Personality, empathy, patience; these are a few of the most important qualities for a service advisor (SA) according to digital shop owners Frank Scandura and Russ Crosby. Everything else can be taught.
Searching for those qualities starts right away during the interview process for Frank, owner of Frank’s European Service in Las Vegas and Russ, owner of Russ’s Wrench in Clinton, N.J. They both have found unique ways to test how a potential SA would fit at their shop.
For Frank, he purposely has a lengthy interview process, and part of that includes determining how the potential SA behaves in public. He recently took a candidate out to lunch, and when a server had a glass tip over on her tray, the candidate immediately went over and helped. Frank hired her.
It is those intangibles, the want to help without being told, that Frank and Russ believe make a good SA.
“That’s the heart that people need,” Frank said in a recent episode of The Digital Shop Talk Radio. “You need somebody who can relate; it’s all about relationships. Train, train, train, learn, learn, learn, and that’s for me, been our secret to success.”
Russ has his own way of testing potential SA candidates, and the vetting process starts with his wife.
“Women are 70 or 80% of the buyers in the country,” Russ said, “so I want to see how they react with my wife.”
His wife asks standardized questions that aren’t specific to the automotive industry. Instead, they focus more on who the candidate is as a person and their goals in life. From that information, Russ can see if their character would fit with the team.
“It all starts with the personality,” said Russ.
He has two service advisors, Alex and Becky, who bring great energy to the garage and love to talk and work with customers. Interestingly, neither of them had ever worked in the automotive industry before.
“People that don’t really have automotive knowledge sometimes make the best service advisors because they can interpret,” Russ added. “If they can’t understand what the technicians are saying, then how are they going to sell it to the customer.”
At Frank’s shop, they coined a phrase for this specific scenario, “translating technician to human.”
All joking aside, Frank is adamant shop owners or shop managers who are terrified to hire someone without an automotive background need to rethink things.
“People don’t buy parts and pieces anymore,” Frank said. “They don’t buy brake pads and routers. They buy trust. You have to establish that trust; you have to build rapport; you have to understand what they need … The more you know in automotive is not necessarily the answer to the front counter. I want people who can relate to humans.”
Once Russ and Frank have found an SA with the characteristics that will work for their shop, next comes training.
Russ focuses on specific training and sales techniques for the SA’s. He also stresses the importance of understanding who the buyer is.
“We want to train our writers to understand what the purpose is of this vehicle,” he said. “Is this a vehicle that they use to commute every day, back and forth to work? Is this a car that they take out on the weekends that they just love to rip on? Is this something that they’re putting their whole family in to go cross-country for a vacation?”
Knowing what motorists are looking to get out of their vehicle is key. Once the SA understands that, then their natural instinct to help others kicks in.
“They’re there to listen to what the needs are and then execute what we need to do to get that vehicle on the road and in the condition that they need it to be in,” Russ said.
The crew at Russ’s Wrench also uses AutoVitals' Business Control Panel (BCP) to help train not only new SA’s but also the entire garage. Looking at the graphs created on the BCP allows his team to see exactly where there are dips and valleys.
“We can use those graphs and those numbers to coach them and see where they need to improve or how we can help empower them to do a better job,” Russ said. “If you have the right person, they’re naturally going to want to do a better job. That’s the big part right there, them wanting to self-improve, which is huge.”
Digital Vehicle Inspections (DVI) have also proved helpful, not only for SA’s but for bridging the gap between the technician and the motorist. Visual aids like edited photos and videos make it easy for vehicle owners to see - and sometimes hear - what is going on with their car.
“If you have a technician that can break down what’s going on there and they’re writing it in those pictures with arrows, the story tells itself,” Russ said. “Most of the time, people can see, ‘Hey, this is broken. What’s going to happen if I don’t fix it?’"
With DVI.X, Russ and his crew can hone in on the inspections and share specifics with their customers.
“When we can put a picture and an arrow to what we’re talking about, it really takes a lot of the questions out of the customer’s mind,” he said.
For Frank, the use of DVI can be summed up simply.
“We’re educating the customer on their level now,” he said.
This hasn’t always been the case. Frank remembers the days of calling up customers and asking them to come down to the shop to look at something. Those days are long gone.
“Now, we send them the digital inspection with the educational information, with the educational videos, with the details about their car, and measure it,” Frank said. “That’s amazing. It just takes a lot of the anxiety for the motorist out of the situation.”
Both Russ and Frank hired their first SA as their shops got bigger. As a result, they had to spend some time transitioning their customers from working directly with them (the owner) to working with someone new (the SA). Something Frank dealt with a lot early on was customers insisting they speak to him.
The final step in ensuring your SA is on the path to success is to check performance. Frank looks at three metrics to gauge his team's success:
“Because, without those three, there is no sale,” he said.
It took some time for Frank’s European Service to get to where he wanted. Now, they are consistently averaging more than 96% inspection sent rate according to data collected by AutoVitals.
How to reach Frank and Frank's European Service: