The SOP: Hiring a Green Service Advisor

April 25, 2024
Coralee Zueff, service manager at Danica Motors, talks about the basics of hiring newbies in the front of the house.

Coralee Zueff is the service manager at Dancia Motors where she began as a service advisor in 2014. Zueff’s love for the automotive industry started in adolescence when she took an automotive class in high school. During her work as a service manager, Zueff discovered a passion for training service advisors, and in 2021 she authored “The Five Star Service Advisor” as a primer on conducting outstanding communication on both sides of the counter She’s also started speaking at automotive industry events.

Here, Zueff discusses how to find and train service advisors for those dipping their toes into the water for the first time. 


As told to Chris Jones

There are a lot of different avenues you can go to find a service advisor. I’m a fan of getting in touch with your local trade schools or with your local high schools to see if there's somebody there who would be a good fit. In these instances, shop owners can grow their teams and train them how they see fit. With students, you can talk to them about your auto repair shop and what they would do when they work in the position. You could allow the students to visit the shop and do some shadowing—it'd be a good trial with no pressure on the shop owner or student.

Another place to find advisors is to visit local car clubs, car shows, and other places where people who like cars spend their time. Having a love for the automotive industry is very important because that will come across when they speak to your customers, but you can find someone good at sales and train them in automotive. They could potentially be selling anything—refrigerators, furniture, roofing. If you train people with no automotive experience, it’s important to be patient and not discount the impact of having the advisor see the work you’re asking them to sell.


Help New-to-the-Industry Advisors Connect the Dots

I was training a group of service advisors. We were working on selling brake fluid flushes and the shop hadn't sold brake fluid flushes in two years, and we talked about the consequences of not doing brake fluid flushes—the expense and headache the customer is going to have, the risk for accidents, and whatnot. This group couldn't sell a brake fluid flush for the life of them. So, finally, they went into the shop, saw one being performed on a car, and then the greenest girl there—she had just come from customer service, not from an automotive background—saw this procedure being performed, and likened it to somebody getting a medical procedure or getting an IV fluid exchange. She said, “Oh, it's just like (an IV); the old fluid is going out and the new fluid is going in.” And that afternoon, she sold the first break fluid flush for the group. Some people are visual learners. They need to see things, see how it works, and then put it in their own words. It helps them to use examples from other parts of life like health care or the food industry.


The Wrong Hire Frustrates the Team

Hiring the wrong person can do quite a bit of damage because as service advisors, they are the face of your shop to the customer. They are making the work orders, ordering the parts, and everything. So, if that person doesn't understand how your shop does things, they can cause great financial damage. They also need to communicate well with the technician. If they don't give the technician what they need to diagnose a vehicle, if they don't order the parts the technician needs, or if they’ve quoted the wrong parts, that frustrates the technician and holds up the shop. So, it's very important to remind your new advisor that they shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions. I know an advisor may be afraid to ask a question and will try to figure things out on their own, but that creates the potential for a mistake. Give them room to ask any questions and make allowances for some growing pains that come with the job.


Train Internally and Then Externally

Finally, training is important and there are a lot of different options out there. After they've learned how you want things done in your auto repair shop, there are many great courses available and conferences that they can go to. It’s important to make sure your new advisor keeps growing.

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