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By Ken Rock, Customer Care Manager


It’s 7:00 a.m. and your dealership’s service lane is filled with customers and their vehicles. As a service advisor, your job is to greet these customers, check in their vehicles and get them on their way as fast as possible.


What happens when your phone rings? When you’re in the service lane and the phone rings, you have two choices. You can choose to answer it and ignore the customer in front of you or the customers who are waiting to see you. You can choose not to answer the phone and ignore the customer who is calling to ask for a price quote or set an appointment.


Neither of these options are ideal. In fact, both are horrible.


The only way to fix this problem is to have someone else answer the service phones. I know many advisors won’t like this suggestion. But trust me, you are losing more money by trying to retain control of the phones than if you relinquish control to someone else who is properly trained for this important job.


In case you’re wondering, the service manager is not the right person to answer the phones. He or she should also be in the service drive at 7:00 a.m. to ensure everything is going smoothly.


That means someone else has to be trained how to answer service phones. I don’t care if you outsource to a BDC, train a receptionist or hire a part-time person for this. It’s too important and needs to be done.


Here’s what I recommend. For the first two and a half hours of the day, service advisors should not have access to the phones. Same with end of day. From 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., or as long as there are customers in the service lane, don’t let advisors answer phones or return calls. Their job during this time is to take care of the customers returning to pick their vehicles up, which includes reviewing the bill and ensuring the vehicle is returned promptly.


In order for this to happen, you need to train someone how to schedule service appointments. This is not rocket science.


If your labor ops are set up properly, the amount of time it takes to complete a repair will be in the system. When a customer calls to ask about a brake job, whoever answers the phone will be able to see that it takes two hours to complete the brake job and schedule accordingly.


If you’re booking appointments properly, color-coded time blocks on the schedule make it easy to prevent double booking or overbooking.


Giving price quotes for repair work is also not a concern if you are using Service Pricing Guides (SPG) and have your labor op codes set up properly. If you’re not sure how to do this, your DMS vendor can help you through setup.


I know many dealers will claim it’s not practical to add someone to the payroll just to answer phones for a few hours per day. I disagree. When service advisors are responsible for answering phones, money is being blown out the door from these lost opportunities:


1) Review and discuss additional repair work that a customer in the service lane might need


2) Review and discuss additional repair work that a customer on the phone might need


When you try to take care of two people at the same time, you lose opportunities with both.


It’s the service manager’s job to take the right people, put them in the right place and create the right processes. In the service department, phones are a huge priority. When this process is handled correctly, you can schedule more appointments, generate more revenue and increase your customer satisfaction index (CSI) score, which qualifies you for more incentives from your manufacturer. It’s a win-win for everyone.


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