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Service writers – worth their weight in gold

Thursday, May 11, 2017 - 07:00
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Having a dedicated, solid service writer is key to the growth and success of any repair shop. He or she is the point person – the one who is on top of everything, knows where all the vehicles are, when the parts are arriving, when the technicians are going on break and what time each customer is picking up. Really… they do it all.

A service writer is responsible for the day-to-day shop operations such as interacting with customers, making sure parts are ordered, juggling scheduling, delegating bays, etc.

Ultimately, the service writer has one of the toughest jobs in the shop – and the most profitable.

Not to take away any spotlight from the powerhouse that is the technician, but a good service writer is worth their weight in gold and can turn around any shop, not just in a financial way, but in shop morale as well.

The people person
A good service writer is a “people person.”

Now that I have just used that cliché, I feel the need to explain. In this instance, a people person is not just someone who can communicate and make small talk, but someone who can judge the rocky terrain that is customer relations. They are usually the first person a customer encounters, and you want that encounter to be a positive one.

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Having an employee who can talk with people, read people, and especially read their situation, results in the creation of a “personality” for your shop. That personality translates into the human personification of your shop; essentially your shop’s brand. Which is invaluable. Yes, I know, customers won’t visit a shop JUST because the service writer is friendly. The quality, speed, and fair cost of the work is why they visit and continue to do so, guaranteeing repeat business. BUT it takes a good service writer to provide the person-to-person touch, making the customer feel welcome and secure while the technicians are performing their magic behind the scenes. A good service writer is a vital part of the formula when it comes to providing quality repairs.

Sometimes, customers take their business to a shop not just for the quality of work, but for the comradery and relationships they find there. For example, when I started as a service writer, I replaced someone who was let (go for various reasons.). The first month, when I was dealing with my initial rotation of regular customer repairs such as oil changes, etc., one of the first questions out of their mouths was, “What ever happened to so-and-so”? Or “I only usually work with so-and-so,” or the worst question to hear when you’re the new guy is “you’re new, aren’t you … is there someone else who can help me?”

Ouch. That one hurt. Especially when you work on commission, as most service writers do.

An example of how a good service writer can positively affect your business and secure those repeat customers is the trust that the service writer builds with the customer.

Most customers don’t like hanging out in repair shops, because it usually means there is an unexpected bill coming their way, or a wait time that’s longer than they anticipated.

Having a good service writer can make those customers feel at ease. I have seen customers walk into a shop, drop their keys in a service writer’s hand and ask them to call them when the vehicle is ready. Yes, it does take some time to establish that trust and interaction. But when you have a service writer who can create that trust, that service writer is gold.

The service writer-technician relationship
The service writer is responsible for the busy customer-facing operations in the front, and the hectic and occasionally unpredictable atmosphere of the bay. That’s a WHOLE different story.

The service writer must not only know how to deal with and read the customer, they must also know how to handle technicians. The service writer is the go-between for communications between the technician and the customer.

The technicians I’ve worked with were really great people. They were intelligent and as a group – knew absolutely everything. They were the “Technician Dream Team.”

BUT, a common thread among them was they did not particularly enjoy conversing with the customer. They felt it was not part of their job and, after all, that’s what I as the service writer was there to do.

That said – the next key part of the service writer’s job, and a sign of a good service writer, is keeping the heroes – the technicians – happy and comfortable.

The technician and the service writer need to work together as a cohesive unit, so the service writer can communicate back to the customer what the technician discovered and is recommending in a manner the customer can easily understand. It’s also important that this be done in a timely fashion so the service writer can give the technician the go-ahead to proceed with additions to the repair order, or make a judgement call on whether the additions add up to substantially more than was originally quoted on the estimate, sometimes when the vehicle is up in the air.

Additional attributes of a “gold” service writer, lending to the juggling act he or she performs daily, include; handling walk-in customers, writing estimates and closing invoices, scheduling appointments, communicating with technicians, customers, parts suppliers, and more.

Having a good, solid service writer can do wonders for any shop. It is an art form that requires skill, experience, knowledge, and patience, so when you’re considering a service writer for your shop, keep those traits in mind.

 

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