It’s a well-known fact in the auto-repair world that summer is the busiest time of the year. As the weather heats up and families start going on road-trips, more and more drivers bring their vehicles into the shop for maintenance. Although the United States is still seeing a significant number of cases of the Coronavirus, industry insights such as the TM-500 index suggest that business is picking back up and shop owners have reason to be cautiously optimistic that 2020 will be another busy summer for shops, especially for shops taking the proper precautions.
Service advisors feel a lot of pressure during the summertime rush. Not only do they have to greet every customer and learn what they need, but they also need to connect a lot of moving parts, whether that means sending repair orders to guests, making sure they’re getting approved, coordinating with technicians, or literally tracking down parts for repairs.
With so much to juggle, it’s important that service advisors keep a cool head. Making sure every job makes it through the repair process without fault while providing guests with kind and diligent service can be tough, but there are tools and habits that can make the job a breeze.
Here are a few actionable tactics you can start using immediately at your shop so service advisors can stay brisk in spite of the heat.
When it comes to guests, the mileage may vary. Some guests are easier to work with than others. Some will throw you the keys and approve whatever work needs to be done. Others will only approve a small amount of work and call every few minutes to check on the job.
Service advisors may not be able to directly change how guests behave, but we are able to know what to expect. Customer notes are a great way for service advisors to know the attitudes, behaviors, and preferences of each individual guest. Taking detailed notes and checking them before or during a customer interaction can make it easier to work with even with the most difficult clients.
When some people come into the auto-shop, they may already be frazzled because something is wrong with their car and they don’t know what to do. Pronouncing their name correctly is a good way to start things off on the right foot. If you don’t know how to pronounce their name, ask them! It’s better to admit that you don’t know how to pronounce their name rather than bungle it up and have them correct you, or feel too shy or uncomfortable to make the correction. They may even give you a nickname, and if that’s their preference, be sure to use it.
You can use hyphens, dashes, or even “sounds like…” to make sure that you’re pronouncing the guest’s name correctly. For instance, the name Anais should be pronounced like ah-nah-EES, not ah-nay-is.
A good modern shop management software gives service advisors the option to text, call, or email guests. It’s worth asking your customers what they prefer and making a note of that in their customer profile.
If your shop has a shuttle service or offers loaner vehicles, you may want to take note of how to get the customer home, what their gate code is, and whether or not they usually need a loaner vehicle.
Guests tend to have different preferences when it comes to their vehicles. You may want to note where they keep their wheel lock and how they like their steering wheel, seats, and mirrors to be positioned. If a customer has a breathalyzer in their vehicle, take note of that. The last thing you want is to realize you need them to blow after they’ve handed over the keys and left the shop, or that you need to spend extra time calling the breathalyzer company to deactivate the system.
In addition to customer notes, some shop management solutions offer customer metrics and other tools that help service advisors know even more about their customers.
Shop management systems like Tekmetric can actually show you the lifetime stats of a customer, including how much they’ve spent at your garage and the percent of repairs they close on. Knowing the guest’s percent close ratio can help you know how much time you should spend attempting to sell a customer on jobs, especially when the shop gets busy.
CARFAX vehicle reports can also tell you a lot about the customer. For instance, if it says that the customer brings their vehicle in every 5,000 miles, they probably care about keeping their vehicle maintained and are more likely to approve work.
When it comes to service advising, you have to be able to flow quickly between talking to guests, assembling repair orders, authorizing repair orders, working with technicians, ordering parts, answering the phone, and receiving payments. It’s a lot to keep track of!
Leveraging a digital job-board, or shop dashboard is probably the best way for service advisors to keep track of all the responsibilities they have to juggle. A good shop dashboard will show you the status of every vehicle in the repair order process and send alerts to technicians, parts suppliers, and even the guest when it’s their turn to take action.
Repair order sent? The guest should get an alert to approve.
Did the part arrive? The technician should be alerted so they can get to work.
If your guest is in a hurry, you may want to make a note on their job in the shop dashboard and set the right expectation. By glancing at the dashboard and seeing that you have a number of cars being worked on, are waiting on several parts, and have more cars in the queue, you should be able to let the guest know that they’re going to have to wait at least a couple of hours. Of course, do it with kindness. But if things are less busy, you can leave a note so that the technicians can be mindful that the guest needs to be somewhere, especially if their notes indicate that they’re a loyal, well-paying customer.
Shop management systems are a fundamental tool for service advisors, and a good one will allow you to easily take customer notes, track the repair process, and be an excellent service advisor. Especially this summer when there’s a pandemic, a shop management system with text and email repair order approval and text-to-pay options will make offering curbside service simple and easy. Make sure that you have the tools to get the job done, and have trained your service advisors before the heat kicks in.