Building A Vibrant Service Department


Creating an environment where customers feel relaxed and well cared for can be a tough thing to achieve with the many pressures being felt by the advisors who work the front line in a busy dealership service department.  Today’s advisors take multitasking to new extremes. And, they often must do so while dealing with negative customers, management pushing for more sales, all the while trying to make a paycheck, hitting profit forecasts and maintaining good CSI scores for the dealership and your service department.

To the average customer bringing their car in for maintenance or repairs, a dealership service department probably seems like a fairly organized operation.  Most Service Managers work hard to make sure theirs is an environment of order and professionalis m. Separating Customers from the pandemonium that often occurs behind the scenes and trying to get them back on the road as efficiently as possible is an important part of the process altogether.

As I wrote about in a previous article, finding and developing new service techs and advisors who will stay with it until they are making a good income is not easy in today’s world where ‘instant gratification’ is an all too common expectation. Most don’t see the service industry as a place where they want to spend the next 10 years building a career.  It is hard to think about working at a car dealership when you had your heart set on a high paying tech job at Google or maybe writing a video game program that you could sell for millions before you reach the age of thirty.

Calling All New Recruits!

So, what can be done to attract new young people into our industry and how can we keep those who are already with us in our Fixed Ops departments?  First, we must remember that these positions can be high pressure jobs with big challenges daily. Managers must be careful not to place the wrong candidate in such a position. They must refrain from promoting an employee just because they have a great personality and placing them in a position that is high stress, long hours, sales driven and even slightly confrontational at times.

Secondly, we need to invest in marketing and promoting our industry to new prospects who don’t know the great income potential and benefits of a career in automotive service.  Often these jobs are seen as something you look into after you couldn’t make it in the regular education process system. The truth is there are great careers and earnings to be had in our business and we need to make people aware.

Get the Right Fit!

The automotive dealership is a business made up of different departments all requiring a multitude of candidates with various qualifications and personalities. Make sure you are not trying to place a square peg in to a round hole.  The end of such an exercise is not only predictable but detrimental in multiple ways to the department.

We also need to ditch the old paradigm of how we manage and run our service departments. We need to opt for the more dynamic Leadership and Team models that are seeing great success wherever they are properly implemented today.  The old Boss way of running things does not promote a positive work environment and the sooner we learn that, the better off we are. It is true that the boss is the boss, but a true Leader leads from the front rather than pushing from behind.  When they do, it usually creates a powerful effect on the whole team and energizes them for the work that is required of them.

Service advisors, who are often overwhelmed, stressed and negative, are the front line and have direct contact with your very valuable customers.  I often hear trainers use sports analogies, speaking the obvious that coaches instill a winning attitude throughout the entire game no matter the score by building confidence and lowering fear. The players are reenergized, and this continues throughout the entire game.

Managers, are you leading from a coach mentality?  The legendary Vince Lombardi stated, “Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all-time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit.  Unfortunately, so is losing”.

Lead by Example

In every fixed ops department, selling is required.  For an individual to see the most success in the world of selling, they must be confident, resilient, goal-driven and have a strong support system. Management, aka the support system, must first practice optimism and lead by example.  Look for ways to energize and rejuvenate your team every day.

In today’s competitive automotive environment, developing, motivating and investing in your staff should be your number one priority. Hire and promote coachable people, then simply coach!