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Three symptoms of a service advisor problem

Friday, October 6, 2017 - 07:00
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This month’s article was written with the help of ATI Coach Eric Twiggs.

I have the greatest respect for anyone engaged in selling service at the front counter. It can be the most exciting and frustrating position in the shop. I started my career decades ago teaching service advisors, and I have watched thousands of advisors perform it live in the shop. The interesting thing to me is that in the classroom we all do fairly well and the performance is much easier; however, the front counter reminds me of Vietnam because the customers are firing back at you. We all know to keep cool, show we care and build relationships while we try to teach consumers the value of maintaining their investment. The challenge is that under fire it doesn’t always turn out the way we want it and the longer that happens the worse the average repair order becomes. What’s worse is service advisors can’t see what they’re doing wrong because they are under fire and reacting.

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This is why they need an immediate supervisor or a shop owner who understands not only the sales process but also sales management. We have been teaching a sales management course to shop owners for decades, and today we are going to share three symptoms to look for and what to do about it! Let’s listen to ATI Coach Eric Twiggs explain to a shop owner how to begin being a sales manager of your front counter folks. Eric’s story began with this:

“Greg” and I were struggling to figure out why his car count wasn’t improving. He had 10 five-star google reviews. When I Google searched all the primary automotive search terms for his area, I found him on the first page and in the top spot.

His website was so strong that I would send the link to my other clients as an example of what to do. “Steve,” his service advisor, had been with him for seven years and had forgotten more about the automotive business than the average person knew.

“So how is Steve performing?” I asked. “Eric, Steve isn’t the problem. He’s my most dependable employee!” In an effort to trust but verify, I decided to have one of my fellow coaches call the shop posing as a customer in need of brake service.

Not inviting the customer to the shop

To my surprise, Steve made no attempt to get the caller’s name and phone number, or to invite him to the shop. I personally reviewed the results of the mystery call with Steve and he confirmed that he understood and committed to do better.

The only change to the business was Greg taking over at the counter. In the following weeks, I had two different coaches conduct two additional phone shops, and the results were the same. No attempts were made to invite the caller to the location.

Business declined to the point where Greg had to lay Steve off and take over the service writer duties himself. It took eight weeks to find a qualified replacement. During this time span, the sales and car count trends took an interesting turn.

For the better!! When Steve was writing service, the shop averaged $14,000 per week in sales with 35 cars. Greg averaged $19,000 per week with 40 cars.

Here’s what I learned from this experience: Consistently bad phone shops is a symptom of a service advisor problem. You may be thinking: “Eric, you’re being too hard on Steve. Failing multiple phone shops isn’t a big problem.”

Well, consider the following math: Let’s assume that by focusing more on the phones you only acquired two additional customers per day who normally wouldn’t have come in.

Over five days, that’s 10 customers. If you have a $400 average repair order, that’s an additional $4,000 per week in revenue. (10 X $400=$4,000)

By not answering the phones correctly, your writer would be costing you $208,000 in potential sales over 52 weeks! ($4,000 X 52=$208,000) Therefore, I live by the following motto: If car count drops, do a phone shop.

I am often asked the following question: “Why should I do a phone shop if I don’t think I have a service advisor problem?” If this is your question, consider the following findings:

Over the past 10 years, ATI Trainer Randy Somers has phone shopped more than 1,800 service writers during his Service Advisor Part 1 class. Out of 1,800 calls, only 72 of the advisors offered the customer an appointment to visit the shop. This math works out to only 4 percent of the service advisors in North America answering the phones correctly.

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