Auto Dealership Service Dept. Relationships Need Repairs

Two groups with different backgrounds and pay plans don’t often see eye to eye.

Steve Finlay, Senior Editor

April 22, 2015

3 Min Read
Itrsquos complicated Hollenberg says
It’s complicated, Hollenberg says.

Repair work is needed to fix flawed communications between dealership service advisers and auto technicians.

That’s according to a Carlisle & Co. survey done in cooperation with 23 automakers. The consulting firm polled 20,000 technicians and advisers.

It’s complicated, Carlisle partner Harry Hollenberg says of the communications gap between the two groups that come from different backgrounds and get paid differently.

“From a technician’s perspective, the technician-service adviser relationship has a huge impact on satisfaction, retention, compensation and their ability to fix a vehicle right the first time,” he tells WardsAuto.    

Asked to cite causes of the poor communications, each side blames the other. Technicians seem more miffed of the two. Fifty percent of advisers, who meet with customers and write up repair orders, say they are very satisfied with adviser-technician interactions. Only 27% of mechanics say the same.

Advisers complain about mechanics taking longer to do repairs than the adviser had estimated for the customer. Advisers also beef about technicians making themselves inaccessible, misdiagnosing problems and providing insufficient feedback.

Technicians gripe about advisers writing repair orders with scant information, misrepresenting vehicle problems and giving customers unrealistic expectations of how long it will take to fix their vehicles.

Money has much to do with mechanics voicing more dissatisfaction when relations fall short of teamwork, Hollenberg says. “Service advisers really have an impact on technicians’ ability to make money. They’re unhappy if they’re getting imperfect information. 

“Technicians are highly trained and get paid for turning a wrench. Service advisers typically are not technical, and often don’t do a good job writing a repair order. When an imperfect order gets to the technician, he’s like, ‘What?’ He has to go back to the adviser, follow up with the customer or do investigative work. All this stuff they don’t get paid for.”

The study says the impact of a poor diagnosis on paychecks hurts the technician more than the adviser, although the latter is the one who potentially faces a miffed customer.

Service advisers by nature of their jobs are sales-oriented. On average, 55% of their compensation comes from commissions, Hollenberg says. “A lot of them are hired on their personality and ability to sell. They are paid to sell stuff.”

Many of them, including half of the newest advisers, come from non-automotive sectors such as the retail, hotel and restaurant industries. “There’s the story of a waiter who was hired as a service adviser because he upsold the dealer a dessert at Olive Garden,” Hollenberg says.
Carlisle recommends additional training as a way to address the communication problem between the two groups. Dealers seem uninterested in proposals to change compensation plans.  

“Given the non‐technical background of many service advisers, it is critical that they be provided with a sufficient understanding of the technical requirements of their job,” says the report. “Yes, a service adviser must have an aptitude for selling, but (he or she) must also be inculcated with the know‐how necessary to provide sufficient technical feedback to technicians.”

All automakers recognize the problem and how it affects backshop operations, but no manufacturer has yet launched a training program that brings mechanics and advisers together into a single session.

“Until that happens, it is unlikely we will see much improvement in this area,” the report says.

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