Car dealership service advisors typically interact with more customers in a day than many sales associates do in a week.

That is why service advisors are in a perfect position to boost backend profits. Done right, their customer interactions can increase up-sell repair orders, recapture declined services opportunities and retain customers who trust advisors.

But many service advisors perform below their potential, a problem that is costly, yet easy to fix, says David Boyle, president of MPi, a supplier of automotive diagnostic and repair information.

“What gets measured gets done is a truth with overpowering impact on the service department bottom line,” he says.

Accordingly MPi has developed what it calls “The Three Pillar Profit Model.” The three pillars consist of accountability, performance measurement and reinforcement in the form of training, coaching and showing appreciation for work well done.

Accountability means staffers fulfilling their job descriptions and everyone helping to drive the service department to its goals. Those include workflow management, customer retention, identifying vehicle needs through inspections and recommending to customers what vehicle work should be done.

Whether a dealership enforces workflow controls manually or by an automated-scheduling process, the point is to do it consistently, Doyle says.

“Managing traffic flow is as important as adding water to a plant,” says Kurt Schulze, service director, for Taylor Kia in Toledo, OH. “Workflow scheduling is the first step toward customer satisfaction,”

His three advisors write about 1,100 repair orders a month.

“It’s the scheduling that drives advisors to inspect the car when it arrives in the lane,” he says. “My advisors see more customers than anyone else in the dealership and that all-important customer relationship starts with them.”

Fixed-operations consultant Ed Kovalchick of Net Profit in Alabaster, AL agrees.

“When we don’t manage the appointment process, we end up deep in customers in the morning and only a trickle throughout the remainder of the day,” he says. “This backs up everyone.”

Then, in the rush to keep the service-lane lines moving, “we don’t spend adequate time with customers to truly educate them about their vehicle needs or to build rapport with them,” Kovalchick says.

Proper workflow process ensures vehicles entering the service lane get prompt and proper handling.

Advisors should use all opportunities to identify vehicle needs, including those cited by the customer and identified by auto-maker maintenance requirements to keep the warranty in effect.

Also important is a visual inspection walk-around of the vehicle, with the customer present. A technician’s under-vehicle inspection helps too. But those inspections are performed only about 50% of the time, according to MPi data.

“We want to capture every opportunity we can,” says David Sams, service director, Napleton Auto Park, Lake Park, FL.

His seven advisors write 800 repair orders a month.

More successful service departments focus on delivering knowledgeable and professional service recommendation presentations. This kind of presentation builds confidence in the advisor.

A professional presentation also thoroughly explains how the customer’s original vehicle needs will be resolved and what those costs will entail.

Kovalchick advises clients to make up-sell presentations in private, away from distraction by strangers, so rapport between advisor and the customer can be built.

To better command customers’ attention, service advisors should think like a customer. Every listener wonders, “What’s in this for me?” Comments should address this, Kovalchick says.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com