The Problem Child: Rein in Your Service Staff

Dealers who rely on service-drive sales must identify underperforming advisors and position them to hit their goals — or hit the road.

March 2018, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Leonard Buchholz

When staffers fail to meet service-drive sales goals, dealers must be prepared to identify and remediate whatever issue is holding them back. Photo by aytuguluturk via Pixabay
When staffers fail to meet service-drive sales goals, dealers must be prepared to identify and remediate whatever issue is holding them back. Photo by aytuguluturk via Pixabay

If I were to ask you to provide me with a list of your most challenging service-department employees, you could probably name them, no problem. Amazingly, I can name them too. And I have never been to your store.

The service team members creating the most leadership challenges in your dealership right now fall into one of four categories. Your first order or business is to determine which of those employees you are addressing:

  • Don’t know how
  • Not allowed
  • Can’t
  • Won’t

If they don’t know how, you can train them. But it doesn’t stop there. This type requires ongoing coaching, goal-setting, and monitoring to keep them on track to hit their performance metrics. Completed properly, this action plan will result in an employee who knows how to do their job, knows what the expectation for success is, and understands how their performance will be measured.

The second type is the not allowed employee. In most cases, they have fallen behind on policy or process. Somehow, they were always too busy to make the meeting or away from the dealership during training. They need to be updated, monitored, and coached. They need the newest training, the newest policies, the newest performance metrics, and the support of the dealership when they decide to do something for a customer — otherwise known as “empowerment.”

By the way, a lack of empowerment — manifested in an employee’s inability to take action — is among the top symptoms of customer dissatisfaction. Many CSI surveys list “Advisor/dealership could not or would not help me with …” as their reason for a bad score.

Next is the can’t employee. One example is the great all-around advisor who continues to miss their CSI goals. In every other measured category, they do a good job, but they just don’t have a friendly personality. They may even be somewhat of a grouch. Maybe they would be a great warranty administrator instead.

Some service staffers have been fully trained, understand the job, know the service-drive sales process, and, for whatever reason, still can’t hit their sales goals. It happens. Maybe that person would be better suited for a back-parts counter position rather than a service advisor. These are decisions you must make. Whatever is keeping this employee from hitting their performance goals, you need to figure it out and put a plan together to address it.

The fourth and final problem employee is the won’t. Dealers know the reasons for this condition are many and varied. There might be extenuating circumstances. There might be a physical or mental condition. Maybe it’s all of the above.

The bottom line is this: They can’t stay. They need to go. It’s not personal. It’s just business.

Running a dealership is hard. It’s even harder when personnel issues are allowed to fester. Remember, nothing in the drive for service sales success works if you have the wrong personnel in place — nothing! You will never hit your performance goals if the people you are counting on don’t know how, aren’t allowed, can’t, or don’t want to. One way or the other, you have to convince them — and equip them — to change.

Leonard Buchholz is a leadership and service sales process coach, a well-traveled trainer, and a former Marine. He is the founder of CarBizCoach and the author of “200k in 200 Days: Developing a Culture of Profit and Professionalism.”


  1. 1. Chad [ March 28, 2018 @ 11:11AM ]

    As someone with 30+ years experience in automotive service, I can tell you that training is probably the number one area that could be improved nationwide. AND, sometimes the fault with policy/process is management-based, not the advisor being out of touch.

  2. 2. Leonard [ March 29, 2018 @ 12:25PM ]

    Totally agree Chad. Training followed by Leadership.


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