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Service Writer vs. Professional Service Advisor

Which do you have on your staff?

Every department has its standouts and its under-achievers, but have you ever considered what makes them so different? Both work in the same environment, with the same guests, and the same pay plan; but their productions levels and customer satisfaction scores are worlds apart.

We might assume our top-performers simply have sparkling personalities, but I’ve seen many shy, quiet advisors work very successfully in this field. So what’s the difference between the standouts and the under-achievers?

You have either hired “Service Writers,” or you have hired and trained “Professional Service Advisors.” Let’s take a look at the differences between a service writer vs. professional service advisor.

1. Reactive vs. proactive.

A service writer is reactive. They usually show up at the last minute with breakfast in hand. They aren't ready to face a client, and they haven't even logged into to their computer. They are slow to get to clients and prefer to spend time in the shop instead of on the drive.

A professional service advisor is proactive. They come to work early to write up night drops, check the schedule, and review service histories of clients that are coming in. This allows them to prepare for each client by being aware of possible needs and presentations before they arrive. Have you ever noticed that your star advisor is the first one out on the drive and often greet clients by name? Talk about setting a great first impression!

2. Order taker vs. Investigator

A service writer is an order taker. They don't bother with getting too much information because "The technicians can figure it out." They also don't need to check the histories because their clients "Never want to spend any money." I can't remember the last time I went into a business to not spend money, can you?

A professional service advisor investigates by asking detailed diagnostic questions and checking histories. Having someone gather their diagnostic information will make your clients feel as if you care about their concerns and care about making accurate recommendations. It will also keep your technicians productive! Professional service advisors don’t have to waste time tracking down clients for more information because they do their job right the first time at the write-up.

3. Makes excuses vs. performs walk-around.

A service writer makes excuses not to do walk-arounds. Why does he need to show the clients their own car?

A professional service advisor always performs a walk-around with their clients. What do your clients care about the most when they come in for service? Their car, right? Professionals understand this and know that seeing is believing - and believing is buying. The game of show and tell creates the transparency today's clients are demanding. It’s also a great time to learn about the client’s driving habits, which will come in handy when it’s time to put together a personalized benefit-based menu presentation.

4. Avoids vs. presents

Service writers don't sell because they want to avoid seeming pushy.

A professional service advisor uses a menu to present all maintenance recommendations to every client. They take the time to learn the benefits so they can give professional benefit-based presentations. You do have a menu right? A preventative maintenance menu is the most important selling tool your advisor can possess.

5. Overpromises vs. setting realistic expectations.

A service writer tends to overpromise. They want to give the best-case scenario to clients in order to keep them happy. Then they hope and pray that it works out. They also tell clients that they will call once the car is diagnosed. This is a bad habit that needs to be broken. Clients don’t understand the time needed to diagnose a concern, and will often call the store in a few hours if they weren’t told when to expect a call. This creates a lot of unnecessary stress on your customers and advisors, while creating chaos at your store as the phone calls flood in.

A professional service advisor sets realistic expectations for diagnostic times and follow up calls. They’ll give a one-hour window in which the customer can expect an update, whether the diagnosis is complete or not. This will eliminate the top two complaints in our industry, “No one ever called me.” and "My car was not ready when promised". Your professionals will buy the time needed for an accurate diagnosis and repair while your clients will know they were kept informed of the status of their car.

6. Attaches vs. goes through MPI

A service writer attaches the MPI to the paperwork and hopes the client sets up another visit.

A professional service advisor goes through the MPI with the client 100% of the time. They understand that presenting required maintenance not only makes them money, but it’s a critical part of the service you are providing. Telling our clients that a certified technician will take his time to inspect the vehicle and then presenting the results to the client, provides peace of mind for them. This also differentiates dealerships from the aftermarket shops. Inspections are a worthless if they are not used as a selling tool.

7. Hopes vs. schedules

A service writer hopes that the clients come back and that YOU take the needed steps to bring them back in the door.

A professional service advisor schedules the next service. Your clients want convenience and someone to take care of their cars so they don’t have to worry about it. A professional service advisor makes sure their clients never have a reason to ever go anywhere else! They keep track of maintenance needs and set up the next visit as a service to the customer. It’s the fastest way to create customer retention while making sure you are busy all year round.

Who do you have working for you?

Take a look at your team to see which areas need to be improved. Have you offered your team the training and tools they need to develop the skills of a professional service advisor? Many of your service writers could develop these skills and habits if they are provided with the customer service and selling skills learned from consistent training. It takes time, repetition, and even an investment to transform your team from service writers to professional service advisors. It will be worth it though because if we focus on developing our people, we can decrease our turnover and increase our customer retention, customer satisfaction and customer paid revenue!

"Service Writer vs Professional Service Advisor" is just one of the many training sessions offered by Fixed Ops University. Enroll today to turn your service advisors into selling professionals!

Sally Whitesell is President of sw Service Solutions, which offers in-store training nationwide and Fixed Ops University; engaging online training for managers and service advisors. Sally brings over 21 years of on-the-drive experience to her training, seminars and books, which include her highly sought after What Drives Women? program and her book, Words That Sell Service.”

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