You've Been Promoted to Service Manager. Where Do You Start?

By Ted Ings, Executive Director

Being promoted from service advisor to service manager can be both exciting and intimidating

Now you’re the one at the helm, in charge of the entire department. Obviously, you want to do the best job possible – but where do you start?

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How to become a stellar service manager

It always helps to have a few pointers when taking on a new role. These tips will help you excel in your updated position.

1. Always start with customer satisfaction

Everything else hinges on happy, well-served customers. Review every CSI survey you receive and make sure your advisors follow up on each one. If your scores are down – get them up!

These are some easy and inexpensive ways to increase customer satisfaction:

• Don’t make promises you can’t keep. If you aren’t 100% sure you can get a job done by EOD, be upfront with the customer and tell them. If they’re suddenly stuck without a car, you can bet they’ll give your department a lousy review.

• Show appreciation. Customers don’t want to feel like just another repair order. Make sure your team takes the time to thank every person that walks through the door. It’s also helpful to follow up by phone a few days later. A call can be used to show your appreciation and check whether the vehicle owner is satisfied with the work performed.

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• Provide service that’s easy and convenient. Don’t tell the customer what scheduling slots you have available. Instead, ask them what day and time works best for them. Mention your complimentary shuttle service, and ask if they’d like a text message (instead of a call) regarding their vehicle’s progress.

• Make complex repairs simple to understand. One trend that’s catching on at dealerships is techs taking a video of needed repairs, then sending it to the customer. This is an effective way to let an owner know exactly what’s going on with their car. It also helps dispel any suspicions that you might be trying to “pull one over”.

2. Find an extra 0.2 hours per work order

Establish yourself as a productive manager by finding ways to add an extra two-tenths of an hour on average to your work orders. It will provide a solid, sustainable boost for your department that shows you know what you’re doing.

Just how do you go about this? Here are a few suggestions:

• Perform a vehicle walk-around WITH your service customer. That way you can spot potential service items before the car ever enters the shop. Also, the customer may have concerns they wish to point out to you.

• Pay attention to scheduling. Too much business and your employees will work inefficiently and make mistakes. On the other hand, too little leads to lost revenue and hungry technicians. Although scheduling can be difficult, finding the right balance is the key to a productive (and happy) shop.

Focusing on getting higher hours-per-repair order, as opposed to car count, is one way to stay booked solid without compromising quality.

• Make sure your technicians are keeping their eyes peeled. Sometimes, a tech will rush through a courtesy worksheet, checking boxes without inspecting. Stress the importance of a thorough inspection of each car. Overlooked problems cost the service department hours, and of course, money. Plus, not spotting an issue makes your shop look bad and infuriates customers.

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• Don’t forget to recommend maintenance services. Service advisors can look this information up while taking in a vehicle, then offer it to the customer before they ever leave the premises.

• Charge for your time. Don’t skimp on diagnostic time, or worse yet, give it away for free. If a difficult electrical job requires a few hours of diag time, be sure to charge for each and every one.

3. Develop yourself

Read books on management, customer service, and selling techniques. Learn continuously and pass that knowledge onto your staff.


Of course, reading books isn’t the only way to educate yourself. Other sources, such as the following, can be valuable as well.

• Trade publications. Periodicals like Motor Magazine and Ratchet and Wrench provide volumes of management information.

• Classes and seminars. In-person training, like the offerings from CPI, are invaluable when it comes to honing your managerial skills.

• Online training. While not as helpful as in-person education, online training is a convenient and (typically) affordable way to improve your management skills.

Never stop improving yourself

A promotion comes with honor, but also great responsibility. Start your new position off successfully by focusing on customer satisfaction, boosting your sales, and developing yourself and your team. Then, continue that success by working every day to be the best service manager – and the best person – you can be.