What is the purpose of a service advisor? One previous trainer said that the purpose of a service advisor is “Get car in shop!” While that may be part of it, there is much, much more involved. Perhaps the first job of the service advisor is to get the car (or truck) into the shop, so that it can be properly diagnosed and assessed to determine exactly what the specific needs are.

“Get car in shop” is the first challenge. Customers typically ask three basic questions: Do you do it? When can you it? How much will it cost? Having prepared answers for these three questions will certainly help you get that car in the shop.

  1. Do you do it? Easy one, Yes or no.
  2. When can you do it? Now, there are two trains of thought for this. Some trainers will ask the customer if they can bring it in right away. Once they “get car in shop”, then they worry about how soon they can actually get to it. The other option is to look at your schedule and plan accordingly. If you really want to tick a customer off, get their car in and don’t look at it for days or weeks. Your shop flow and shop policy should give you indications of how to proceed here. If the shop has no policy in place, ask your manager how you should handle it.
  3. How much will it cost? The dreaded “How Much” question. Again, you should check shop policy, but tread lightly. Some services are menu priced and easy enough to quote, but there can still be a danger. If it is not a menu priced item, tell the customer that the only way to provide an accurate estimate is to have the vehicle inspected by your technician, and then you can call them with options BEFORE making any repairs. There are multiple responses for the “how much” question that we will be looking at more closely in a future article.

Once an effective service advisor has gotten the car into the shop, stage 2 of the advisor’s purpose comes into play.

In most independent shops, this is where the real work begins. The service advisor must get accurate information from a technician. For technicians, this means describing to the advisor the three C’s: Concern, Cause, and Correction. What was the original concern? What caused the failure? And what is needed to correct it?

“The water pump is shot” is not a proper response. Does that mean there is a bullet hole in it? Perhaps a better technician response is to say something like: “The coolant leak is from a failing internal seal that is evident from the coolant leaking from the weep hole. The water pump needs to be replaced to correct the coolant leak concern. I also recommend flushing the coolant system to help prevent future failures.”

With a description like that, the service advisor can confidently create an estimate and advise the customer. I have told my techs, “If you want me to sell the job, you have to sell me on it first.” Not only is the service advisor now able to ease a customer’s stress over a coolant leak, the shop is also able to provide a much overlooked service by flushing the coolant system. Now might even be a good time to recommend a thermostat replacement if the engine has ever run hot. Or, you could just replace the water pump and wonder why the Average RO is so low.

Next step: Remember the joke about how to get to Carnegie Hall? “Practice man, Practice.” Practicing how you are going to present a repair to the owner will greatly increase both your professionalism to the customer, and ultimately, total sales. If the customer has confidence in the advisor and the shop, they are much more likely to approve a repair.

Advising an owner of additional needed services is a major part of the purpose of the advisor. Here is a place for caution as well. As with many things in life, the secret is intent. Is it your intent to serve the customer by saving them money and increasing the reliability of their vehicle? Or is it to increase total sales and possibly your own paycheck? If the customer senses that you are only trying to make a sale, you have lost credibility and trust with that customer.

The next discussion brings up one of the controversies between advisors and techs. Because the advisor is the contact with the customer, they are more in touch with the needs and wants of each customer. Techs focus on fixing problems. It has been the eternal battle cry of the technician to not be pulled off one job to work on another. However, the advisor has a better feel for which jobs need to have priority. The advisor must have the authority to make those decisions. And I know that every tech reading this just groaned. Trust me, I feel your pain. This topic is worth an article all to itself. In the end, the advisor is the Traffic Cop of the shop and has to orchestrate the flow based on the needs of the customer.

While this article can only touch on some of the most obvious purposes of the advisor, there is one more item to discuss. You must be able to answer all of a customer’s questions. Which means, the tech must answer all of your questions. Not being able to answer questions about the repair removes a customer’s confidence in the shop as a whole. If you really want to upset a tech, pull him off a job to come answer some basic questions about a repair.

This also brings up another pet peeve: the PMI. Have you ever had a customer ask if the tire pressures were checked? With no PMI, how can you truthfully answer that? Worse yet is if you tell them it was done and they go out to find a flat or TPM light on. A properly completed RO and PMI can go a long way to providing the advisor with needed information to answer all of a customer’s questions.

Until next time. Keep your knife sharp and your powder dry.