Issue Date: Service Advisor Jan 15, 2007, Posted On: 1/15/2007

Proper write-up processes mean production gains

A surefire way to sell more hours is to pay closer attention to the details of your write-up process. Often better write-up can lead to shop efficiencies that translate into big gains.

As the service manager conducts the shop meeting, he notes that total labor hours sold just aren't what they should be.

As a habit, it seems we always look to the technicians when addressing problems with productivity. However, we should realize that efficiency depends to a large degree
on how service advisors write the repair orders. If more time is invested in the write-up and work gets pre-approved, techs don't have to kill time waiting. They can spend more time repairing and servicing vehicles instead of up-selling the obvious.

To put it another way, the best path to increase hours per R.O. (and service advisor income) is to have the hours on paper at write-up and not sell after-the-fact. Shops that spend more time at write-up selling needed services can typically see gross profit improvements of up to $500
per day, per advisor.

The idea for service advisors is to move another level of selling. Too often, the service advisor's idea of selling is asking the customer how they can help, then scheduling an oil change. Generally, this discussion takes place at the advisor's computer terminal in an effort to expedite the write-up process.

The importance of the "walk around"

Our goal, within reason, should be to slow down this process. At the very least, service advisors need to break free of "the box" and get out from behind the desk. After the initial greeting,  walk the customer to the vehicle to discuss the work they have in mind, as well as other work that might need doing.

Not only does this help build rapport, but also it allows the advisor to examine the vehicle. Suggesting needed items on the service drive is also an important means of building credibility with the customer. Showing them where their tires are worn and why they need a rotation is much better than selling the same service from the computer terminal or over the phone. Seeing is believing.

At the same time, present the customer with an inspection sheet so they know that the technicians will be looking for other repairs. That way, customers don't feel blindsided if they get a call later in the day with another suggested repair. This business of preparing a customer for the reality of the service transaction is key, particularly since advertising suggests that cars should be virtually maintenance and expense free.

Realistic estimates

Another essential action is for the advisors to write realistic estimates. Service advisors need to generally sum up the customer's problem, look over additional opportunities and offer a fair rough estimate. For example, $200 might be a good number for a car with a cooling system problem and intact hoses. The worst thing we could do is send the customer away with an estimate for a $65 minimum one hour check out fee which gives them no idea of what the repair might cost. Again, the idea is to save the technician from having to wait while we get an approval from the customer.

Take an honest look at your write-up processes. As a service advisor, are you an order taker or a customer relations/sales specialist? Keep in mind that service advisors are there to serve the customers and suggest needed service and repairs. To do that you need to be away from the shackles of the service desk.


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