Three Clues You Have a Service Advisor Problem

“Greg” and I were struggling to figure out why his car count wasn’t improving. He had ten five star google reviews. When I Googled all of the primary automotive search terms for his area, I found him on the first page and in the top spot.

His website was so strong that I would send the link to my other clients as an example of what to do. “Steve,” his service advisor, had been with him for seven years and had forgotten more about the automotive business than the average person knew.

“So how is Steve performing?” I asked. “Eric, Steve isn’t the problem. He’s my most dependable employee!” To trust but verify, I decided to have one of my fellow coaches call the shop posing as a customer in need of brake service.

To my surprise, Steve did not attempt to get the caller’s name and phone number or to invite him to the shop. I reviewed the results of the mystery call with Steve, and he confirmed that he understood and committed to doing better.

In the following weeks, I had two different coaches conduct two additional phone shops, and the results were the same. No attempts were made to invite the caller to the location.

Business declined to the point where Greg had to lay Steve off and take over the service writer duties himself. It took eight weeks to find a qualified replacement. During this time, the sales and car count trends took an interesting turn.

For the better!! When Steve was writing service, the shop averaged $14,000 per week in sales with 35 cars. Greg averaged $19,000 per week with 40 cars. The only change to the business was Greg taking over at the counter.

Ideas to grow your businessFor tips on how to improve car count and service advisor effectiveness, join a shop owner event coming soon to your area. Get the details. 

Failing Phone Shops

Here’s what I learned from this experience: Consistently bad phone shops are symptoms of a service advisor problem. You may be thinking: “But Eric, it was the holiday season and you’re too hard on Steve. Failing multiple phone shops isn’t a big problem.”

Well, consider the following math: Let’s assume that by focusing more on the phones, you only acquired two additional customers per day that typically wouldn’t have come in. Over five days, that’s ten customers. If you have a $400 average repair order, that’s an additional $4,000 per week in revenue. (10 x $400 = $4,000)

By not answering the phones correctly, your writer would cost you $208,000 in potential sales over fifty-two weeks! ($4,000 x 52 = $208,000)

This is why I live by the following motto: If car count drops, do a phone shop.

Failing multiple shops isn’t the only symptom. Keep reading to learn about two more signs of a bad service advisor.

Common Complaints

During the eight weeks that Greg covered the counter, he had a total of thirteen customers mention how they were glad to see Steve gone! Several of these patrons commented that if Steve were still employed, they wouldn’t have come back.

Greg was surprised because he only heard three customer complaints about Steve in the past six months. All three mentioned that Steve was very short with them and came across as being rude. Greg didn’t realize that these common complaints were just the tip of the iceberg.

2014 retail industry study concluded that 96% of unhappy customers would never complain. The study also found that 91% of these patrons will never return.

To make matters worse, they will tell up to fifteen of their friends about their experience. If you have three customers voicing the same concern, you have a much bigger problem brewing beneath the surface.

Pay close attention to those common complaints you receive about your writer. If three people who don’t know each other share the same opinion, it’s just the tip of the iceberg and the second symptom of a service advisor problem.

Blaming “They”

A few weeks ago, I was speaking with a service advisor who was in town attending class. He told me that his shop was struggling to stay afloat. When I asked him about using the parts matrix, he said: “They think we’re too expensive.”

When I suggested offering every customer an exit appointment, he responded, “They don’t like to schedule in advance.” I asked him about making follow-up calls to which he replied: “They think it’s too pushy.”

The Twiggs translation for the word “they” is “I.” “They” is the signal of a limiting belief and a symptom of a service advisor problem.

He was really saying “I think we’re too expensive”; “I don’t like to schedule in advance”; and, “I think making follow up calls is being pushy.”

I’ve discovered that 80% of struggling shop leaders’ issues are due to mindset, with only 20% resulting from a skill set. In other words, how you think drives what you do.

Only addressing the skill set doesn’t solve the problem. The key is to address their mindset is to ask them to explain how your request is good for the car, the customer, and the company.

This level of dialogue will allow you to address any limiting beliefs that are causing problems below the surface.


So there you have it. Consistently bad phone shops, common complaints, and blaming “they” are the three symptoms of a service advisor problem. If you address these issues head-on, making the top shop list will only be the tip of your success iceberg. You will have more profit and happy customers!

For tips on how to improve car count and service advisor effectiveness, join one of our shop owner events coming soon to your area. We’ll cover these topics and more! Get the details.