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Do Your Technicians Talk to Customers?


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We all know that techs and service advisors have two distinctly different roles. And both get different training.  Service advisors are on the front lines every day taking care of customers, selling work, organizing work, and a lot more.  

While most customers don't engage with the technician, is there a time when we should allow the customer to speak to the technician? 

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We allow our customers to talk to our technicians, but ONLY IF a manager is present.   Manager's job is to keep it brief.    For instance, today, my lead tech and myself discussed why one of my better customers' Jeep was saying HOT OIL during a grueling 4WD mountain climb.   Short and sweet and he got personalized service.   A new or basic customer would not get such a privilege, unless a manager deems a specific topic to have value.   Sometimes, we'll have folks walk into the shop after hours (they see an open door among the many closed ones) and we have to chase them away.  Techs are generally nice, so, will take an interruption and offer to help, but I will nicely be the meanie / protector.

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19 hours ago, bantar said:

We allow our customers to talk to our technicians, but ONLY IF a manager is present.   Manager's job is to keep it brief.    For instance, today, my lead tech and myself discussed why one of my better customers' Jeep was saying HOT OIL during a grueling 4WD mountain climb.   Short and sweet and he got personalized service.   A new or basic customer would not get such a privilege, unless a manager deems a specific topic to have value.   Sometimes, we'll have folks walk into the shop after hours (they see an open door among the many closed ones) and we have to chase them away.  Techs are generally nice, so, will take an interruption and offer to help, but I will nicely be the meanie / protector.

You make good points.  And having a manager present is a good protocol.

With regard to customers walking into the shop or standing behind the bays, I was adamant about getting that customer back to the customer service office.

I remember way back when I was a tech, before a business owner, if a customer stood over me, or behind the bay, I was bold enough to tell the boss, "Get that guy away from me." 

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2 hours ago, Joe Marconi said:

You make good points.  And having a manager present is a good protocol.

With regard to customers walking into the shop or standing behind the bays, I was adamant about getting that customer back to the customer service office.

I remember way back when I was a tech, before a business owner, if a customer stood over me, or behind the bay, I was bold enough to tell the boss, "Get that guy away from me." 

There's only 3 persons in our shop and we all talk to customers. When the techs are ask for prices, they're referred to the office/me. Get him a quote and it's the customer's decision, and yes, I am part of the techs/ service advisor/manager/owner. And yes, I am a working Boss,like one of my friends told me, I also work as a tech and I am the one that tells the customers that they need to go to the office/customers' area.

 

We even got a bad review for telling this one customer to come and wait in the office. 

I answered the review with respect and told him that we have a designated area for a reason, if you go to Restaurant, they won't allow u to go into the kitchen for a reason, same principle.

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  • 5 weeks later...
14 hours ago, Transmission Repair said:

We allow our techs to talk to customers as it promotes transparency.  Transmission repair is somewhat of a hidden service and customers need some reassurance.  We even had one customer want to watch his Honda transmission get rebuilt.  I turned it into a promotional video opportunity.  Open lines of communication is always the best policy.

4:32  

 

Did you have any type of training for the techs with regard to speaking to customers? Or protocol? 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Here's what a technician told me years ago about talking to a customer when asked about the cost of a certain repair.

The tech answered like this: "I'm the "how," they are the "how much."

I think the tech has to be careful when the customer asks: "How long does it take to replace it?"

The tech's first thought is to simply answer the question, say one hour, because he/she's done it 10 times. 

But it pays one and a half or two hours. Then it puts the service advisor in a tough spot.

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52 minutes ago, newport5 said:

Here's what a technician told me years ago about talking to a customer when asked about the cost of a certain repair.

The tech answered like this: "I'm the "how," they are the "how much."

I think the tech has to be careful when the customer asks: "How long does it take to replace it?"

The tech's first thought is to simply answer the question, say one hour, because he/she's done it 10 times. 

But it pays one and a half or two hours. Then it puts the service advisor in a tough spot.

Agree.  Unless technicians are trained in the art of sales and customer experience, they should only have a simple conversation with a customer. Leave the sales and technical questions out of it. 

Years ago, I had a tech road test a car with a customer for a noise on turns. On the road test, the tech said, "Oh, I hear it, it's the left from wheel bearing, I have done tons of them. Should take under an hour to replace. And those bearings are cheap too." 

I learned a valuable lesson that day! 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Not only do they do the job of repairing cars but they can also take the customers through the whole procedure of paying for the work done and issueing sales invoices and dealing with credit card payments.

I find that this gives the staff and the customers a better shopping experience due to the personel contact. Another thing I ask for is that my staff should have total access to our computer system and also can answer any phones from incoming calls.

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4 hours ago, Eric Roberts said:

Not only do they do the job of repairing cars but they can also take the customers through the whole procedure of paying for the work done and issueing sales invoices and dealing with credit card payments.

I find that this gives the staff and the customers a better shopping experience due to the personel contact. Another thing I ask for is that my staff should have total access to our computer system and also can answer any phones from incoming calls.

How do you cross-train your employees on every aspect of the customer experience? Also, techs will greet customers, work on their cars, and then perform the car delivery process?  

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Hi believe me it is possible to train most enthusiastic people. it also depends on the geography of the premises. We have all open fronts and can see our customers drive in and park up. Meet and greet only takes a minute, but it puts customers ar ease. Especially female customers who now make up a liitle more that 50% of the customer base.

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7 hours ago, xrac said:

First of all This is a great thread with a lot of useful information and wisdom from warriors who have been in the trenches.  Car-x started as Car-x Muffler.  I guess that was a pretty simple business model. Every technician sold their job while the manager priced it up, sourced parts (mostly in house inventory), and billed out customers. By the time I bought a franchise it was Car-x Muffler & Brakes. We did exhaust, brakes, shocks, struts, undercar, and starters, alternators, AC, etc.   That was the store model I was introduced to with technicians selling their own tickets. After about a year I realized we would not make it by being a muffler and brake place. I hired a guy and he led us into being a General Repair shop. When we started we did not have any type of labor guide or any type of access to technical information. Everything was best guess and knowledge. It is shocking to me now that Car-X was selling franchise so unprepared.  Of course as we went general repair we added subscriptions and scan tools and moved ahead. As we did that we dropped the technicians selling their own tickets.  First of all that was an inefficient model as far as I am concerned. Like the medical field you have people trained in specific skilled. Most technician’s aren’t great service writers or great managers. They may be passable but usually it’s not their strength. People like Joe have became great through years of experience and training.  Likewise great service writers or managers may not be able to fix cars.  Our technicians are paid to identify problems and fix them. Our service writer’s job is to sell the job, deal with customers and allow the technicians to be as efficient as possible. We have done it both ways and the later is the only way to go in my opinion. 

Frank, that's for the recognition, and you make a great point.  When I started my business in 1980, I was a trained technician and ran my business that way. And oh boy, the mistakes I made from thinking as a tech when talking to customers. it cost me big time! 

Now, as you pointed out, I went thru a TON of training and learned the art of speaking to people and building relationships, among other things.

I know it IS possible to have techs speak and discuss things with customers, and there is a place for that. But the shop must have a protocol on the do's and don'ts. Hope this makes sense. 

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Hi I guise we all have some good ideas which is going the right way. I suppose this started when I wa a young mechanic. To be truthful I could not concentrate enough and as time went by I discovered that I was a good talker. This attribute became useful to me in later life as I progressed to owning my own garage business. Some mechanics are good at explaining things to customers. I find that the guys who are say a little shy will soon get used to the idea and conversations will start to flow.

What does help is that we have a great reception with a TV and a free coffee machine. This is where the talking starts and very rarely in the workshops.  

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10 hours ago, Eric Roberts said:

Hi I guise we all have some good ideas which is going the right way. I suppose this started when I wa a young mechanic. To be truthful I could not concentrate enough and as time went by I discovered that I was a good talker. This attribute became useful to me in later life as I progressed to owning my own garage business. Some mechanics are good at explaining things to customers. I find that the guys who are say a little shy will soon get used to the idea and conversations will start to flow.

What does help is that we have a great reception with a TV and a free coffee machine. This is where the talking starts and very rarely in the workshops.  

Eric, I see that you are from "Across the Pond." Welcome and great points of view.  I like when we get perspectives from other parts of the world.  How did you find Auto Shop Owner? 

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Hi Thanks for that ! We copied your way of working with the so called Autocentres. Mainly doing tyres and mufflers. However many of us have gone full circle in my 50years in the trade. So, repairing/servicing and tyres of course. We also have an MOT test for cars carried out annually. This is regulated by the government but works very well. When a car fails the test then we very often get the job of repairing the car back to standard. The tests are highly regulated, but there are dodgy garages out there who bend the rules. So a question !

How are American cars regulated for safety !If at all ? 

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5 hours ago, Eric Roberts said:

Hi Thanks for that ! We copied your way of working with the so called Autocentres. Mainly doing tyres and mufflers. However many of us have gone full circle in my 50years in the trade. So, repairing/servicing and tyres of course. We also have an MOT test for cars carried out annually. This is regulated by the government but works very well. When a car fails the test then we very often get the job of repairing the car back to standard. The tests are highly regulated, but there are dodgy garages out there who bend the rules. So a question !

How are American cars regulated for safety !If at all ? 

That is a great question.  Out of the 50 states in the U.S., only 16 have a safety inspection program. So, most cars in the U.S. are not regulated at all by a safety test.  I am from New York, and we have an annual safety and emissions test. The emissions test is just an OBD check.  Safety standards are set for tires, brakes, steering, suspension, lights, wiper blades. 

Many states have done away with the required safety inspection, not sure why. The annual safety inspection in New York has always been a great way to ensure that cars are safe on the road. One thing, as in your country, there are repair shops that "bend" the rules too. 

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Hi if you get caught bending the rules it is a certainty of losing your MOT licence and in some cases prison ! The MOT does keep standards and safety to a high level. Driving in the UK is different from the States because of the narrow roads and country lanes. 

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How Will Your Garage Cope With Inflationary Pressures

 

I am writing about this because I feel that it is going to be a general business problem, especially new starters. Inflation  will not just be a problem for my garage business.

Many garage/autocentre owners are from a similar background. We started up in the sixties, seventies and eighties with no capitol and built a thriving business out of nothing. We were either mechanics or worked in the automotive industry from a young age.

So, I worked for a few national tyre companies before deciding to go it alone. I am sure such start ups are more difficult to achieve these days. Timing is of the essence. We started when cars were a growing industry. The working class blue collar workers could now afford a car.

Because we never went to any kind of business school then we had to take on problems when they manifested themselves. One of our first encounters was the dreaded inflation.

 From the very beginning we (I say we because I had a business partner at the beginning of my business adventure) were advised to employ a good accountant). This I did and our adventure into the world of business began.

I was lucky enough to secure a mortgage on a plot of land on a main highway. The land had an old stable on it. Both of us were pretty handy at DIY  so we set too and transferred the barn into a fitting bay for tyres.

 Soon Expanded into servicing and repairs.

Because of our prominent main road position the business took off at great speed. Soon we would be looking to expand. These were the days when you had to meet the Bank manager face to face. I have always been a confident person and boldly asked for a loan to expand the premises on our then spare land.

Interest rates were going through a steady period and the money from Mr Stead at the bank was secured. This was then the Yorkshire bank and we had nothing but good experiences with them.

A new service bay for four cars was complete and the garage went from strength to strength. This was in the late 60,s and we were about to hit by our first real crisis! The dreaded inflation. When the seventies arrived then inflation had started to rise. Due to a few things but mainly a world oil crisis.

It averaged out at around 12% and peaked in 1975 at 23%. Ironically the same problem is hitting us today. High oil prices and energy costs, combined with supply chain bottlenecks were the exact same problem that we had to cope with.

Supplier price rises came first

Just like todays business environment the first thing we noticed were that prices for our goods were rising almost every two weeks.

These came out as makeshift leaflets produced by the tyre manufacturers. In that period of time there were no computers everything was calculated by discount table books. First thing to do was to make storage space. This was to enable us to buy more stock and partly beet some of price rises.

Other suppliers would also offer more payment terms. Standard then was 30 days. Most decent suppliers offered 60 days credit line. This enabled us to carry on with our advertising campaigns in our local newspaper.

This was our main form of advertising in those days. However it was effective. It was also a lesson learned. Our main competitors in those times were all owned by the tyre manufacturers. So, National Tyres were owned by Dunlop and ATS by Michelin and so on.

Although our prices were rising they were kept lower than our competitors. Motorists were shopping about and we soon became a popular destination when wanting to buy a tyre or two. This was my first lesson. Inflation can be used as an advantage.

 It just means you have to work a bit harder. Smaller items such as puncture repairs were increased by a small amount and kept up with inflation without the public even noticing.  

Hard work kept down prices

Although our prices did go up we could make inflation less destructive by sourcing our products better and by doing better deals for quantity. I was sort of a reborn entrepreneur. As inflation came under better control then I was proud at the fact that because of the extra pressure I had become a better businessman and proud of it.

This period brought many new business friends . Especially among the different suppliers that I met an did deals with.

These days we are able to cope better because of computer software dedicated to our kind of business. We can set stock levels up so that price increase can be minimised. Especially popular sizes of tyres. Another bonus for the automotive industry is with the parts suppliers.

Importantly, they are all competing to supply us to keep their own sales and profits up. This means that we can source the best price for our customer when pricing up a particular job. Once again keeping the price down but retaining your profit margins.

Another good idea was to start selling addons. In my case we offer a selection of “Poor boys” car valeting products.

There is no doubt that this is a period that can establish your garage business as the best in the area. Inflation in my eyes means chances to gain customers by buying better and keeping in the right products at the right price.

Especially fast movers such as tyres. Service parts can be bought from the replacement parts market at the best price. Having a local website is also a good idea. Making it easy for local people to find you. I write the blog on our website giving consumers an idea about your services and location.

So in my opinion Inflation should spark up a new energy to create a better business and get some new customers as a bonus.

Hope you guys can come up with some other inflation busting ideas that we an use 

testing car battery.jpg

zzzzzzzzf service leaflet08062018.jpg

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzztyres in the rain.jpg

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3 hours ago, Eric Roberts said:

Hi if you get caught bending the rules it is a certainty of losing your MOT licence and in some cases prison ! The MOT does keep standards and safety to a high level. Driving in the UK is different from the States because of the narrow roads and country lanes. 

Plus, you guys drive on the wrong side. (Just kidding) 

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5 hours ago, Eric Roberts said:

How Will Your Garage Cope With Inflationary Pressures

 

I am writing about this because I feel that it is going to be a general business problem, especially new starters. Inflation  will not just be a problem for my garage business.

Many garage/autocentre owners are from a similar background. We started up in the sixties, seventies and eighties with no capitol and built a thriving business out of nothing. We were either mechanics or worked in the automotive industry from a young age.

So, I worked for a few national tyre companies before deciding to go it alone. I am sure such start ups are more difficult to achieve these days. Timing is of the essence. We started when cars were a growing industry. The working class blue collar workers could now afford a car.

Because we never went to any kind of business school then we had to take on problems when they manifested themselves. One of our first encounters was the dreaded inflation.

 From the very beginning we (I say we because I had a business partner at the beginning of my business adventure) were advised to employ a good accountant). This I did and our adventure into the world of business began.

I was lucky enough to secure a mortgage on a plot of land on a main highway. The land had an old stable on it. Both of us were pretty handy at DIY  so we set too and transferred the barn into a fitting bay for tyres.

 Soon Expanded into servicing and repairs.

Because of our prominent main road position the business took off at great speed. Soon we would be looking to expand. These were the days when you had to meet the Bank manager face to face. I have always been a confident person and boldly asked for a loan to expand the premises on our then spare land.

Interest rates were going through a steady period and the money from Mr Stead at the bank was secured. This was then the Yorkshire bank and we had nothing but good experiences with them.

A new service bay for four cars was complete and the garage went from strength to strength. This was in the late 60,s and we were about to hit by our first real crisis! The dreaded inflation. When the seventies arrived then inflation had started to rise. Due to a few things but mainly a world oil crisis.

It averaged out at around 12% and peaked in 1975 at 23%. Ironically the same problem is hitting us today. High oil prices and energy costs, combined with supply chain bottlenecks were the exact same problem that we had to cope with.

Supplier price rises came first

Just like todays business environment the first thing we noticed were that prices for our goods were rising almost every two weeks.

These came out as makeshift leaflets produced by the tyre manufacturers. In that period of time there were no computers everything was calculated by discount table books. First thing to do was to make storage space. This was to enable us to buy more stock and partly beet some of price rises.

Other suppliers would also offer more payment terms. Standard then was 30 days. Most decent suppliers offered 60 days credit line. This enabled us to carry on with our advertising campaigns in our local newspaper.

This was our main form of advertising in those days. However it was effective. It was also a lesson learned. Our main competitors in those times were all owned by the tyre manufacturers. So, National Tyres were owned by Dunlop and ATS by Michelin and so on.

Although our prices were rising they were kept lower than our competitors. Motorists were shopping about and we soon became a popular destination when wanting to buy a tyre or two. This was my first lesson. Inflation can be used as an advantage.

 It just means you have to work a bit harder. Smaller items such as puncture repairs were increased by a small amount and kept up with inflation without the public even noticing.  

Hard work kept down prices

Although our prices did go up we could make inflation less destructive by sourcing our products better and by doing better deals for quantity. I was sort of a reborn entrepreneur. As inflation came under better control then I was proud at the fact that because of the extra pressure I had become a better businessman and proud of it.

This period brought many new business friends . Especially among the different suppliers that I met an did deals with.

These days we are able to cope better because of computer software dedicated to our kind of business. We can set stock levels up so that price increase can be minimised. Especially popular sizes of tyres. Another bonus for the automotive industry is with the parts suppliers.

Importantly, they are all competing to supply us to keep their own sales and profits up. This means that we can source the best price for our customer when pricing up a particular job. Once again keeping the price down but retaining your profit margins.

Another good idea was to start selling addons. In my case we offer a selection of “Poor boys” car valeting products.

There is no doubt that this is a period that can establish your garage business as the best in the area. Inflation in my eyes means chances to gain customers by buying better and keeping in the right products at the right price.

Especially fast movers such as tyres. Service parts can be bought from the replacement parts market at the best price. Having a local website is also a good idea. Making it easy for local people to find you. I write the blog on our website giving consumers an idea about your services and location.

So in my opinion Inflation should spark up a new energy to create a better business and get some new customers as a bonus.

Hope you guys can come up with some other inflation busting ideas that we an use 

testing car battery.jpg

zzzzzzzzf service leaflet08062018.jpg

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzztyres in the rain.jpg

It appears you are going through some of the same things we are, here in the U.S., although your economy may be a little worse than ours. And it also appears that your story and history are much the same for so many shop owners. 

I think we have been too cheap for too long, and as an industry, we need to take a real hard look at our price structure. That does not mean we can charge whatever we like. But, we need to be competitive and profitable. 

More and more are getting into the tire business, they see it as a way to thrive in the future.  Our business is changing before us, and we need to think in terms of what services we can do to maintain car counts. 

I would like to hear from other shop owners to see what their view of the future will look like. 

 

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14 hours ago, Eric Roberts said:

Hi Thanks for that ! We copied your way of working with the so called Autocentres. Mainly doing tyres and mufflers. However many of us have gone full circle in my 50years in the trade. So, repairing/servicing and tyres of course. We also have an MOT test for cars carried out annually. This is regulated by the government but works very well. When a car fails the test then we very often get the job of repairing the car back to standard. The tests are highly regulated, but there are dodgy garages out there who bend the rules. So a question !

How are American cars regulated for safety !If at all ? 

In Texas, annually, we inspect tire tread, min 2/32" on center treads, outers can be bald, but no secondary rubber or belts or sidewall damage, with all lugnuts present.  Then all lights working and not falling off, horn working, wipers clear the windshield with no tears or major streaking, 1 rearview or side mirror, no torn seatbelts, no worn serpentine belt, no exhaust leak (hearing test only), no power steering leak,   We do drive the car to test steering lash and braking stopping distances and verify that the parking brake works and verify brake fluid is near full.    We are not allowed to disassemble the car, so if a hubcab hides the lugnuts, these remain uninspected.    And we do a smog test that is read from the ODB2 monitors (can have 1 failed monitor, but not 2) .   The engine can be making crazy noises, the wheel bearings can be screaming, the control arms or body can be rusted to an unsafe point, but these are not inspection items.   A test failure blocks your ability to register your car.   We charge $7 for a safety inspection and $18.50 for the smog test, for a total of $25.50.  This fee is set by the state.   Takes us about 15 minutes to do these.   Thank goodness that we don't need to disassemble anything at these prices.  

FUN FACT:   We just inspected a Superformance GT40 MKII this morning!   (A brand-new 1967 continuation.   See here.)    Most of the inspection consisted of a runway parade with lots of pictures being taken and then a few boring minutes of inspecting.

When people are happy that they pass the State Inspection, I tell them not to be super-impressed.  It's the minimum necessary to be on the road.    We do a more thorough inspection when we are doing their oil change than we do with the State Inspection.  We can tell them about other noises, but we can only fail for what is on the checklist.  

I'll say this.   A majority of the people would want to fix the problems that we find, but are unaware of them.   I didn't know my tires were bald.  I didn't know that noise was bad.  It helps them stay safe.   Some others will find a shady shop to pass very unsafe vehicles for "an extra, let's say, convenience fee". 

Next state north, Oklahoma does not have an annual inspection requirement.

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Hi at least it is some kind of check. I think most law abiding citizens are decent people and will have their vehicle fixed for safety reasons. However there are millions who are not in this bracket. Because our testing is mandatory  then it sits with all the other motoring laws. When a driver is pulled up or in an accident then the MOT is part of the vehicle checks. Also if the car does not have an MOT  then the insurance is void, making it a double whammy !

Whet happens say if a car drives from Oklahoma and has a bad collision due to say faulty brakes or steering ?

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I am from New York, so I can't speak in every state. 

In addition to owning a repair shop, I also did mechanical accident inspections, working with local police departments, law firms, and local district attorneys. 

Most accidents were due to excessive speed, drugs, and alcohol. If I found that there was a mechanical fault, such as bald tires or faulty brakes, there would be a personal lawsuit.

However, if the car was just inspected by a repair shop for a mandatory vehicle state inspection, or just had a repair done that may have caused the collision, the shop that performed the inspection or repair was investigated.  

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    • By carmcapriotto
      How many jobs do your service advisors have? Who covers when you are short-handed? How many technicians per advisor do you have? Are you using technology and systems to a service advisor’s advantage? How clear are your objectives to everyone in the shop? What are some different pay plan options? 
      Dave Schedin, CompuTrek Automotive Management Systems. Dave’s previous episodes HERE Bryan Kelley, Valley Automotive Repair & Electric, Covington, WA. Bryan’s previous episodes HERE. Jeff Grassman, Carsmart Auto Service, Sumner, WA. Jeff's previous episodes HERE Dave Kusa, owner of AutoTrend Diagnostics in Campbell, CA. Listen to Dave’s other episodes HERE. Key Talking Points
      Service advisor ranked 5th or 6th most stressful job- how many jobs do your service advisors have? Who covers when you are short-handed? How many techs per advisor? Are you using technology and systems to a service advisor’s advantage? How clear are your objectives to everyone in the shop? Building a model with everyone involved and everyone wins- 360-degree view with transparency with the numbers of the business What is your culture? Hiding numbers? It is about the money, but it’s not about the money- the incentive is to motivate and not ‘just enough to get by,’ and it has to be customizable based on their level. The plan has to have a direction. Ask a mentor, coach, peer Incentivizing the behavior- it has to be attainable Future for advisors? Self-check in? Will they be needed? Other compensations, no weekends? Hours of operation M-F? Lunch break schedule? Vacation time? Medical/dental cost paid by the employer?  If you have a family culture, what about the kids or spouse? College fund? Spouse bonus?
      Connect with the Podcast Aftermarket Radio Network Subscribe on YouTube Visit us on the Web Follow on Facebook Become an Insider Buy me a coffee Important Books Check out today's partners: Shop-Ware: More Time. More Profit. Shop-Ware Shop Management getshopware.com       Delphi Technologies: Keeping current on the latest vehicle systems and how to repair them is a must for today’s technicians. DelphiAftermarket.com
      Click to go to the Podcast on Remarkable Results Radio


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