Communication Is Key to Service Advisor Success

Oct. 26, 2023

When customers first walk into a tire dealership, one of the first people they will meet is the company’s service advisor.

This initial meeting and conversation can set the precedent for how well your technician performs a requested service and how well taken care of your customer feels.

JT Nichols, CEO of Motion Tire Pros, a three-store dealership based in Elk City, Okla.; Solomon Till, vice president and partner at Elite Tire & Suspension, a two-store dealership in Sandpoint, Idaho; and Russ Welsh, senior vice president of retail operations, North America, for Monro Inc., discuss the importance of clear, concise communication by service advisors. 

The three C’s

At Motion Tire Pros, the service advisor is responsible for getting all the information from a customer and their vehicle to build a work order and send it back to the technician, according to Nichols.

“Our work order is through a point-of-sale system and we have a specific section on it called ‘technician notes. In that section, service advisors will put any detailed services that we’re going to be doing and then they will include any special requirements or requests.”

Once that is completed, Nichols says the service advisor will print out the work order and physically highlight the technician notes section so the notes are clearly visible to the technician who will perform the work.

“Before the vehicle is even pulled back to the bay, the technician and service advisor will get together and discuss everything on the ticket to make sure the notes are clearly understood,” he continues.

“In my opinion, communication is probably the most important aspect of everything we do. We operate by what we call the three C’s of communication clear, concise and complete.”

The process is different at Elite Tire & Suspension, which is working on opening its third location, according to Till. “There are seven total employees at each location and we are all 20 steps away from one another.”

He says his Elite Tire & Suspension’s two current stores hit around $7 million in sales each year, so “at that level, you don’t necessarily need a designated service advisor.”

Instead, three of the dealership’s most experienced technicians are out front diagnosing problems, quoting services and selling to customers, while adhering to what Till calls “IDC inspect, document and communicate.

“That is the most important part. We always inspect and then we always document and then we always, always communicate before spending anybody’s money.”

The best thing about having a smaller dealership, according to Till, is that it removes the potential breakdown in communication between advisor and technician because the same person who is taking the work order is the same person who services the vehicle.

Monro, which has almost 1,300 locations nationwide, uses a similar process, according to Welsh, who says there are usually two service advisors at the front of the store at each Monro location.

When a customer comes in, the advisor takes down their requests on a work order form at guest reception. (At some Monro pilot locations, this is done electronically.)

“We educate the guests on what we’re going to do for them that day by specifically starting with (Monro’s) ConfiDrive Performance Review, which is basically a health check for their vehicle,” says Welsh. “The advisors will document concerns in the write-up and give it to the technicians."

When a confusing or complicated situation arises, Welsh says the advisor will invite the technician to have a direct conversation with the guest.

“This is just to make sure that the team member (who is) actually working on the customer's vehicle fully understands the concerns the guests have. We want there to be no misinterpretations on what the guest is trying to convey.”

Going the extra mile

“At Monro, we do something we refer to as a quality double check,” says Welsh. “When the repair work and courtesy inspection are done, one of the service advisors will go out to the vehicle and verify that everything sold was done and completed, along with the recommended services.”

This goes a long way toward making sure the customer is completely satisfied with their service, he notes.

Elite Tire & Suspension does something similar with pre-test drives and post-test drives.

“The advisor will do these test drives to make sure that whatever issue that was showing up in the pre-test drive is now solved in the post-test drive,” says Till.

Communication between service advisor and technician can also determine how much the service will cost in time, money and labor. “Good communication ensures that we’re not costing ourselves more than we should, and it also helps us find ways to save money for the customers,” says Nichols.

Welsh agrees that knowing exactly what needs to be done is the best way to preserve shop supplies. “We want to make sure we are using our working hours effectively,” he says. “We don’t want our techs to be doing a job that did not need to be done in the first place. It wastes everyone's time and money.”

The right person

According to Nichols, the first interaction between the customer and the service advisor will “immediately determine if the customer is going to have a good or bad experience.”

That's why it’s important to have a person in this position who can communicate not only with the customer, but also with the technician, he says.

“The technician may throw out a lot more technical terms that an average person may not know. The advisor has to explain these things thoroughly in a way the customer can understand.”

He says tire dealers must be “very, very selective” in who they choose to hire for the service advisor position.

However, this doesn’t mean the service advisor needs a lot of technical background, according to Welsh. He believes being personable, outgoing and confident are traits that make a great service advisor.

“I can teach anyone how to sell,” says Welsh. “I can’t teach them how to be nice.”

About the Author

Madison Gehring | Associate Editor

Madison Gehring is Modern Tire Dealer's associate editor. A graduate of Ohio State University, Gehring holds a bachelors degree in journalism. During her time at Ohio State, she wrote for the university's student-run newspaper, The Lantern, and interned at CityScene Media Group in Columbus, Ohio.