Top 15 Service Advisor Myths
Service Advisors and Fixed Operations experts, listen up, service advisor myths are dangerous things. They are invented from misinformation and the unknown. For example, only a few thousand years ago it was generally believed that if you sailed too far out to sea, you would fall off the end of the earth. It was only when man dared to sail out beyond where they had previously sailed that they proved the myth wrong. There was a time when people actually believed that the moon was made of cheese. That was disproven with the aid of powerful telescopes. Or how about that myth that if your wife is happy, everyone is happy – wait a minute… that last one is not a myth, or at least that is what my wife tells me.
In the automotive industry, there are myths that exist today regarding service writing, even though they have been disproven many times over by actual service writers themselves. Although they have been disproven, many still hang on to these myths. Why? I believe it is because by allowing the myth to exist, it can remain an excuse not to change; an excuse that allows many to be lazy and not acknowledge problems (which may require change or simply some sweat equity), or it could be that the myth has such strong reasoning behind it, that we just accept it as truth.
Today I list some of the most common myths surrounding the writing of service and hopefully, once and for all, make the many believers of these myths see otherwise.
Myth 1: If you write service and have a high closing ratio and high customer paid repair order average, then it is impossible to have high survey scores and/or high customer retention.
Fact: I know hundreds of service writers who complete the trifecta month after month, year after year. The difference is how hard you are willing to train a person and hold them accountable. If you expect and allow the myth to come true, it will – but it doesn’t have to. Think high-end restaurant here. If you visit a five star restaurant like Ruth’s Chris, you will experience servers that please people, sell plenty of appetizers, desserts and drinks and have people return in the future requesting them. As a matter of fact, if they cannot do those things, their service will not be retained and they will be let go. They accomplish the trifecta because they are trained to, and then held accountable to.
Myth 2: It takes at least a year before a service advisor can be a top producer.
Fact: If it takes that long, you simply hired the wrong person, did not train the person to be successful, or the person has no goals and desire to perform. If a new service writer is not meeting or exceeding your minimum standards within ninety days of their start date, it is likely they never will. If this is a concern for you, change your interview practices and/or your training program.
Myth 3: Finding a great service advisor is next to impossible.
Fact: The average service writer makes $65,000 annually, gets two weeks paid vacation, and has a benefit package that rivals some of the largest industries. An employment package like this puts them in the top twenty-five to thirty percent of income earners in the country. It allows them to have a house that will average 2300 square feet, and drive a new vehicle in the thirty-five thousand dollar range; and if they have a spouse that works, add in another vehicle, and another eight hundred square feet of house. With all that said, you can’t find these employees? You need help with your ads, your interviewing techniques, and help in knowing how to sell a marvelous, highly satisfying and rewarding career like service writing.
Myth 4: A great service writer rarely makes a great manager.
Fact: You’re right! Not if you pull them out of their job writing service one day, and throw them in the manager’s chair the next without any coaching. The mistake I see here is we constantly put people in management because they understand the technical side of the business, are well liked, and appear to want to go the extra mile. The first and most important things to look for in a new manager are their ability to lead, make decisions, and make those who surround them better. These are things, just like on the technical side of the business, that can be taught and learned by a willing student. To develop tomorrow’s leaders from today’s service writers, you have to teach them how to lead and make good decisions as they perform today’s job. Teach them to prepare for the next step up the ladder while they occupy their current step.
Myth 5: Service writers can handle more than fifteen customers a day.
Fact: Not if you want to have high survey scores, high customer retention, high closing ratios, high customer paid sales and maximum profits. I say this in nearly every meeting I conduct and have said so for years. If you allow your service writers to write more then fifteen repair orders a day, then forget about the high numbers in the fore mentioned areas. If you choose that path, you are now limiting your service writers to be high volume clerks. Yes, you can and will make some profits off the high volume sales template as that is the very way most dealerships allow their service writers to work. However, the other numbers simply will not be there – for one reason: lack of time. If you want to have high survey scores, customer retention, closing ratios, hours per repair order and maximum profits, you must give your writers the time to sell and work with the customers. You only have the right, in my mind, to expect high numbers in all categories if you limit and control the number of tickets written in a day to fifteen or less.
Myth 6: Service writers will not do what is asked of them, like walk around vehicles and memorize word tracks, nor do they respond well to authority.
Fact: No, they do not respond to weak leaders and weak leadership. If that is your problem, then your problem is clearly a question of you or your manager’s ability to lead and command respect. Think of your service writers as vendors. It is a business deal. You require them to do what you ask and they either do it and get to remain on your preferred vendors list, or they do not do what you require and you find a new vendor. Easy to do. Read the third myth again.
Myth 7: It takes a special service writer to be able to handle high line vehicles, because high end customers are different.
Fact: High line customers are rarely different than the non-high line customer. As a matter of fact, they many times are the same exact customer. Literally. For example, I drive a Mercedes, my wife drives a Ford. Furthermore, look at the very street I live on. There are fifteen houses. Each driveway has either a Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Porche, Tesla or Lexus in it. In addition, on each of those driveways is Ford, Chevy, Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai or Honda. Regardless of which vehicle we drive, we simply want to go to a place where they are enthusiastic, caring, honest, can get the job done, and through their skill and approach, make us want to return for future visits. My CFO is a perfect example. She drives past her Infinity dealership when she needs service to do business with the Toyota dealership simply because, in her words, “I get better service at the Toyota dealership.”
Myth 8: Service writers do not need the same amount of training as the car sales staff.
Fact: A Service Advisor who works with just fifteen customers a day will generate more gross profit for a dealership in a month than a sales person does who delivers thirty vehicles in that same month. In addition, due to the volume of customers they will talk to in a month, they will have more impact on your survey scores and customer retention than any other employee in the dealership, including the dealer. So why would they not need the same amount of training or more?
Myth 9: Women service writers who are mothers are risky due to parental responsibilities.
Fact: Tell that to Abigail Adams, wife to President John Adams. While John was overseas for many years, she stayed behind and ran the farm, ran John’s businesses and raised 6 kids, one of which grew up to be our nation’s sixth president. One of my daughters is at the child bearing age. She and ten of her close friends have all had children in the past twenty-four months. While one of them quit her career and became a stay/work at home mom, the other nine not only continued their careers, but eight of them actually increased their hours or took on more responsibility. Why? Because they quickly realized that if their kids were to have a life equal to or greater than their own, they had to work harder and smarter. If all things are equal and I have the opportunity to hire a male service writer versus a female service writer with kids, especially young ones, I will take the female with kids every time. Think grizzly bear with cubs.
Myth 10: Service writers who work in economically challenged areas cannot sell as much as service writers who work in affluent areas.
Fact: Many times, they can sell more for one simple reason; the more financially challenged a person is, the more important their vehicle becomes to them. Financially challenged customers know that if their vehicle does not run and they cannot get to work, then their financial situation will only get worse. I have worked in countless service drives with countless service advisors where their customers were financially challenged and the sales made were either equal to or greater than those in service departments where the reverse was true. The difference is that the financially challenged customer requires a service advisor who has a slightly different skill set and outstanding follow-up and over the telephone selling skills.
Myth 11: Women service writers have a tougher time in service because men prefer to talk with men.
Fact: Service advising is not a gender specific. A service advisor who is strong at taking control of the customer and exudes confidence, can and will be able to handle your customers. While this myth used to have some validity fifty years ago, it has none today. If I were to list the top ten service advisors that I have worked with over the past twenty-nine years, seven of the top ten would be women.
Myth 12: It does not take as much skill to be a quick service writer as it does to be a full shop service writer.
Fact: Arguably, it takes more. Think about it. A quick service writer is many times the first person a new customer will work with in service after purchasing a new vehicle. Their ability to handle your customer and convince them that your shop is the only place to go for service, has to be near perfect, if not perfect, to get the job done. Although the path to full shop writer begins many times in express, the express writer should be trained to expertly handle any scenario that a full shop writer would. Again, they are likely to be the first point of face to face contact in the dealership after purchasing a new vehicle. Express should be trained to impress – every time, on every level.
Myth 13: It is impossible to train veteran service writers to adapt to changes in their customers’ demands and in new technology.
Fact: Not if you have established a culture of constant change in your department. The service writer or employee who cannot adapt to change and evolution in retail sales will become a dinosaur within five years. When you consider how rapidly your customers and their buying habits have changed in just the past few years, and how rapidly technology changes, any employee who can not keep up is costing you money. In the future there will be two types of sales people; those who sell technology and those who use it. The rest will become obsolete.
Myth 14: Service writers can handle setting their own check-in times, checking in your customers’ vehicles, following up on those customers throughout the day, closing those customers over the telephone, closing out their own repair orders, contact customers who have been waiting for parts, cashier their own customers, actively deliver vehicles back to each customer as the vehicle repairs are completed, send a thank you note to each customer, contact customers who missed their check in times, contact customers who previously declined repairs, contact customers they have not seen in over six months, while at the same time getting and maintaining high survey scores and customer retention.
Fact: Only if they write ten to fifteen repair orders a day. Just like on the vehicle sales side, you want to free your service writers (sales people) up as much as you can, to talk to your customers. Sales people make you money when they are talking to your customers. The more time they have to talk to your customers, the more money they will make you. From the beginning of car sells through the early 1960’s, vehicle sales people answered the dealership’s incoming sales calls, did their own financing and helped people when they came in for service. When dealers realized that those activities kept their sales staff in the building and not out on the lot where the buyers where, it ushered in the era of the telephone receptionist, the F & I department and service staff, and significantly more vehicles were sold. The more you can do to support your advisors by freeing them up to talk to your customers, the higher your retention, survey scores and sales will be.
Myth 15: Service writers will not sell or are not good at selling additional products like special wheels, extended warranties, details, etc.
Fact: Not true. To sell anything on a service drive requires three things; a great product, great training in how to present and sell it, and a great pay plan.
As I have noted many times, I am a student of history. In studying history, I have seen time and time again that once a myth is dispelled great advances routinely follow. In the future, whenever you hear something that sounds like a myth, or hear an excuse from your staff and those in the business that impedes your ability to advance, question it, challenge it and test it before succumbing to its restraints. Then you will be poised to break free from the myth’s chains that bind, and achieve advances that will make your Dealer Principle happy. Because in the end, it gets down to one simple fact, like being married: if the Dealer is happy, everyone is happy – and that ain’t no myth.
If you are consistently not hitting your sales, retention and survey goals, it is a sign of great weakness not to try something new. Trying something new can be as simple as taking a look at what you or your staff say can’t be done, and testing to see if the reason is based on fact or myth. You should make this a common practice and part of your monthly routine to dispel myths that may exist in your work place. I get blamed from time to time for being too willing to test and eliminate these myths and reasons that hold my business back. I am told I need more patience. The fact is, I do have patience for the time it sometimes takes for myths to be tested. What I do not have patience for is the lost customers and revenues that myths produce.
About the author: Jeff Cowan, in his 30th year of Service Department Sales Training, is recognized as the creator of the modern-day, walk-around and selling processes for dealership service departments and after-market auto service repair shops. Jeff is the nation’s authority when it comes to training service advisors and service support staff. You can see him on a weekly broadcast of CBT News and read many of his published articles on various automotive publications. Currently partnered with NADA, EasyCare, NCM, Marellen, and other vendors and manufacturers.
Visit his website at AutomotiveServiceTraining.com get info on On-Site Training, Public and Private Workshops, DVD Training Program, Webinars, and a FREE trial of Virtual Training! For more great tips and advice, follow Jeff on Twitter at@JCowansProTalk. He’s also on Facebook, and Google+. You can also watch Jeff Cowan’s videos on YouTube!
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