Welcome back to The Service Advisor’s Guide to The Galaxy!

The next step in the 7 P’s process is … The Process.

The Process followed by the service advisor will differ from one shop to another. As with all aspects of the job, check with your manager / owner on how they want the process to be implemented. If you don’t already have a system in place, then consider these steps and modify as needed to fit your shop’s needs.

I call this the “Key-to-key-to-callback” process. There are 10 steps in this system. Let’s begin at the beginning.

1 – Customer Check-In
This can often be the most important part of the whole process. It’s said that you only get one chance to make a good first impression. If this is a new customer, then plan to spend some extra time and attention with them. Remember, most of your clients come to you with fear and pain. Your first job is to help eliminate that fear and ultimately make their pain go away. A smile and eye contact can go a long way. There are volumes of books and articles on customer service. In the customer’s mind, they are the most important person in the world. You need to make them feel like they are the most important person in your world.

An important part of being an effective Service Advisor is truly believing that your shop is the best place for them to be and that you are going to take the best care of them and their vehicle.

Many shops today are using some form of a customer check-in sheet. This helps to establish who we are, what we’re going to do, and what the customer can expect.  This helps to help eliminate the fear factor. It also puts in writing the expectations that the Service Advisor has agreed to follow through with and what the best form of contact and times to be contacted are.

Information gathered during this step can be very valuable for your techs. If you are unsure what questions you should be asking, talk to your techs. They will likely be very happy to let you know what they need. Remember to record what the customer says in their words. Do not rephrase or change the description to your wording without asking the customer if your description is correct.

The Keys – Not many things can make you look stupid faster than losing/misplacing a customer’s keys. Tag the keys and create a procedure for keeping track of them if you don’t already have one. There are only a few places keys should be, and the tech’s (or advisor’s) pocket is not one of them.

2 – The Repair Order
While this seems almost too simple to bring up, I have been amazed at how poorly many are handled. I understand that there are often phones ringing, a line of customers at the counter, the parts guy is dropping stuff off, and one of those pesky techs is trying to get your attention, but it is imperative that the Repair Order be properly filled out. So much information is on the RO that it absolutely should not be brushed over. Even if it is that regular customer that tosses you the keys and says “Call me when it’s done”, make sure the RO is complete. Sometimes this is the first and best communication you’ll have with your tech.

3 – The Walk-Around
As customer time permits, a walk-around the vehicle and/or pictures taken not only gives the customer more “feel good” but can also avoid “My fuel tank was full when it came in” or “That scratch wasn’t there before” situations. Mention to the customer things that you notice during the walk-around such as, “I see you have a half tank of gas.” Or “Wow, how did you get that scratch?”

Very important: Do Not diagnose during the walk around. This is also a good time to pre-sell services by mentioning worn tires, or irregular tire wear indicating a needed alignment, a cracked windshield or any number of other things you might spot that the customer has lived with for a while. “Oh, I didn’t know you did that kind of work!” is a common response. Even if you don’t do alignments or deal with windshields, it helps convince the customer that you are looking out for them and their vehicle. You can always “farm out” the work and ultimately make the customer’s pain go away.

Tune in again soon for The Process – Volume 2 where we’ll get into the Repair Order and the Repair Process.

Article By: Bruce McDowell

Bruce is currently a Service Advisor for Garber Diesel Service Truck & Trailer Service Center

Bruce’s credentials include: AMAM through AMI, ASE Certified Service Advisor, Ford Motor Company – Master Service Manager, Master Service Advisor, Master Parts Manager, Master Warranty Administrator plus 2 Management Degrees, Stationary Engineer License, and Retired Navy. And above all… modest.