There is no question that a successful dealership has both skilled technicians and knowledgeable salespeople to maintain profit margins. But an oft-overlooked—and equally (or arguably even more) important—component is the service advisor.
When people take their cars to a dealership, the service advisor is the first face they see. The service advisor quarterbacks the entire service experience and serves as the critical link between the customer and the work. This dynamic means service advisors have a heavy influence on customer experience, which can either keep them coming back or drive them away.
While a basic understanding of how cars work is essential to helping the customer navigate their needs, communication skills are even more crucial in ensuring the customer has a positive experience and feels confident about the work and service your dealership provides. Critical conversations had between the advisor and customer include such topics as explaining invoices, deciphering warranty coverage, explaining necessary or suggested additional repairs and providing the customer with updates on the progress of the work. All these conversations require someone with good people skills as well as excellent car skills.
Here are the key elements I recommend to identify quality service advisor candidates and how to hire them.
Recognize the traits of a solid service advisor
As mentioned above, a service advisor is the first face your customer sees and the person with whom they communicate the most, if not exclusively, throughout their service experience. A good service advisor should possess the following traits:
- Mechanical Knowledge and Ability to Articulate – Because the service advisor is the one to communicate with the customer from start to finish, it is important they understand the industry enough to be able to answer questions, suggest options and explain the process to a customer who may otherwise be unfamiliar with the work needed or performed. Additionally, the service advisor should be able to relay the information without overusing technical jargon, making it simple for every customer to follow and understand.
- People Skills – The service advisor should have the ability to read and adapt to different customers’ communication preferences: some like a plethora of details while others prefer to be in and out. The service advisor must also possess good listening skills to clearly understand what the customer needs or wants and be able to relay that information correctly to the technicians doing the work.
- Integrity – In addition to communicating information between customers and technicians, service advisors have a responsibility to provide the client with accurate information that is in their best interest, instead of using every interaction as an opportunity to upsell extra work. A service advisor with honesty and integrity will quickly earn the confidence of your customers, ensuring they look to your dealership as a trusted place of business, returning for additional needs and sending friends and family your way. Also, a good service advisor will provide updates or call customers back in a timely fashion, keeping them looped in every step of the way.
Things to consider when hiring a solid service advisor
Now that you know what to look for in a service advisor, there some factors to keep in mind when considering hiring one. For starters, consider how your dealership and employment brand will appeal to women candidates. Half of your customers are women, so having at least one female service advisor on staff will help you better connect with that demographic. Consider advertising the job with a title other than “service advisor,” so as to appeal to a larger number of applicants. Alternate titles can include customer service representative, service secretary or customer service associate. While technical knowledge is beneficial, you might consider advertising the position with “no experience required” to welcome applicants who have all the other necessary skills without potential bad habits that will require much more aggressive retraining to break. Lastly, consider the number of service advisors your dealership needs to meet demand to give your customers the full attention and service required.
Benefits of a solid service advisor
Hiring the right individual for a service advisor position will yield lasting benefits, including an increase in repair order count, CSI and owner retention. It will also increase your technicians’ productivity, resulting in a boost of customer loyalty.
A service advisor typically touches a customer five times more than a sales person, making proper candidates for this position a crucial component for your dealership’s success. As new car sales are expected to plateau or decline next year, a stable of high-quality service advisors will keep your customers coming in for repairs and services. Preparing for 2017 means staffing up with skilled service advisors who can create a lasting, positive impact.
Thanks to NCM Associates’ content partner, Hireology, for sharing the guidance on employee referral programs. Learn more about Hireology. And join NCM’s experts for more actionable advice for hiring the best people for your team in our Hiring Top Talent and Success-Driven Pay Plans classes.