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Efficient retailing No10: Service advisers

In the tenth of our series of insights into running an efficient dealership, Thurlby Motors’ managing director Chris Roberts looks at service advisers.

We often talk about overhead absorption and how important this is to our businesses.

However, one of the key areas in achieving good absorption levels is often overlooked; the role of the service adviser.

Think about your own reception area and ask yourself a few questions:

  • Does your reception team fit the role well and what key skills should these employees have?
  • Do you offer them the same training as your sales team? If not, why not, when they are in an equally sales orientated environment?
  • Do you target and incentivise them to sell not only basic service and repair, but also add-on products?

Let’s look at a couple of these areas in more detail.

Firstly, think about the role requirements. Communication and equally importantly, sales ability, are key.

Many successful businesses recruit people into these positions not as service advisers, but as service sales advisers.

Quite rightly, if this view of the role is correct then the character of the people being employed is very important.

In a vehicle sales role I’m sure you wouldn’t employ someone who wasn’t target and result driven with a hunger to sell.

Service advisers should be no different.

With regard to skill levels, it is worth comparing the amount invested in training a sales person versus the amount spent on training a service adviser.

In most businesses the difference is startling.

While we all appreciate that the gross profit generated by a single vehicle sale is far greater than the sale of a service or MoT, I would argue that the contribution to the business is no less important and therefore the training and development of the key selling skills required should carry equal importance.

Remember to look outside the normal manufacturer courses; often they are wholly inadequate with regard to selling skills.

I have often commented on the importance of incentivising staff wherever this can motivate them and influence their performance.

Take some time to ensure that the team in and around service understand the key objectives of the business and how they can be achieved.

Try to illustrate that service advisers not only sell labour, but have a massive influence on parts sales, too.

Set up some league tables for the sales of add-on products such as service plans, winter and summer checks, air conditioning servicing etc.

Give some simple rewards for high achievement and make it fun.

Often these incentives work better than a share of bottom line as they are clear and instant. Also look at incentivising service reminder conversion.

This can be done by measuring and targeting successful bookings made as a result of follow-up calls after service reminder letters. In my experience this simple activity can have a dramatic effect on workshop utilisation and is vital to the business.

The service adviser’s role is critical to aftersales profitability.

Every customer visit represents an opportunity to sell a variety of additional products.

Invest in training your team to sell and it will pay you back tenfold.

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