Psychological Transference in the Service Drive

On today’s episode of the Weekly Tune-Up, Becky Nixon goes over the definition of psychological transference and the effect it can have on a service advisor’s ability to sell additional products and services to your customers.

psychological transference

Video Transcription:

Hello friends, and welcome to another episode of The CBT Weekly Tune-up Program.  I am your host Becky Nixon and I am the Director of Fixed Ops Training for David Lewis & Associates. I want to thank you for tuning in today for this weeks’ show.

Today I am going to talk about a 3rd Obstacle that can paralyze a Service Advisors willingness to sell additional products and service to customers, which is called Psychological Transference.

The definition of Psychological Transference is “the unconscious tendency of a person to assign to others in the present environment, feelings and attitudes associated with themselves or significant others in their own life. “

This happens when advisors or technicians might themselves be going through tough financial difficulties and they view their customers through the filter of their own situation and become reluctant to ask them to spend money they think might put them in a bind.

For instance: “ For that I could buy a new washer & drier.”  Or they might be thinking:  “I would never consider spending $500 on maintenance alone for a vehicle”.

In other words, since they have these pressing issues or attitudes themselves, why would they think the customer might not feel the same way.  Hence, they assign their attitude or situation to the customer and it keeps them from trying to sell additional products or services the Customer did not ask for when they came in.

You can also find this mindset in a service advisor whose income is above average, but lives above their means or maybe just happens to be very frugal.

Or . . .

They have no sympathy for a customer with a warranty concern that just purchased a luxury model car, which they see as an impractical vehicle, or they can’t relate to the customers they are serving all together.

They may tend to tell customers with tires having tread that is at 3 to 4 32/nds that they have plenty of tread left, or may even inform customers that they can get wiper blades cheaper at the local auto parts store.

Service advisors often don’t necessarily realize this is happening, however, they often fail to educate their customers or might even talk them out of buying things they don’t feel the customer should pay for at this time.

Would you go to a Dentist that tells you:  “I have never brushed my teeth more than once a day and my teeth are just fine?”    I don’t think you would, and neither would I.

This unconscious behavior keeps them from noticing that the customer has added $2,000 worth of rims and tires, an engine performance upgrade, a truck bed cover or a class 3 or 4 hitch meaning they must tow something substantial.  They don’t pick up on these things because they automatically think small and minimalistic in their own life and they assign that attitude to their customers assuming they would think the same way.

This obviously hurts their selling ability.  Though it may be done unconsciously by the advisor or technician, it has real results that limit their production and reduces their personal income which, of course, furthers the problem ultimately resulting in reduced shop revenues and less profits to the dealership.

This may all sound like a lot of heady psychological speak, but it is real and it happens every day in service departments when service advisors and technicians transfer their own inner turmoil’s and create false empathy for customers in an effort to protect them from something that may have no relationship at all to the customers reality.

Let’s face it, humans are a complex species and in today’s world we tend to be even more complex than usual.  It may be the tremendous stress we deal with on a daily basis trying to keep pace or, in the case of service advisors and technicians, the expectations that go along with working in a job where most people already think we are out to get them.

Whatever the reason, these things are real and they create real problems in the workplace. To ignore them and mark them off as just someone’s personality problem is not good and will only create animosity among staff members in your shop and confusion for Customers who expect to be informed about any information that will enhance the performance, value and reliability of their vehicle.

When transference like this is occurring, it is basically an attempt at trying to understand someone ‒ usually someone we don’t know very well ‒ by assuming that they are similar to someone else, or ourselves, and will thus feel and behave in ways that are similar to how we or some other person would feel and behave in their situation.

For better or worse, transference is a very normal process that human beings are constantly doing.  Like most fundamental things we do at a subconscious level, it is not something we have to think about.  It just happens naturally.  Things like being hungry or communicating our thoughts and feelings via body language, even when we do not speak, are common examples of Psychological Transference.

These are natural things for most of us and not at all dangerous in moderation, but they can create problems when done to excess.  And, as we are discussing in this episode, they can have a very negative effect on a Service Advisors or technician’s ability to do their job if they let them dictate how they sell, or do not sell, their products and services to Customers.

. . . . . Well, that’s it for today’s show.  I know this has not been a topic most people in our business think about or consider when assessing the things that can limit or diminish production in our shops, but I assure you, the importance of these kinds of issues is real.  If you have never considered this kind of explanation for low production problems you are seeing in a Service Advisor or Technician, you might want to think about this and do a little more research before jumping the gun and just firing someone who might instead just need some effective coaching for the problem.

If I can help you in any way don’t hesitate to contact me at  We have tremendous training available for coaching and improving employee performance that can be found at our website at

Have a great week, everyone.