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Three ways to stop trading profit for convenience

Wednesday, May 15, 2019 - 06:00
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In today’s digital world, there are not many shops doing things the “old-fashioned way.” There are many Point of Sale (POS) systems to choose from that are specific to the automotive industry. They give us many options that are great time savers. There are many advantages to this. You can order parts online, and you can look up labor times right from the system and drop them on the repair order. You no longer have to calculate parts mark-up by hand or manually calculate your total RO gross profit margin. Some even allow you to specify when services are due based on preset time and mileage parameters once a service or labor operation has been performed.

Automation saves us time and has helped us to become much more efficient and productive, but the downside is that you may be sacrificing not only maximum profit but more importantly the needs of your customers. I don’t want to say that this digital age has made our service advisors lazy, some work very hard, but there are some things that we used to do the old-fashioned way that we need to start doing again. Here are the top three:

1. Review customer history thoroughly

In our experience, we have found that many service advisors are not verifying the customer’s name, address, and most current contact phone number like they used to. What’s worse is that they may not be thoroughly reviewing a customer’s history. Oh, some may be looking at what services we have already performed to see if they are due again, but many are not looking for what we haven’t done yet. While most of the current POS systems do a great job of telling us what we have done, and even when it is due again, they don’t tell us what has not been done. I get it, I really do. It is much easier to look at what is in the POS system, than look for what is not, whether it is a current phone number or the services we have sold.

Service Advisor Checklist
To get a copy of ATI’s fully customizable, service advisor checklist and watch the video that walks you through how to use it step-by-step, go to for a limited time.

In today’s world, we have very short attention spans. Add in phones ringing, owners asking the advisor questions, the techs asking where their parts are, etc., and it is easy for your advisor to lose track of where they were in the process of looking at history. Also, without a written guide it’s even more difficult to remember every single item that could be sold as preventative maintenance, with or without all the interruptions. We don’t expect our technicians to remember to inspect every item without the guidance of a written or digital inspection form, so why would we expect our service advisors?

If your service advisor is not thoroughly reviewing the history for what services have and have not been performed, you are not alone. At ATI, we find that most advisors come to our first class without the training and processes to properly take care of a customer. Somewhere along the line in this modern world of ours, we forgot that is the service advisor’s job to make recommendations at the drop based and on time and mileage. It is the technician’s job to make recommendations based on condition.

2. Read between the mileage intervals

Another common mistake we see is when the advisors and techs only make maintenance recommendations at the mileage intervals of 30, 60, 90, etc. Let’s say you have a customer that didn’t have their first transmission service performed until 45,000 miles, and it’s not going to be due again until 75,000. Once a service gets off the traditional mileage interval, they seem to slip through the cracks and fall off the advisor and tech’s radar. I have also seen when shops bundle their services, and then items that are due at different intervals, slip through the cracks. For example, if you have a canned job or bundle for a 30,000-mile service, that includes multiple items, and your POS system is set up to flag that bundle to be performed in another 30,000 – you just lost out on the services that are due before 30,000, like cabin air filters, for example.

3. Get back to basics — use a checklist

To ensure that your service advisor covers all bases, use a checklist that we lovingly refer to as the “Nowhere to Hide Form.” Think of it as your service advisor’s courtesy inspection. This checklist lists the most common wearable items by time and mileage. Next to each item, add the mileage and time interval your shop recommends those items be serviced. Then the only things your advisor must do while they are reviewing the history is add the date of the last service of each item, the mileage that service was performed, and mark whether that service is due now based on time and/or mileage. The form then goes out to the techs as a companion to their courtesy inspection where they will verify condition.

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