Secrets from a Service Advisor Superstar

Dec. 4, 2017
Building lifelong customers is a matter of forming relationships. You need to make the customer feel as though you've known each other for longer than just five minutes.

Dean Joyce had only worked at 3A Automotive & Diesel Repair in Phoenix for one month when the lead service advisor unexpectedly quit—leaving just Joyce and owner Jimmy Alauria at the front counter.

It was overwhelming for Alauria and he can easily recall the frustration he felt after a particularly difficult customer.

That’s when Joyce stepped in and said, “You don’t have to deal with that. I can deal with that.”

And step in he did. That February, the shop brought in $132,000 in repairs and service, 75 percent of which Joyce was responsible for estimating and selling. By August, he had sold roughly $400,000 of work.

According to Alauria, there’s virtually nothing that can stop Joyce from being a phenomenal service writer—not even a traumatic motorcycle accident.

Paralyzed from the chest down, Joyce can’t move his fingers, has no tricep in his right arm and has a weak left arm. But he never complains. In fact, Alauria says it’s hard to work next to Joyce and not give 100 percent. Every day, Joyce taps into his love and passion for the industry and 3A to excel at what he does.


The Accident and the Aftermath:

Twenty-one-year old Joyce headed down to Phoenix in the fall of 1995 to fulfill his dream of attending the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute. However, that plan was derailed just seven weeks after he arrived, when he accompanied a friend on a motorcycle ride. As the two made a right turn at a green light, another driver traveling in the opposite direction cut them off. The driver slammed on his brakes and Joyce slid on his hands and feet for about 70 feet, landing head first into the side of the vehicle. His heart stopped at the scene.

At the hospital, Joyce was classified as being in a stage-three coma: brain dead, broken neck at multiple vertebrae, subdural hematoma from a fractured skull and on life support. But eight days later, he woke up and the recovery process began.

Despite having to return home to New York to complete his rehab and even obtaining an associate’s degree in liberal arts there, Joyce says working with cars was a passion he just couldn’t shake. In 1999, he started a car club and even owned his own shop for 10 years in Beacon, N.Y.

Although Joyce enjoyed owning a shop, he wanted to go back to Phoenix. So, in February 2015, he made a plan with his girlfriend to leave New York within the year. He sold his shop to a friend and left New York the day after Christmas 2015.


The Journey at 3A:

In February 2017, Joyce was hired by Alauria as a service advisor. In a strange twist of fate, 3A Automotive is on the same road that he was rushed in an ambulance to the emergency room that day in 1995.

Alauria was immediately impressed with Joyce when he interviewed for the position. He says that the two clicked; they spoke the same language as far as what the role entailed and how a customer should be taken care of.

 And while he wasn’t necessarily phased that Joyce was in a wheelchair, he did wonder about his limitations. That thought was quickly put to rest, however, when he called on Joyce’s references, who all told him the same thing: “Don’t judge the guy by his chair.”

Alauria offered to adapt the shop to Joyce’s needs, but Joyce told him not to—he would adapt to the position, not the other way around. All he required was cutting down his desk and changing the doorknobs.

Upon hearing that response, Alauria thought, “This guy is the real deal.”

“It’s an awesome place to work for, “ Joyce says. “I’m very happy he gave me a chance.”

Besides being an exceptional service advisor, Joyce has also been instrumental in boosting team morale.

“I’ve never seen someone silently affect the change [of] the morale of the shop that I’ve seen with Dean,” Alauria says.

Joyce is known for being a positive force in the workplace. He’s never missed a day of work, is notoriously always in a good mood and is never afraid to crack a joke—even to the most surly technician.

Joyce also helped the shop by going to AutoVitals training and then digitizing the shop’s inspection process. Alauria says Joyce has made the process faster and more efficient, saving the techs 10-20 minutes per job.

Ensure Your Business is Handicap Accessible

  • Joyce spent his first couple of years in Phoenix doing inspections on commercial properties for the Americans with Disabilities Act. Joyce provides his top tips for making your shop more handicap accessible:
  • Joyce says the most common accessibility issues is the bathroom. There is not enough floor space to maneuver a wheelchair.
  • Doors are frequently too heavy to open. All doors need to open with less than five pounds of force, whereas most open with 15 pounds of force.
  • There should be a smooth, level path from the parking area in and through the main entrance.

Joyce’s Tips for Outstanding Customer Service:

What makes Joyce stand out is not just his ability to sell, but also his customer service skills that leaves each and every customer happy.

He uses the same method with customers as he does with his teammates, making sure to be friendly and trying to get them to laugh. He says you have to make the person feel like you’ve known them for longer than five minutes.

Joyce believes that the key to building a good customer relationship is mostly based on the way you talk to people. Because he’s been doing this for so long, it comes natural to him, he says. Here are some of Joyce’s key tips to exceptional customer service and effective selling:

  1. Customers often have their guard up because they just don’t believe anyone, so right off the bat, be friendly, look them in the eye, get them to laugh if you can. Make sure they know that you’re paying attention to them. This establishes a comfortable connection right away.

  2. The most important key is letting the person know, especially if they are a new customer, that you’re going to look at the vehicle with a fine-tooth comb and pick out everything you see. This is just a starting point and it doesn’t necessarily mean that everything you find is bad or needs immediate attention.

  3. As far as selling the services, prioritize the list of needed repairs and maintenance. Present everything to the customer with their safety in mind. Joyce says that he makes sure to tell the customers that he will tell them everything they found, but first makes sure that they understand they can pick and choose with the safety issues in mind first. Go over the list with them, and if everything doesn’t sell, make it a recommended service. It’s important to explain to the customer what the priority repairs are and that they don’t have to buy all the work. This way it creates less pressure and you’re not hard-selling like a dealership would.  

SHOP STATS: 3A AUTOMOTIVE & DIESEL REPAIR  Location: PHOENIX  Operator: Jimmy Alauria  Average Monthly Car Count: 300  Staff Size: 10  Shop Size: 5,000 square feet  Annual Revenue $1.4 million  

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