I See Dead People — I Mean I See Service Advisors

Do you remember the movie “The Sixth Sense”? In that movie, there is one of the most famous lines from a movie of all time as far as I am concerned. It is this: “I see dead people.” Remember that line? The little boy is in bed and says something like this to his father Bruce Willis:

I want to tell you my secret now: “I see dead people.” They are walking around like regular people, they don’t see each other, they only see what they want to see. They don’t know that they are dead. Then his dad asks him how often do you see them? And he says all the time…they are everywhere…

As I remembered this line, it got me to thinking about our need for employees and the tough time we are all having finding them, including service advisors. If you will allow me to rewrite that movie script a bit, I would like to suggest what I truly see. I want to tell you my secret now:

“I see service advisors.” They are walking around like regular people, we shop owners don’t see them, we only see what we want to see. These people don’t know they are service advisors. I see them all the time, they are everywhere.

After 10 years of coaching and 23 years of owning a shop, I can tell you that sometimes we get in our head that when we need a service advisor we want to find one with years of experience and a broad knowledge of cars in general. So, we put ads out for an experienced service advisor and we wonder why we get very few if any responses to our ads. I know that is how I started looking for my very first service advisor years ago. Yes, I got a few dealership service advisors to respond and even hired a couple of them. That did not work out very well for me! I found that it was quite a reality check coming from a dealership to an independent shop for these folks.

So then one day I decided that what I really needed to do was to look for the personality and not the position for my service advisor. You know, find someone who was bubbly and outgoing and loved people and always seemed to have a smile. And I even thought, how much does this person really need to know about cars? If they had the personality I needed, could I not teach them how to schedule and look up parts and labor? I knew I could not “teach” the personality, but thought I had a good chance to teach the rest.

So, with this new way of thinking and “seeing people” I broadened my horizon when looking for a writer. I had been going to a particular grocery store for several years. And I never once thought of hiring someone from there. But with my new mindset, the next time I went there I thought, look around. And in the dairy aisle, I found a service advisor. This woman had worked there for years, and every time I went in there she was always out in her area and you could not walk through there without her asking if she could help you find something and if you had tried this new cheese or other product, and was just so happy and helpful all the time.

So I took a chance and I said to her, “How would you like to be a service advisor in my shop?” and she said she would love to. Two weeks later she started at my shop and within a very few weeks, she was scheduling and making estimates and selling 95 percent of the jobs! It was amazing! She was just as natural helping auto repair customers as she was dairy customers. And as a side note, I sent her to class at ATI and she came back and asked me why I never showed her the labor matrix. I, of course, had no real good answer and she immediately implemented the labor matrix and increased my effective labor rate by $11.00 an hour! And before I hired her all she knew about cars was that she had one!

So how many service advisors are walking around your town that don’t know that they are service advisors? How many of us only see what we want to see and have our misguided belief systems firmly in place on how we need an “experienced writer with a great knowledge of cars.” Are there other folks out there working customer service jobs that we could train into becoming a great service advisor?

Of course, there are, if we just look around and look for the personality traits that this position needs and not the position itself. Allow me to give you a few more ideas on where to look. Over the years I have shared these ideas with many clients with remarkable success.

How about the stay-at-home moms that gave up a career to raise their children and now the kids have grown and gone. Could this person be a suitable candidate for a service advisor? If the kids did not drive her crazy, sure she is! If she is like most I know, she is bored out of her mind and you can only watch so much TV, right? If she has the personality, she dang sure has a lot of what we need in a service advisor. She has spent the last 20 years getting the kids to school on time, getting them to dental appointments on time, making sure their homework is done on time and projects done and turned in on time. She has scheduled doctor appointments, settled arguments; and if she is still smiling after all this I am pretty sure we can teach her how to look up parts and labor, schedule work for the shop, make sure cars are done on time, handle unruly customers and push the techs to get the cars repaired and delivered on time.

One time on a shop visit to a shop I worked with in Salt Lake City, I told a shop owner I could find and hire him a service advisor over the lunch hour. He bet me that I could not as he had been looking for a long time — but not looking the way that I suggested. So, we went to Buffalo Wild Wings. The waitress was so friendly and helpful and asked if we were local and made sure we wanted for nothing. When she brought the bill, it had the hand-drawn smiley face from her and she said to be sure and come in again. So, I asked her if she liked working there and she said YES! I then asked her if she would consider working as a service advisor at my client’s shop. BOOM she said yes, she thought that would be great. So, the next day she showed up and interviewed and my client was shocked.

I see service advisors in convenience stores, shoe stores, restaurants, bars, motels — I see them everywhere. The only deal is that they don’t know they are service advisors. They are truly everywhere. Try to not see only what you want to see. Broaden your search and find that personality and I believe you will be happy with the results.