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Must-Do Tasks for Service Advisors in Challenging Times

Talented help has been in short supply in the automotive dealership fixed operations realm for decades. Key roles such as parts managers, parts clerks, service advisors, service technicians – just about every single fixed ops position is typically ‘always hiring’. Inevitably, this phenomenon has created a staff shortage in these critical areas.

Coupling an inherent lack of talent pool with any sort of disruption due to weather, disease, or other calamity can spell trouble, and quick. Key players in your dealership often are left doing the work that would typically be spread out and allow a more quality and rewarding experience for you and your customer.

Path of Least Resistance

serviceThe old saying goes, “water flows to the path of least resistance”. This is a very applicable analogy to many job functions in fixed ops. Let’s take a service advisor, for example. A typical advisor that works with a mix of customers needs approximately 15 repair orders to ensure quality with each customer interaction and not be completely overwhelmed. In some venues this is an absolute unreasonable goal given the ratio of customers to advisors. Even when properly-spaced reservation intervals are followed, very few dealers have the mind to turn away walk-ins. The result is often that advisors are left to write up many more ROs per day than can reasonably be handled efficiently. 

Necessary Deeds of an Service Advisor

There are many, many things a service advisor has to get done in a day. When busy, it’s an extremely hectic, detail and task-oriented job. I have worked as an advisor, and a manager for decades and worked with advisors and managers for years as a trainer and coach. I know first-hand that there are a lot of tasks that have to be accomplished daily as a Service Advisor. Unfortunately, only actual SALES PROCESS STEPS put black ink on the bottom line for the advisor and the dealership. These tasks are the actual ‘advising’ part of the job. Everything else is a necessary deed. Often in the rush of getting the transaction completed, that’s all that’s done. The relationship and ‘advising’ part gets skipped all together!

A Guide of What NOT to Miss

These are some of the most critical steps in any service advisor process that must be executed in order to take care of the customer properly and ensure your sales process stays on track. As an advisor, it’s still an obligation to let customers know what they need and why. It’s challenging when you are extremely busy to hit all of the process steps with passion. The trick is to not make your “all hands on deck” mode devoid of the important part…..ADVISING!

These tenets of service advising are daily MUST DO’s.

  • Research customer appointment details a day or so prior and create a plan for their needs based on history and previous recommendations

  • On customer arrival, focus on the prime concern first, then walk around the car with a focus on at least these 3 items to build rapport.
    • Note and offer solutions to prior damage including a free estimate.
    • Ask about or test the wiper blade condition and offer replacements.
    • Gauge their tires and mention the general condition of their tires and any immediate concerns. Record type, size and brand so you can start getting quotes early.
  • Review history and offer to perform the required maintenance with a statement, not a question. “I see you have 63,000 miles. We recommend that we perform A,B & C at 60,000 miles to keep your car in top shape. The investment is $699. Can we take care of that for you today?”

  • Obtain approval to review the results of your FREE inspection. “I’ll let you know if there is anything else the technician sees that needs attention. With my customers I want no surprises, OK?”

  • Ensure the same services are offered as last time if some were declined. Be consistent to build credibility.

  • Present any additional needed services from the initial inspection within 15 minutes of arrival and before the customer is “over it” and ready to get out of your store.
    • Take the customer dirty filters and compare to fresh ones.
    • Bring customer to the vehicle for safety issues.
  • Prepare a Prioritized Presentation of needs  – This is FOR YOU….to both organize your customers’ needs based on primary concern, needs now, and maintenance items, and to use as a presentation tool.

  • Prepare your MPI form to show the customer. Leave prices off your MPI form – it can distract your customer from what you are telling them.

  • Anything over $XXX.XX (fill in the blank for your store, probably around $200) present the consumer credit options at your dealership. Highlight the same-as-cash features.

  • Anything more than just a couple of filters, take the customer to a designated review area. if you don’t have one, figure out a spot you can take the customer or bring them to your desk to explain your findings. Use your point of sale materials like brake and tire displays. Try not to do it in front of other customers. Also do this when everything is green to give them a positive “health report” or a “needs soon” list if there are yellow or upcoming service requirements.


  • Explain the Estimate using the Prioritized Presentation Technique
    • Start with the Prime Concern and items related to prime jobs
    • Compliment the condition of the vehicle when appropriate and review GREEN tires, brakes and battery when they are green.
    • Move to immediate needs and related items. Sell a brake flush as related to part of the brake service, for example.
    • Next, explain the items that your customer needs to catch up or that are preventative maintenance, or YELLOW.
    • Give the grand total price as the first price given. Ask for the sale and wait for your customer’s response.
    • If not all accepted, be ready to explain what YOU would prioritize and why. Offer your plan B and be silent again to hear your customer’s response. If they are waiting, leave your presentation and the white copy of the MPI inspection form in case they reconsider.
  • Set your customers next service appointment reminder by making a statement not asking a question “I set your next service reminder for 6 months out and we will call you ahead to reschedule if needed, OK? 
  • Impress on your customer through actions, mannerisms, and words that you want to be ‘their person’ in the car business. Invite them to bring cars that have never been to your store for a special discounted oil change. Ask for a perfect survey score. 
  • MANAGERS: Spend time in the drive daily to make sure your players are executing and coach them. Set goals, post numbers and results, and call people to action when required.

If you can get consistent in executing these must-do steps within your process, the rest of your job will get easier. Especially in times of short-staff, maximize the direct actions that create sales to occur and remember advising is the critical part of your job.

John Fairchild
John Fairchild
John has more than 35 years of experience in fixed-operations management and consulting, and trains fixed-ops staff to improve performance and customer service. He started working in auto repair and parts at age 15 and over time held numerous positions at dealerships, including general manager. Visit the website

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