Don’t Leave Your Front Counter Behind – Training For The Service Writers
By Wallis Miller, Lead Developer/Training Analyst
Keeping your technicians up-to-date with the latest technology is obviously a good investment. Well-trained techs mean fewer come-backs, faster repairs and happier customers and this means more cash in the register. But what about your front counter? A lack of training here can create a silent erosion of your customer base and revenue you may not be aware of.
Your Service Writer can write up estimates, but does he know how to promote additional services at the same time? He knows how to find all the information for complex repairs, but how is he at explaining it to customers so they don’t feel they are staring at an “exaggerated” bill?
How is your Service Writer at scheduling? Does your workload fluctuate between idle techs waiting for work and too many cars waiting for a bay? Do customers wonder why their car is still waiting to be seen hours after they dropped it off?
Assuming your Service Writer is proficient at writing estimates, what else should he or she be trained in?
Start with Customer Service skills – right off the bat, these ‘soft skills’ mean the difference between customers who become ‘regulars’ and those who go elsewhere after one or two visits, while knowing how to deal with an irate customer can avert more than an unpleasant scene in the waiting room.
Good communication skills mean more than greeting the customer with a smile. How well they listen to a customer makes the difference between a realistic estimate of time and cost and a vague and possibly misleading initial diagnosis.
Appointment or calendar management is another skill that can make or break your bottom line. Knowing how to estimate how long services and repairs will take usually comes with experience; combine this with some training in basic calendar management to even out the highs and lows.
Sales Skills training can teach your Service Writers how to effectively promote profitable maintenance services and can help with selling the customer on expensive but essential repairs.
Where do you find training for Service Writers?
While some manufacturers offer technical training to independent shops, training geared towards Service Writers is normally restricted to dealerships only.
An internet search for ‘Automotive Service Writer Training’ will produce any number of sales oriented firms and consultants that you can research and compare. As with technical training, the cost and availability vary and they may be offered online or as an onsite training session at your shop, or even as regional seminars ‘coming to your area soon’. The key word here is ‘research’. Do your homework before you choose a training source from the internet. Find out how long they’ve been in business and if they specialize in the automotive industry. Ask for local references, or see if you can talk directly with shops that have used their services.
ALLDATA® also has professionally developed training for the business side of your shop. The Training Garage includes several courses designed for Service Writers and counter staff in the ‘Shop Operations’ section. Check out the list of topics at alldata.com/products/Training Garage under the ‘Courses’ tab.