-by Sally Whitesell for Dealer Service Magazine

Every time I do a seminar I am reminded about how confused advisors, and even managers, can be about the true responsibilities of a service advisor’s position. We simply need look at the title “Service Advisor” to get a clear understanding that this job is to advise every single guest about all of the services needed to repair and maintain their vehicle. This is a no brainer, right? Yet JD Power research shows that only 29% of advisors present one or more additional maintenance service to their clients. Can you imagine what types of numbers your department would be doing if the other 71% presented additional needed maintenance?

Believe it or not, your clients want and expect advisors to tell them what they need.

To illustrate my point, look at this very relatable scenario. Imagine you went to the doctor because you suspected your blood pressure was high. The doctor not only saw that your blood pressure was high, but noticed you had a suspicious spot on your back. Now imagine that the doctor didn’t say anything to you about the spot on your back because he didn’t want to seem pushy. Plus, you were already dealing with high blood pressure, and he didn’t want you to feel overwhelmed with health problems. Finally, he assumed he better not say anything because he was pretty sure you couldn’t afford the treatment. Does this Doctor have the right to make these decisions? Of course not! You go to doctors for their expert guidance and direction for your health care. This means you deserve to be informed about all of the doctor’s observations and recommendations so that you can live a healthy life with no major breakdowns. See where I am going with this? Your clients are also seeking this same professional guidance and direction for the care of their car every time they enter your service department. 

Why do so many advisors hesitate to follow through with the “advise” part of the position? After watching and listening to advisors for years I have found the same reasons listed in our doctor scenario apply.

“I don’t want to be pushy.” 

One of the reasons advisors feel pushy when they advise is because they haven’t been taught how to educate and inform guests about services. When they do mention items, they present them as a suggestion instead of as an important recommendation. When they recite lists and prices without explanations and benefits, customers get confused, or worse yet, angry because they do not understand the recommendations. This response often leads advisors to the conclusion that nobody wants to hear about maintenance or spend any money when the truth is that nobody wants to buy things they don’t understand. 

"I don’t want to overwhelm them with too much."

They are afraid to ask customers to buy anything above and beyond what they came in for because they think of it as delivering bad news instead of as a responsibility of the position. Every advisor has experienced at least one customer who was devastated by a diagnosis or recommendations. Encourage your team not to let a couple of bad experiences determine how they do their job.

"They probably can’t afford it /they never buy anything."

When my team spends time coaching on the drive, the advisors put their best foot forward. At that point we have trained and challenged everyone to step out of their comfort zones and implement presentation techniques. I can’t tell you how many times advisors have told us that the client walking through the door never buys anything or doesn’t have any money. Yet when they take the time to present services the clients says… get ready for it …”Why didn’t you ever tell me about this before?” This is always a light bulb moment! I try to stress that by letting every guest know about all of their maintenance needs every time they come in, your clients will be educated enough to follow a plan and make informed decisions. Without the information they are not given this opportunity.

There are more reasons I could add to this list, but by recognizing this top three, I hope you will be inspired to help your team develop the skills needed to be confident in this position of advising. Most people who take this position are not seasoned sales people and are more comfortable with a softer approach. We need to help advisors understand that presenting services is something we do for our clients not to them. We use an opening like this, “One of the things I like to do for all of my clients is to make sure I keep them informed about all maintenance recommendations.”  This is so much better than, “It is time to…”

We must teach advisors to tell every client about services and give simple explanations. (Visual aids are great). Advisors also need to learn the benefits for performing each service so they can inform their clients. For closes, we have found it to be most effective to give one total price for one buying decision while being ready to break it down if asked.

Investing the time to help your advisor develop the confidence to deliver a solid benefit-based presentation will not only increase your numbers, but your guests will leave with a full understanding of what they purchased and why. I can’t think of one reason for you not to get started on your training today!

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.” And new for 2019: the ultimate sales tool: the sw Service Solutions Maximizing Menu.

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Comment by Sally Whitesell on January 10, 2019 at 12:04pm
Marco, great point and I have seen it happen. In our training we really try to stress how important it is to do our job which is to educate and inform clients about the need for and benefits of taking care of their investment. Thanks for sharing!
Comment by Marco Antonio R. Botelho on January 10, 2019 at 10:11am

I use to argue with the SA's I can talk during visits: what would happen if you don't tell the customer anything about service needs and 1 or 2 weeks after he/she leaves the service shop something breaks or stops functioning well. Won't they point a finger for you and say "this guy had all chance to advise me and didn't do his job" ?

Comment by Pat Kirley on December 30, 2018 at 4:24am
Yes Sally, I did indeed find it helpful. It reminded me of the first time I was encouraged to buy more. Like most men, I don’t like shopping for clothes, one day i needed a shirt, I went into the men’s department and picked up a shirt and was going to pay for it when an assistant asked if I found what I wanted, I said yes and he asked “do you need a tie to go with it”. I bought two ties because he was not sure which one was best, so I bought the two and was happy with my decision. Most times you need to ask.
I look forward to part 2.
Well done and Happy New Year Sally.
Comment by Sally Whitesell on December 29, 2018 at 8:26pm

I could have listed more reasons and may need to write a part 2.  Thanks for taking the time to read and comment Pat! I hope you found it helpful.

Comment by Pat Kirley on December 29, 2018 at 5:31pm
Great article and hits the nail on the head. Most folks are prepared to spend to keep their transport safe and reliable if they are informed properly.

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