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

Want to know more about how to become a service advisor? Here’s the play-by-play for entering a fulfilling career all about guiding and inspiring others.
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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.

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.

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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.

1. 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.

2. 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:

3. 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.

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