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Welcome to NCM's Up to Speed Blog

The Myths of Writing Service: Part I

Written By: Jeff Cowan
Posted on February 03, 2015

The automotive industry is filled with myths regarding service writing. I think they hang around so long because myths are convenient excuses not to change. They certainly give us license to be lazy and ignore problems!

Today, I list some of the most common myths surrounding the writing of service and hopefully, once and for all, make the many believers of these myths see otherwise.

Myth #1: If you write service and have a high closing ratio and high customer paid repair order averages, then it is impossible to have high survey scores and/or high customer retention.

Fact: I know hundreds of service writers who complete the trifecta month after month, year after year. The difference is how hard you are willing to train a person and hold them accountable. If you expect and allow the myth to come true, it will, but it doesn't have to. Think high-end restaurant here. If you visit a five star restaurant, like Ruth’s Chris, you will experience servers that please people, sell plenty of appetizers, desserts and drinks, and have people return in the future and request them. As a matter of fact, if they cannot do those things, their service will not be retained and they will be let go. They accomplish the trifecta because they are trained to and held accountable.

Myth #2: It takes at least a year before a service advisor can be a top producer.

Fact: If it takes that long, you simply hired the wrong person, did not train the person to be successful, or the person has no goals and desire to perform. If a new service writer is not meeting or exceeding your minimum standards within ninety days of their start date, it is likely they never will. If this is a concern for you, change your interview practices and/or your training program.

Myth #3: Finding a great service advisor is next to impossible.

Fact: The average service writer makes $65,000 annually, gets two weeks paid vacation, and has a benefit package that rivals some of the biggest industries. An employment package like this puts them in the top twenty-five to thirty percent of income earners in the country. It allows them to have a house that will average 2,300 square feet and drive a new vehicle in the $35,000 range. If they have a spouse who works, add in another vehicle and another eight hundred square feet of house. All that said, you can’t find these employees? You need help with your ads, your interviewing techniques and help in knowing how to sell a marvelous, highly satisfying, and rewarding career like service writing.

Myth #4: A great service writer rarely makes a great manager.

Fact: Not if you pull them out of their job writing service one day and then stick them in the manager’s chair the next without coaching. The mistake I see here is we constantly put people in management because they understand the technical side of the business, are well liked, and appear to want to go the extra mile. The first and most important thing to look for in a new manager is their ability to lead, make decisions, and make those around them better. Those are things, just like the technical side of the business that can be taught and learned by a willing student. To develop tomorrow’s leaders from today’s service writers, you have to teach them how to lead and make good decisions as they perform today’s job. Teach them to prepare for the next step up the ladder as they occupy their current step.

Myth #5: Service writers can handle more than fifteen customers a day.

Fact: Not if you want to have high survey scores, high customer retention, high closing ratios, high customer paid sales, and the maximum profits. For years, I have said this in nearly every meeting I conduct. If you allow your service writers to write more then fifteen repair orders a day, then forget about the high numbers in the fore mentioned areas. If you choose that path, you are now limiting your service writers to be high volume clerks. You can and will make some profits off the high volume sales template, as that is the way most dealerships allow their service writers to work. But the other numbers simply will not be there for one reason: lack of time. If you want to have high survey scores, customer retention, closing ratios, hours per repair order, and maximum profits, you have to give your writers the time to sell and work with the customers. You only have the right to expect high numbers in all categories if you limit and control the number of tickets written in a day to fifteen or less.

Myth #6: Service writers will not do what is asked of them, like walk around vehicles and memorize word tracks or respond well to authority.

Fact: No, they do not respond to weak leaders and weak leadership. If that is your problem, then your problem is clearly a question of you or your manager’s ability to lead and command respect. Think of your service writers as vendors. It is a business deal. You require them to do what you ask, and they either do it and get to remain on your preferred vendors list, or they do not do what you require and you find a new vendor. Easy to do. Read myth three again.

Myth #7: It takes a special service writer to be able to handle high-line vehicles because high end customers are different.

Fact: High-line customers are rarely different than the non-high-line customer.  As a matter of fact, they, many times, are the same exact customer. For example, I drive a Mercedes, my wife drives a Ford. Furthermore, look at the very street I live on. There are fifteen houses. Each driveway has either a Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Porche, Tesla, or Lexus in it. In addition, each of those driveways contains a Ford, Chevy, Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, or Honda. Regardless of which vehicle we drive, we simply want to go to a place where they are enthusiastic, caring, honest, can get the job done, and where their skill and approach make us want to return for future visits. My CFO is a perfect example. When she needs service, she drives past her Infiniti dealership to do business with the Toyota dealership simply because, in her words, “I get better service at the Toyota dealership."

As I have noted many times, I am a student of history. Through studying history I have seen time and again that once a myth is dispelled, great advances routinely follow. In the future, whenever you hear something that sounds like a myth or hear an excuse from your staff and those in the business that impede your ability to advance; question it, challenge it, and test it before succumbing to its restraints. Then you will be poised to break free from the myth chain that binds and make advances that will make your Dealer Principal happy. Because, in the end, it gets down to one simple fact: Like being married, if the Dealer is happy, everybody is happy ... and that ain’t no myth.

Jeff Cowan is considered the creator of the modern day walk-around and selling processes for service departments everywhere. His company, Jeff Cowan’s PRO TALK, Inc. is recognized as North America’s #1 fixed operations training company.

©Copywright Wm. Jeff Cowan 2015

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