts and if they’re having an off day, or overwhelmed or not in the best mood, why would someone bring their car to your shop? They’ve got to be eager to help if you’re going to compete with the shop down the street.”

With the crucial role service advisors play in turning a profit and building customer relationships, shop owners have a clear incentive to keep advisors satisfied and in high spirits—after all, their bad days will be your bad days. So, how can owners avoid the fallout of a disgruntled advisor? Monclus, Nick Sartor, lead service advisor for Reggie’s Motorworks in Noblesville, Ind., and Emily Sundstrom, service manager at Valley Auto Electric in Covington, Wash., share their tips for keeping your service advisor happy

Keep the line open

Effective communication with your staff is a core principle in running any business, but service advisors stress the impact of clear, consistent dialogue in their role.

“Open communication is at the core of our work, we’re the liaisons and translators between the customers and the rest of the shop all day, but being able to check in and ask questions is huge,” says Sundstrom.

Meeting regularly to talk through top priorities, set expectations and check in on upcoming goals or challenges can help keep service advisors and shop owners stay on the same page, but creating an open, ongoing channel for advice and feedback can help guide service advisors and build confidence in day-to-day decision making.

For Sundstrom and Valley Auto Electric owner Bryan Kelley, the ability to pop in and ask questions keeps her on track.

“[Kelley] and I are in touch constantly. Having that sounding board to bounce ideas off of or to have weigh in as issues come up helps keep me moving and keep work flowing smoothly,” says Sundstrom.

SHOP STATS: Valley Auto Electric  Locations: Covington, Wash.  Operator: Bryan Kelley  Average Monthly Car Count: 205  Total Staff Size: 6  Total Annual Revenue: $1.8 million  

Be present

Maintaining a physical presence in the shop can alleviate service advisor stress.

Whether they’re hoping to fit in more time with family or focus their efforts on strategizing for new parts of the business, Monclus finds many shop owners can feel tempted to spend less time in the shop after hiring and training a team they feel is functioning like a well-oiled machine.

“Being present is huge. I hear all the time from advisors who say it’s tough to keep things on track in a shop where the owner’s never there. Owners are busy and they may feel confident in and wholeheartedly trust their team, but what I hear from service advisors is that when owners take the time to be physically present throughout the week and take a moment to occasionally check in, it can keep the advisors from feeling overwhelmed by issues normally tackled by the owner,” says Monclus. “They don’t need to be there 10 hours per day, 5 days per week, but a little can go a long way.”

Don’t add pressure to go after every customer

You can’t be all things to all customers and pushing service advisors to go after any and all customers will keep their wheels spinning and cause disruptions through the rest of the shop’s flow.

“When you experience pressure to go after all customers, that could be a sign not everyone understands the shop’s core client base. Is it the Groupon customer looking for a less expensive repair? Is it someone focused on safety? Or performance? Owners and their teams need to be communicating consistently and effectively to lay out and specify that ideal demographic,” says Monclus.

While you don’t want your service advisors counting potential customers out too soon, you also need to clearly define the demographic that will be the best fit for your shop’s specific size, team and skill set.

“If I felt any sort of pressure to go after every single client, I’d go insane,” says Sartor. “There’s a shop for every client and a client for every shop, but not every client is going to be a fit for us. Our approach is very thorough and we’re not the cheapest. We’re a high-end European-focused facility with a strong focus on detail and a strong reputation for quality work. A potential customer may come in with a brand new luxury model, but if he’s looking for a quick, cheap oil change, it’s probably not going to be a fit if he’s not interested in spending the money”

“Going after every customer creates an enormous burden that can feel like you’re being set up to fail,” says Sundstrom. “We’re always going to take the time to offer our professional opinion and educate potential customers, but if the work they’re looking for isn’t something we can deliver on, is it really going to be a win for anyone? Will it create work our techs aren’t confident in, leaving our shop and our customer frustrated? It’s all about setting those expectations and having a clearly identified framework you can work within.”

SHOP STATS: Reggie's Motorworks  Locations: Noblesville, Ind.  Operator: Reggie Stewart  Average Monthly Car Count: 140  Total Staff Size: 10 Total Annual Revenue: $1.8 million  

Step up your support

While the service advisor role is already built around multitasking, each shop’s unique makeup can present challenges that will only add to an advisor’s work in balancing a steady flow of paperwork, constant customer communication and key relationship building. Depending on shop size and structure, an already busy advisor can end up covering gaps in staffing as a true jack- or jill-of-all-trades, making an already busy day even tighter.

Whether you’re implementing new tools and software to streamline processes, equipping your staff with new education and training or hopping in to help out where needed, providing more resources to match a larger workload won’t go unnoticed.

“For me, as the sole service advisor for a smaller shop, wearing so many hats became a major source of stress. There just weren’t enough hours in the day and I wasn’t getting as much of a chance to sell,” says Sartor. “In the last year, we’ve added more permanent office support staff, which is a huge relief to know I’ll have that help.”

For Sundstrom, knowing she has an extra set of hands from Kelley when time is tight keeps her from getting overwhelmed.

“Bryan jokes that he works on the business rather than in the business, but he's ready to hop in and help me keep things moving,” she says. “If I need help up at the front, he works for me and it’s me laying out the expectations for the work he’ll do that day. He’s busy, he’s got his own tasks, but knowing I can tap him when I need the support makes it that much easier to focus on doing good work.”

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