Give Your Advisors the Foundation They Need to Build Success

By Sally Whitesell for Fixed Ops Magazine.

As a professional trainer, my goal is to help you increase production, retain customers and employees, and boost CSI. Yet many times I’ll be training at a dealership and notice that the foundation needed to build these wins aren’t in place. Here are some crucial questions to ask yourself to ensure your advisors have the foundation they need to build success for your store.

Do you have a check-in process?

A good check-in process means that every advisor takes the same steps with every client every time they visit your store. This will not only help your advisors develop professional habits, but it will eliminate stress for your guests, as they will know exactly what to expect. Once you’ve developed your process, put it in writing and review it with your team often. Role-play the steps in weekly training sessions. Your process should be very detailed and include: your store’s professional greeting, performing a walk-around, and a benefit-based menu presentation, just to name a few.

Do you enforce your check-in process?

This seems to be the most difficult part for most managers. Let’s face it, you can’t be on the drive every moment of every day, but you can make your process company policy instead of a suggestion. The key to monitoring and enforcing your check-in process is to know it better than anyone else and don’t turn a blind eye when someone doesn’t follow it. Not even your top producer! Create and require high standards. Show your team how much they will benefit from following your procedures with increases in every area. Clearly outline the repercussions for anyone who decides not to follow. It could be a warning, a write-up, or a new position (as a porter)!

Does your team have the support staff they need to keep them on the drive?

A service advisor, just like a sales person, is only productive when they are in front of guests. It doesn’t make sense to interrupt their selling time to go get a car or to find a technician. They should be on the drive and focused on the guests at least 95% of the time. I am not saying they shouldn’t pitch in and help each other out when needed, but I completely disagree with giving advisors duties that take them away from their primary focus. This is equivalent to sending your sales team out to wash cars! We need them to be ready for each new opportunity and following up with guests who have already been checked-in.

Do you have a preventative maintenance menu?

This is the most important tool you can provide! JD Powers reported that only 29% of advisors present even one additional service, yet most clients could have been sold an average of 3-6 additional services based only on the factory recommendations for severe driving conditions. I strongly recommend pulling up the severe driving list because there isn’t any climate or driver that does not experience at least a couple of the severe conditions listed. Consider how much more your team could produce if just one service was added to every RO. One of the most common reasons that advisors don’t try to up-sell needed services is because they don’t have the knowledge or confidence to present. How can they sell if they are not sure what, when, or how to present it? Even if they are confident, your clients will respond better to something that is presented in a more official looking format.

Many mangers are overwhelmed with the thought of trying to put together service menus because they are concerned with addressing all the different makes and models. While there are some variables, there are many standard services. If your team can pull up the factory recommended maintenance with any of your software, you have a baseline. Once you have that in place, decide what additional recommendations you would like to include and at what mileage increments. Justify why you are offering additional services and make sure everyone understands the benefits. Don’t make the mistake of overloading your menus with a lot of unnecessary items. This will make many of your advisors reluctant to share, and it will make your clients skeptical of you.

Are MPI’s being performed in a timely manner and returned to the advisor?

This inspection should be one of the first things performed when the car gets into a stall for maintenance and it should always be included with a diagnosis. Studies show that the sooner we present additional items, the more likely we are to get a yes. It is easy to add on when your clients have not been waiting too long, but if too much time has passed, they will just want to get their car back. Manufacturers know this and recommend that the MPI be returned to the advisor with in 15 minutes or less when a car is in for maintenance.

Do you have a reliable dispatch and quality control system?

If your advisors are spending a lot of time in the shop, this may be an issue. There is no reason for this incredible waste of time unless they need a visual to understand a needed repair. Advisors will not add on to their tickets if they are not confident it will get dispatched to the right technician and through the shop in a reasonable amount of time. Their only concern should be to offer excellent service while presenting everything needed and keeping their clients informed. They should not be wondering, “Will this car get in the shop or fixed right the first time?” There are many different opinions about the best dispatch system. My opinion is to make sure you have one that everyone follows with no favoritism and is used 100% of the time. While technicians are valued team members, they should not control your shop.

We all know it is becoming increasingly hard to find good candidates for an advisor position. When we do find the right team, it is up to us to give them the foundation they need to succeed. A well-equipped and supported staff will stay on board, consistently perform and build a loyal clientele so you can focus your top priority: growing your business!

Sally Whitesell is the Founder and CEO of sw Service Solutions and Fixed Ops University. She has provided service advisor training in hundreds of drives across the country for over 24 years at an individual and corporate level. She is also the author of “Words that Sell Service,” and the creator of the “What Drives Women?” training series.

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