The True Job Description of a Dealership Service Advisor
By Ted Ings, Executive Director
All too often, there’s confusion regarding a service advisor’s job description. Fortunately, we have a definition that makes the role crystal-clear.
Global employment website, Monster, says a service advisor is someone who, “Initiates automotive services and repairs by ascertaining performance problems and services requested; verifying warranty and service contract coverage; developing estimates; writing repair orders; maintaining customer rapport and records.”
Does that sound like you? Or, perhaps a better question is: do you know what your role as a service advisor really is?
Know your role: Service Advisor Job Description
To do your job – and do it well – you need to know what’s expected of you. A service advisor’s job description includes four primary responsibilities:
- Service sales
- Customer service
Let' examine each of these key responsibilities as to the service advisor’s role:
Proper communication is essential regardless of whether you’re selling real estate or automotive service. This includes our words, tone of voice and body language.
And, as any relationship expert will tell you, communication is more about listening than talking.
Service "writers" must listen closely to customer complaints, while also paying attention to information and requests from the technician. Then, the advisor must act as a liaison, relaying messages between the two parties.
Personal appearance: Service advisors must maintain the highest level of grooming, hygiene and uniform appearance. Conduct all business with honesty, sincerity and genuine concern for customers.
But there’s more: the service advisor must break down complex repair information so the customer can understand it. This is true before, during and after the customer’s visit.
Many vehicle owners have little to no knowledge of how their car operates. So, in some ways, the advisor acts as a teacher, helping customers understand automotive technology. Of course, this has to be done in a way that’s respectful; not condescending.
Handle all minor customer complaints with courtesy, tact and respect. We are here to help solve customer’s concerns - not add to them.
2. Service sales
Being an effective salesperson – especially in the auto service industry where customers are leery of dishonesty – takes a unique set of skills.
Advisors must sell vehicle owners recommended service without being overbearing. Natural ability comes into play, sure, but training and the right tactics are even more critical.
Do you properly prepare for each day's appointments with pre-writes, OEM and dealership service histories, menus and complimentary report cards? This allows you to spend the necessary time with the customer confirming their needs when they arrive.
Vehicle walk-around WITH the customer
To sell effectively, advisors must clarify why a particular service is necessary. To successfully do that, your best selling tool (and visual) is the customer's vehicle:
Welcome the customer at their vehicle's door, invite them to "please join me outside the vehicle" and confirm the customer's primary concern. Ask about other needs.
Provide the customer with a dealership service menu as well as explain the complimentary report card (MPI).
Get permission to step inside the vehicle, pronounce the mileage out loud (so the customer can refer to the service menu) and get permission to turn on the lights, release the hood and start the vehicle, turning the steering wheel to the right (allowing you to check the tires with the customer, starting with the driver’s side front tire.
Check for any valuables (cell phones, laptops, etc) that the customer may need. And then, with the customer, and proceed to walk around the vehicle WITH the customer, checking the tires and asking questions about anything obvious.
The entire service walk-around process takes less than 3 minutes.
The customer’s vehicle is also their comfort zone (as opposed to your service desk) and the best use of time you could possibly spend with them confirming their needs - saving time (and possible misunderstanding) later in the process.
Ask about other needs. Take a timing belt job, for instance; it helps to explain replacement maintains vehicle performance and prevents engine damage. Changing the belt before it breaks will save the customer money and help them avoid frustration.
Advisors need confidence!
Service professionals must be able to ask for a sale and overcome any rejections without seeming pushy. Give every customer an accurate estimate at the time the repair order is initially written.
Get the customer's written authorization (signature) and set proper expectations on next steps, including alternate transportation.
The walk-around improves the customer's experience while also increasing sales. It also demonstrates to other customers that this is your dealership's process - setting the stage for what they can expect.
Plus, to generate more business, advisors should ask for referrals before the customer leaves.
3. Customer Service
Customer service is the heart of the service advisor role.
Service advisors must have polished people skills, be friendly and able to deal with the occasional disgruntled vehicle owner.
Keep in mind the basics go a long way; advisors should always greet vehicle owners upon arrival and say thank you during checkout. Also, the vehicle should be delivered to the customer after the service is complete.
At that time, the advisor can go over every line of the RO to ensure understanding and satisfaction. Of course, proper follow-up immediately following the visit as well as a couple of days after the service appointment is essential as well. Take the time to personally call customers, as it goes a long way.
Writing repair orders, following up with customers, ordering components – these are all parts of a service writer’s job. Although these administrative tasks aren’t glamorous, they’re necessary to keep the workflow moving along. Consequently, advisors must possess office skills such as using a computer and doing basic math.
The most important administrative skill of all is organization
Advisors must keep track of customers and open ROs at all times; forgetting simple things, like order a part or returning a phone call, can have long-lasting consequences. They must document all telephone approvals - as well as maintain and update all open repair orders daily. Properly document all repair order changes. Don’t be vague with industry “lingo” or abbreviations - be clear so that your notes are not misunderstood by others later. The repair order is often used as a legal document - so take the time to ensure your entries are accurate and clear.
How do you stack up?
Perhaps one of the most accurate descriptions of a service advisor comes from the California Occupational Guide Number 240:
“An Automotive Service Advisor's job is multi-faceted and involves more than filling out an itemized list of the costs, parts, and labor and arranging for the work to be done. They need to be able to work with customers who are concerned about the amount and cost of the work to be done to their automobiles, and they need to be able to sell the service of the dealership or garage.Good communication skills and sales ability are vital to the success of the Automotive Service Advisor's performance.”
Are you doing all of the above on a daily basis? If not, now is the time to focus on improving your performance.
Desire, motivation and expert training can turn anyone into a superstar service advisor. Take the necessary steps to become the best in your field – starting today.
Got some ideas and feedback? We’d like to hear about it!