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How to Become a Service Advisor: A Guide for Becoming the Shop’s Team Captain

Every team needs a team captain. Learn more about the path to a fulfilling career with our play-by-play on how to become a service advisor.

service advisor on computer

The automotive industry is one big team with plenty of opportunities for everyone. And whether you’re a rookie that’s just starting out or a professional looking to transition into a new role, learning about the ins and outs of how to become a service advisor is a good place to start.

Think about your favorite sports team. The players share a common goal, whether it be scoring a touchdown or hitting a home run, and they encourage each other to always perform at their best. But there’s usually one person on the team who everyone looks to for guidance and inspiration: the team captain. Every player in the auto repair industry is important, from the technicians to the parts managers, but service advisors are like the team captain. They keep everyone on track.

If you’re a people person, then becoming a service advisor might be the job for you. You’ll represent the shop and be the first point of contact for many customers as you schedule appointments over the phone and greet people as they walk in. You’ll get to help people all day, whether you’re clarifying an estimate or educating someone about better tires. The work you do on a daily basis will have a direct impact on the shop environment and team culture.

If you’re ready to learn about a challenging but rewarding career where no two days are the same, you’re in the right place.

How to Become a Service Advisor: Start Here

Service advisors play a critical role in helping customers understand the estimate and repair process. As a service advisor, you’ll walk guests through any vehicle concerns the technicians may find and then make relevant repair and maintenance suggestions. Your team will put faith in you to drive business for the shop, and your customers will trust you to help them make the right decisions.

Being at the center of customer and team relationships is a position that comes with a lot of responsibility, and team captains aren’t made overnight. Learning how to become a service advisor starts with learning the ropes and getting comfortable with the basic technical skills needed to thrive in an auto shop environment.

Let’s start with the fundamentals:

Do I Have to Get an Education?

If you want to know more about how to become a service advisor, but you’re afraid education requirements might hold you back, we’ve got good news! There aren’t any particular requirements for this position. That being said, a high school diploma or GED and some relevant experience in the auto repair industry are pretty common among most job candidates.

You might also consider earning a technical degree in automotive technology or a traditional degree in automotive engineering, mechanical engineering, or business to get a competitive edge in the job search. And if attending technical school or a traditional college is outside of the budget, earning a certificate might be a more viable option. Taking an online course through the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) can make your resume stand out for a fraction of the cost of a traditional education while also increasing your earning potential over time.

Get Your Head in the Game

Committing to a career path isn’t always easy, and a lot goes into making such a big decision. If you worry about getting stagnant in your career, you can rest assured that this is a position that comes with a lot of upward mobility. Being a service advisor can open the door to several other positions like service manager, branch manager, or general manager.  

If you’ve been on the fence about pursuing a career as a service advisor, here’s some data that might help with your decision. According to Zippia, there will be an estimated 2% decline in job growth for service advisors over the next 6 years, but there are over 84,000 unfilled service advisor positions across the country today.

While it might sound alarming, a little competition is healthy and can be a motivating factor to get started with your career planning sooner rather than later. And if you decide this career is for you, here’s what you’ll need to pick up along the way:

Start With the Fundamentals

Every professional starts off as a rookie. Before you’re ready for the big leagues, here’s how to establish yourself as a developing service advisor and a key player in growing an auto repair shop:

  1. Learn the Lingo: Becoming a stellar service advisor goes one step further than possessing basic literacy skills. To be successful, you’ll need to know the ins and outs of the industry’s technical jargon to facilitate communication at the shop and translate complex automotive concerns from the technicians’ findings to the customer.
  2. Stay Focused: From calculating labor costs to ordering parts, service advisors need to understand basic computation skills. In this industry, reputation and trust are an essential part of the customer experience. Forgetting to carry a one or add a zero on the estimate can damage your relationship with the customers that support your business.
  3. Manage Your Time: Auto repair shops are a fast-paced environment. As a service advisor, your schedule will always be full between booking appointments, addressing customer concerns, and working with technicians to keep repairs on track. Because you’ll be overseeing several different repairs simultaneously, it’s crucial to know how to prioritize tasks and delegate responsibilities in the most efficient way possible.  
  4. Get Organized: Service advisors are responsible for establishing the repair order rhythm and keeping a balance within the shop. Whether your shop’s RO process is tied to pen and paper methods or digital software, you should know exactly which cars are in the shop at any given time and where they’re at in the repair process. You’ll need a handy system for keeping track of estimates and work orders to ensure necessary data doesn’t get lost.
  5. Know How to Problem Solve: Service advisors are responsible for guiding customers and team members through any bumps in the road during the estimate and repair process. Whether you encounter low inventory, late shipments of parts, or other unexpected labor delays, knowing how to keep your cool and make quick decisions under pressure is essential.

How to Become a Service Advisor: What’s Next?

After squaring away the basics, the next step in the process of learning how to become a service advisor is gaining hands-on experience within the automotive industry. Like choosing an education path, there’s a lot of flexibility in choosing your work environment. The choice ultimately depends on your needs. Here are some things you may want to consider:

Find the Right Fit

Before starting the job search, you should consider whether you’d prefer to work at an independent shop, franchise, or dealership environment. Each work environment has its own perks and unique culture which might affect your decision.

While not always the case, dealerships may place a greater emphasis on sales while independent shops may place a greater emphasis on customer service. And there’s also the team dynamics to think about. You might ask yourself: do I want to work for a high-volume brand with a large staff and management hierarchy, or would I prefer working with a smaller crew with more of a team feel? Asking questions about a shop’s values upfront during the interview process can help ensure the work environment is a good fit for you and save a lot of headaches down the road.

At the end of the day, there are many paths to becoming a service advisor. Some jump right into the field as a service consultant; others start out as technicians. For those looking to dip their toes into the water before making a full commitment, or for those looking to build more confidence in their abilities first, an internship or apprenticeship is a good place to start. Internship and apprenticeship roles often involve a mix of job shadowing and hands-on experience under the guidance of a mentor. And whether you get your start managing parts or assisting technicians, there’s always more to learn.

Continuing Education

In the same way that a professional athlete has to keep up with their training program to stay in shape, ongoing training and development are necessary for service advisors to stay in tune with the automotive industry and keep performing at their best.

Earlier, we suggested earning a certificate from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) to elevate your resume and increase your future earning potential. But narrowing down which training to enroll in might not always be an easy decision. In fact, ASE has over 50 certifications, tests, and courses to choose from. Many of the courses and certifications are focused on general concepts like collision repair, but you’ll also find some specializations like school buses and military tactical wheeled vehicles. Enrolling in specialized courses helps broaden your perspective and shows great initiative, both of which are necessary qualities for future leadership positions. The knowledge you gain can also be directly applied to bring innovation to your shop and give back to your local community.

Other ways to keep up with the latest industry trends and work on your professional development include attending conferences and trade shows, subscribing to industry publications, and listening to auto repair podcasts or radio talk shows.

Being a lifelong learner with a passion for always improving can take you further in the automotive industry and life than any one technical skill.

Elevate Your Customer Service

Although earning an education and practicing your technical skills is important in your journey, we’re not just here to talk about how to become a service advisor—we want to help you become the best service advisor you can be.

As the head of a major customer-facing role, it’s important to represent the shop in a professional and courteous manner. Oftentimes, a customer’s first impression of the shop will be their phone conversation with you while trying to book an appointment.

Consider polishing these six skills to elevate your customer service game and give your guests the best possible experience:

  1. Be Someone Others Can Depend On: The scheduling process at an auto repair shop involves a lot of moving parts and can get hectic at times. Your team and your customers will look up to you in this role to keep the daily operations, like scheduling and inventory management, running smoothly. Show them that they can depend on you by keeping your word and trying not to make promises you can’t keep.
  2. Know How to Translate Shop Lingo: A typical day as a service advisor involves liaising between the technicians and customers to make sure necessary repairs are completed within a realistic time frame. The ability to communicate vehicle concerns in simple terms and guide customers throughout the repair process is a huge part of building the shop’s reputation and trustworthiness.
  3. Meet the Customers Where They’re At: On occasion, you may encounter customers who might have unrealistic expectations about the repair order process because they used free online estimate tools. Knowing how to practice active listening with customers leads to more positive customer interactions and a higher customer retention rate.
  4. Practice Empathy: Vehicle concerns can bring about a lot of stress for customers with busy schedules and financial concerns. Learning how to put yourself in your customers’ shoes can help them feel appreciated and ease their anxiety so they can better process and understand the work that needs to be done to get them back on the road.
  5. Manage Conflicts: Exercising patience while dealing with unhappy customers and managing difficult conversations within the team can help you de-escalate situations before they turn into conflicts. Conflict management is also an important leadership skill.
  6. Build Relationships: The little things like remembering a customer’s name or asking about their day can go a long way in making customers feel comfortable and welcomed in the shop. By giving guests a great experience, you can become the go-to shop for their friends and family, and the first place they think of when they need repairs later on down the road. Relationship-building is also vital to establishing a positive work culture and keeping your team’s morale high.

How a Shop Management System Can Transform Your Career

Part of learning how to become a service advisor is knowing how to utilize different tools to inspire your team and customers. These days, there’s a growing list of automotive repair software programs, and deciding which one to get trained on can be difficult. Of course, some common myths don’t make the choice any easier. But the reality is that the best program out there is the one that works for you.

Here’s how Tekmetric can help:

Build Stronger Relationships with Customer Profiles

Tekmetric’s customer profiles are where you can keep track of relevant information such as names and preferred contact methods for returning customers. Leveraging customer profiles means less time filling out paperwork and more time focusing on relationship-building and communication.

Educate Customers With Digital Vehicle Inspections

Tekmetric’s DVI tool allows technicians to upload photos and videos of any vehicle concerns to give customers concrete evidence of necessary repairs. Tekmetric’s handy color-coded system lets technicians clearly flag vehicle concerns by severity, so you can have more transparent conversations with the customer and sell more work that’s relevant upfront. Tekmetric also saves all prior repair orders and declined jobs so you can easily follow up with customers or send gentle reminders for regular maintenance later down the road. A transparent inspection and estimate process lessens the likelihood of conflict by empowering customers to make their own decisions.

Get Ahead of Scheduling With Our Scheduling Calendar

Scheduling can be one of the trickiest parts of the job, but it’s also one of the most important. An organized scheduling system helps you take control of each workday, maximize the number of cars in the shop, and say “yes” to more customers. All that’s needed to get the ball rolling and get a customer on the books is a name and phone number. Showing empathy towards a customer and their busy schedule makes a great first impression and builds confidence in your shop’s trustworthiness and dependability.

Tekmetric’s appointment calendar also helps service advisors plan ahead with the ability to book future jobs based on the technicians’ upcoming availability. Whether you’re trying to schedule something for a day, a week, or even a month ahead, there won’t be any surprises.

Make Your RO Management Process Seamless

Tekmetric’s RO Management features make the transition from inspections to repair work to check out seamless. Service advisors can easily assign work to technicians, track repair status updates, and keep customers in the loop all through Tekmetric.

Stay On Top of Everything With Our Job Board

Tekmetric’s Job Board gives service advisors a bird’s eye view of the shop. Instead of having to shuffle through paperwork and put all the puzzle pieces together manually, you can instantly toggle through several different views of the shop. The Job Board sorts jobs by statuses of “Active” or “Saved for Later,” as well as “Paid,” “Accounts Receivable,” and “Deleted.”

Within the “Active” repairs tab, service advisors can gain more insight into jobs that are still in the initial “Estimates” stage, versus jobs that have moved into the “Work-in-Progress” and “Completed” stages. You can even see when an estimate is viewed by customers in real-time.

Take Charge With the Tech Board

As team captains, service advisors are in charge of communicating the plays (tasks) and making sure everybody knows where they need to be on the field (bays). Our tech board makes it easy for you to assign tasks without compromising the shop’s workflow. Work in the Tech Board is sorted into four easy categories: No Tech Assigned, Assigned, Complete, and Incomplete. Within the Mechanic Work Order Cards, information such as the customer, vehicle, and promised completion date/time/hours is also easily accessible.

Based on your personal preference, you can choose to assign all the jobs within one work order to a single technician or split up the jobs by assigning them to multiple technicians. When you become a top-notch service advisor, you’ll know your shop better than anyone, and that’s why Tekmetric puts you in charge.

Impress Customers With Tekmessage: True Two-Way Texting

Streamlined communication leads to a better workflow and builds customer loyalty by establishing trust and dependability. Tekmetric’s True Two-Way Texting integration, Tekmessage, opens the lines of communication between customers and service advisors in a way that emphasizes accessibility and convenience. Customers can skip the web search and message you directly with any questions or concerns they might have. The messages then appear as a chat box in the corner of Tekmetric, allowing you to reply instantly without getting sidetracked. Customers will see your replies as regular text messages on their phones.

Give Customers More Freedom With Tekmerchant: Text-to-Pay

Tekmetric’s Payment Processing integration, Tekmerchant, gives customers more flexibility by allowing them to pay for repair work on the go. Customers can skip the lines, pay for their repairs via text, and pick up their vehicles when it’s most convenient for them.

Track Performance and Fine-Tune Your Strategy With Real-Time Reports

Tekmetric makes sure you’re always in the loop by gathering real-time insights and automatically visualizing the data into Financial Reports, Employee Reports, Customer Reports, and Parts Reports. Knowing the numbers can help you track performance, check your rhythm, and make adjustments as necessary for the ongoing development of your business and team.

Learning How to Become a Service Advisor Allstar Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

You’ll know you’re ready for this career path if you’re a good problem solver who’s passionate about the automotive industry, building rapport with customers, and keeping shop morale high. If inspiring others is something that brings you fulfillment, being a service advisor is the job for you.

Remember: it’s never too early or too late to follow your passions and try out a different career path. Service advisors come from all walks of life and all types of backgrounds, which means you have the freedom to forge your own path.  

Huddle Up With Tekmetric

Every team needs a team captain. If you’d like to have a direct impact on the automotive industry, and problem-solving and relationship-building get you revved up, it might be time to consider a career path as a service advisor.  

Tekmetric is a shop management system designed to help service advisors at all levels flourish in their role as team captains. If you want to learn more about Tekmetric, schedule a demo below.

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