As restrictions continue to ease and people start to put more miles on their vehicles again, we will be faced with the challenge of adding staff to our service operations. One of the first service drive positions that was cut back was the express advisor position. After all, people were driving fewer miles, stretching out the oil change interval, and we wanted to keep our most experienced service advisors on our staff. Now as business continues to build back, we will need to replace some of these positions, including the express advisor. Before putting just anyone into the position, I want you to consider what this position really means to the dealership. We need to have a good plan going forward.
“Tommy, I sure was impressed with you during the interview process and now that you have finished up all of the pre-employment screenings, let us talk about when you can start. How about Monday of next week? Can you be here at 8:00? I know this is your first service writer job, so wear professional clothes and we will start you out as an express service writer.”
Is this a good training ground, or a bad plan?
All too often it seems that dealerships use the express service advisor position as the training ground for new service advisors. We think it is an easier position to learn, and “they can’t get into too much trouble; after all, it’s only express, how hard can it be?”
Do we ever consider that on a daily basis, the express advisor interacts with more of our customers than ANY OTHER PERSON IN THE WHOLE DEALERSHIP? Do we really want to turn over that large a responsibility to a green pea? A typical salesperson may take two or three “ups” a day and a main shop service advisor will generally handle 12-14 customers a day, but an express advisor will generally handle 18-24 customers a day (I hear some stores claiming 30-40 customers a day per express advisor – YIKES!), Remember, these are face-to-face transactions. Effectively the express advisor becomes the face of your dealership to most customers.
The impact of their skills and ability will largely determine the department’s future customer retention and current department CSI scores. And they have the largest potential for returned surveys due to the number of interactions they handle. With CSI being tied to SFE and “below the line money,” how much impact do you want your newest, least experience and possibly least trained employee to have?
Express customers demand fast, efficient handling in order to meet the time constraints of express service. The express advisor must be highly organized, energetic and able to multitask to make this time-strapped environment move efficiently. They need to know the product lines and be able to sell value and benefits of each service offered. And they must do this under a very compressed time frame.
When new or inexperienced employees get this much responsibility thrust upon them and they are still trying to figure out their product and environment, it has dangerous potential.
Granted, it is easier to learn express service than the main shop for advisors, but how do we keep from having a negative impact on so many important items during the learning curve? So what is the solution?
That’s a great question, and here are some of my top suggestions:
- Try to keep turnover low. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to do a better job hiring. Take time to really find a great candidate, interview thoroughly and know exactly what skills and traits the person needs to have to succeed in the position.
- Don’t show them the ropes for a couple of days and then turn them loose. Take time to really train them. Don’t let them handle customers until they have adequate skills. Once they do start with customers, don’t think they are fully trained and let them go. Watch them closely and continue to train them. Did I mention that you must continue to train them? (I can’t say it enough!) Consider mapping your training program and expectations, complete with skills-based assessments along the way.
- Realize it will take 12-18 months for them to learn and master the skills they need to use daily. Work with them on the complete journey.
- Role-play on a regular basis. Work on every situation that you can think of. Be the customer and have them sell you everything. They need to be comfortable with this. It takes time, so encourage them as they improve.
- Have them learn early that express advisors must sell service. The earlier they learn it is a sales position the better.
Everyone has to start somewhere. Maybe express is a good place to start, but only if you realize the impact they can have on the department. Whether it is positive or negative, the responsibility falls on your shoulders to make this a success.
At the NCM Institute we help service managers learn how to improve performance in their departments. Sparking thoughts, like the ones mentioned in this article, is just one of the ways that managers learn to think about their business in new ways. In that process they develop better skills and become better managers. Let us help you develop your skills.