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Master These 5 Service Advisor Best Practices

By Ken Rock, Customer Care Manager

Training service advisors has never been more important; but there’s a big difference between knowing how to do a job and knowing how to do a job well. Service advisors are largely responsible for providing the “service” in service department, yet many have never been trained in fundamental best practices proven to turn every-day customers into loyal and enthusiastic fans.

Here are five best practices that are easy to let slip through the cracks, but that really make a difference in the service experience.

Greet every customer

When I visit dealerships I often see service advisors engrossed in what they’re doing. They’re running around or have their heads buried in work while a customer is waiting. I get that you’re busy. But if a customer is waiting, that customer always gets top priority. No matter what. Get out of your chair and greet a waiting customer…always.

When you do greet them, don’t resent the interruption. Your job is to make every customer feel like they’re at a wedding reception and not a funeral. Always smile and be genuinely happy to see every customer.

Start an electronic MPI

This is one of those processes that’s easy to skip or do poorly when things get busy. Too many service advisors check all the boxes without a thorough inspection, but this doesn’t help you, the dealership or the customer.

The MPI process is important for building rapport and trust with the customer. This should always be done in person. While doing the inspection, talk to the customer about their driving habits. Show them what you find. Seeing is believing and customers are more likely to approve a repair if they can see visual proof with their own eyes.

Verify all information

I realize that when customers drop off their cars they’re usually in a hurry to leave. But they chose to come to your dealership, and there are some things that should be a non-negotiable part of your check-in process. This is one of them.

The verification process helps to prevent misunderstandings. Why is the vehicle there today? The reason may have changed since the customer made the appointment so don’t assume what’s on the work order is correct.

Verify and update contact information. You want to be able to get hold of the customer and text them updates so make sure you have their cell number. This is important because most customers prefer to text, and also because your dealership pays a lot of money to marketing vendors every month to send out emails and postcards. As the service advisor, it’s your job to make sure your marketing vendor has correct information.

Additionally, review all charges and estimates with the customer. Review their expectations for the finished repair and pick up times.

This is also non-negotiable: customers MUST sign all ROs before work begins. Unsigned ROs are a huge liability for your dealership.

When possible, print pre-work orders from the system for review and signatures. This is actually a legal document as far as signatures go, so if they can’t sign the RO a pre- work order is a good substitute. Ideally print these out the night before all of your appointments so they’re ready to go in the morning.

Good housekeeping

Never leave the service area empty. Recently I was working at a dealership, and a customer showed up in front of me. I looked around. There wasn’t one service advisor in the room. This was at a dealership with 7 service advisors! Here’s the rule: if you need to leave the service area, even if it’s just for a minute, you need to look around and see if someone else is in the room. If there’s nobody else in that room, you aren’t allowed to leave. Period.

Also, it’s critical for dealers to find a way to make sure all phones are answered within two rings. Phones should not be answered by service advisors while they’re with customers. This means you have to designate and train someone else to answer phones during busy times, and that person should be able to answer basic questions and schedule appointments.

Make friendships last

When a repair is finished, call the customer to review their invoices, or text the invoice to the customer and let them know to call you if there are any concerns. Every customer should know the amount of their invoice before coming in to pick up the car.

When the customer comes to pick up their vehicle, walk them to the cashier and walk them back to their vehicle.

If you leave before the customer comes to pick up their vehicle, make sure the service manager will be there to greet the customer and knows the customer’s expectations.

If you feel like there are obstacles in your way that prevent you from mastering these best practices, talk with your manager. Keep in mind these best practices are very basic and just a starting point. But mastering the basics is important.

Last but not least, take pride in what you do and the service you provide. As a service advisor on the front line, your job is critically important to the success of your dealership.

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