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Welcome to NCM's Up to Speed Blog

Service Managers: How Well Do You Communicate With Sales?

Steve Hall
Written By: Steve Hall
Posted on August 20, 2015

Processes … even the best processes don’t work if employees don’t understand them. It’s Monday morning in the service department. The day is off and running and a flurry of customer activity abounds. Things are busy, but running smoothly. Just the way you (the service manager) designed it.

Now it’s about 8:45 AM and the sales department is just leaving their Monday morning sales meeting. A fairly new salesperson comes into service, walks up to you (the service manager) and says, “I sold a car Saturday, stock number Z1576A. We spot delivered it, but we need to have a spoiler installed that’s not in stock. Can you take care of it for me?”

You look at him, as if he’s a nobody and snipe back, “Where’s the ‘We-Owe?’ Did you already order it, or not? When is the customer scheduled to come back? Do you even know the color code for the spoiler or do you want me to just guess?” The new salesman looks puzzled and slightly embarrassed.

He thought his job was to sell cars, which he did. He thought the service department was supposed to help him when he needed it. Maybe he misunderstood the relationship. He thinks, “They just seem so nice to customers and so grumpy to the sales department. Why?”

What the new salesperson was not privy to was the sordid history, and possibly the proper and much-improved process. The service department knows they can’t order or install the spoiler without proper documentation and basic information from the sales department. That happened before, recently, and they got the speech, “Don’t EVER do anything on a vehicle without receiving a sales manager-signed We-Owe.” They also know the salesperson doesn’t get a CSI survey to submit on the service department, so I (the service manager) can “teach him a lesson” on how to interact with service without the repercussions of a negative CSI survey.

Unfortunately, this type of scenario happens way too often. With turnover in the sales department, often times the sales managers are stretched just to train the salespeople on product knowledge and the vehicle sales process … they never get to train on the other necessary dealership processes.

This is where the service managers need to take charge.

We need to realize that if we want the sales department to be a “bell cow” to our customers on how great we are, we need to start treating them well. One way that I have found that improves this relationship quickly, along with strengthening processes, is to attend sales meetings on a regular basis.

When you (the service manager) attend a sales meeting, several positive things happen. Here are a few:

  • You get to know the people and they get to know you. You are on the same team and this relationship helps everyone. You get to learn who people are. Now they have a name; they're not just the "new salesperson who knows nothing and wants everything.”
  • You get to answer their questions. Open communication between sales and service … now that’s REALLY a good thing!
  • You can train on a process or two – departmental or inter-departmental – every time you attend. Short, precise instructions to make the processes flow better. Yes, as you have turnover, you will have to re-train on the process, but if you don’t, who will? Also, refresher topics can even help tenured employees.
  • You will get a better understanding of what they have to deal with and you may become slightly more open to training someone … not just “barking” at them.
  • You may even learn a few sales training tips to help make your advisors more effective.

Whether you attend the whole meeting or just do your part and exit, it will be time well spent with one of your most important clients. The goodwill from this effort pays large dividends. Become a leader, a mentor, and have success the old fashion way: one person at a time.

At the NCM Institute, we believe every department should better understand the dealership as a whole. With that in mind, some of our clients purchase an annual training subscription and cross-train managers in different departments. Sales managers learn about service; service managers learn about used vehicles; parts managers learn about service; and so on. This helps them dig in and really understand the daily struggles each department has and they learn the importance of working together as one unit. Check into a more affordable way to help make your team stronger and ask about our annual NCMi training subscription and bundling options.

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