Make Developing Your Service Advisors’ People Skills A Top Priority
Service managers needn’t wait for outside help to drill advisors on positivity, communication and other ‘soft’ skills. BY MICHAEL ROPPO
Have you had a less-than-great encounter with a dealership service advisor? Was that service representative rude? Did he come off as though he could care less about your needs, unwilling to serve, as though you were getting in the way of his routine? My wife and I recently had just such an experience, and it has stayed with me.
Having been in this industry for more than 30 years, I realize one of the greatest challenges to dealerships is how best to deliver a value-added level of personal service in an increasingly impersonal society. However, our industry is failing to meet that challenge. The lack of so-called “soft skills” among the service advisors who directly interact with customers offers a huge improvement opportunity for, and competitive advantage to, those service departments that are willing to really listen to those customers’ expectations.
Service advisors are not just the first individuals with whom your dealership’s service customers interact, and the people who will have the most customer contact. They are more than the voice and face of your dealership. They represent the front lines of its customer retention process, which starts with the sale of a vehicle, progresses to service work and eventually moves back to sales again.
In this article, I provide a number of “soft” customer service skills and traits I think are essential for an effective service advisor. It is up to service department management to make sure these skills and traits are engrained in their advisors. You don’t need to be an HR director or a professional trainer to take charge of this process.
Practice Is The Key
Service managers must practice, drill, and perfect their advisors in this regard, and constantly evaluate them. I recommend conducting 15-minute role-play training sessions on a daily basis, with broader overviews on a weekly or monthly basis, on one of the specific categories below. Also, they need to individually address each service advisor’s special shortcomings. My mantra is, “Do it until you never get it wrong!”
1) Positive attitude
- Are you optimistic and upbeat?
- Will you generate good energy and good will?
Positivity is contagious. Pass it around! A positive attitude makes all the difference in how your customers remember you. It’s the great differentiator!
2) Strong work ethic
- Are you motivated and dedicated to getting the job done, no matter what?
- Will you always be conscientious and do your best work?
- Are you results-driven?
Be resolved that you will treat work as exactly what the word implies. Although you may enjoy your work and even find it fun, it is still work, and you need to approach it with a positive attitude and have outstanding ethics.
3) Take the initiative
Simply put, to take initiative is to do what needs to be done without waiting to be told, yet also without being overbearing or ineffective. Here are a few habits for which every service advisor should strive:
- Be self-motivated
- Act without being told
- Ask necessary questions
- Finish a task, then ask for more
- Avoid being idle or wasting time on the job
- But, don’t become a workaholic
Finally, the best service employees in our industry are dependable. Assess your personal work ethic constantly!
Customers Need A Good Listener
4) Excellent communication skills
- Are you both verbally articulate and a good listener?
- Can you make your case and express your needs in a way that builds bridges to and value for colleagues, vendors and most importantly customers?
- Excellent communication skills are critical in our work!
- Excellent communication is a requirement in our industry if you want to be successful, So, be sure to pass it around!
5) Time management
- Do you know how to prioritize tasks and work on a number of different customer vehicles and/ or projects at once?
- Will you use your time on the job wisely?
Time management best practices are life-changers, leading to your making both more time and more money.
6) Problem solving
- Are you resourceful and able to creatively solve problems that will inevitably arise?
- Will you take ownership of customers and their problems, or leave them for someone else?
7) Acting as a team player
- Do you work well in groups and on teams?
- Are you cooperative, and do you take a leadership role when appropriate?
- Teamwork in our industry doesn’t happen on its own. You need to help create and influence the power of teamwork. Don’t be selfish! Pass on the team spirit, and help make it contagious in your dealership.
8) Ability to accept constructive criticism and learn from it
- Can you handle constructive criticism, or do you tend to take it as a personal attack?
- Are you coachable, open to learning and growing as a person and as a professional?
- Are you willing to master the art of receiving and accepting constructive criticism? Many people in the dealership industry are critics, so don’t take it personally.
- Do not criticize; offer solutions to problems
- Do not use others as a stepping stone or take all the credit for a group effort
- Develop good meeting techniques
- Carry through with your commitments
- Focus on the goal or problem. Do not make it personal.
Believe You Will Do Job Well
9) Building self-confidence
- Do you truly believe you can do the job well?
- Will you project a sense of calm and inspire confidence in others?
- Will you have the courage to ask questions that need to be asked, and to freely contribute your ideas and build more value for yourself and your dealership?
10) Working well under pressure
- Can you handle the stress that accompanies deadlines and crises?
- Will you be able to do your best work and come through in a pinch whenever you are expected to do so?
- Are you able to adapt to new situations and challenges?
- Will you embrace change and be open to new ideas?
Flex your mind. Be more adaptable. Learn to be more flexible. Everyone has a choice; you can either adapt or die!
Service Obsession Here To Stay
Look, today’s value-added service industry and economy require that dealerships put a new, higher premium on soft, aka people, skills and relationship-building best practices. With customers becoming more and more demanding for higher levels of service, and that service being delivered at an increasingly faster pace, dealers and service managers must seek out and embrace employees who are agile, adaptable and creative at solving problems and serving people well, in a value-added way.
Service advisors who get in touch with their soft sides will become more valuable to their dealerships and to their own careers.
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