Are you prepared for the pending service advisor shortage?

Feb. 23, 2023
How do you move a technician to the front counter if you’re already short on help in the bays?

“We cannot find good technicians.” This is a statement I am sure you have heard at any automotive event the last few years. And for good reason; there just seem to be none out there. But if we take the time to think about the other positions in our service department, I think we need to be aware of another important role that may be facing the same issue. If not today, very soon: service advisors.

Service advisors have an important role in fixed ops that cannot be discounted. After all, for a service customer they are the first face they see when they walk in the door. They may even be the only people they build a relationship with during their time with your facility.

Training service advisors can be a headache for even the best service and fixed ops managers. This stems from a major roadblock: you are really training for two roles to create a well-rounded advisor. Sales and customer service training are just as important as technical knowledge of how the vehicle and systems of a vehicle operate.

Where do you find a service advisor?

One of the most excellent sources over the years to fill the ranks of service advisors was technicians that were looking to make the change from working in the service bays to working the front counter.

“The only solution is to draw from the existing pool of working advisors and techs, which is a zero-sum game.”

The technical knowledge they brought with them provided managers with the ability to train these advisors at a much faster rate. After all, their technical know-how was there; all that needed to be cultivated were the customer service and sales skills that are essential to the role.

While it used to be normal to advance this technician from the service floor to the front counter, that decision may become a bit harder. It comes down to technician availability. If there is an excellent technician on the service floor, there is going to be a needed effort to keep them there. As Tony Molla, Texas field manager for the ASE Education Foundation says, “The only solution is to draw from the existing pool of working advisors and techs, which is a zero-sum game.”

By hindering the internal department movement and job-change of a technician, this situation can cause employee turnover due to lack of growth. Growth is an important aspect of job satisfaction, which is generally cited as one of the main reasons for people leaving their jobs according to author Paul Garland in his 2016 Harvard Business Review article, “Why People Quit Their Jobs.” If this source of advisors dries up, those applicants need to be replaced. Where do the replacements come from? Internally? Or will they be external hires?

Think outside the box to broaden your talent pool

I think we need to think out of the box when it comes to recruiting future service advisors. There are programs out there that are starting to realize the importance of training future advisors. Contacting your local college and universities can provide you with an avenue of which you may not have been aware.

Generally, people think the only way to build these relationships is by donating a large amount of money to the school. Think a new wing in the name of your dealership is the only way of creating this relationship?

There are other ways, and they are significantly cheaper as well.

These institutions are always looking at ways of helping their graduates find jobs in the field that they studied. Creating an excellent relationship with these programs can be as simple as contacting the dean in charge of the program and getting in front of the students.

Attending job fairs or presenting in classes about the future of the industry are only a few of the ways that this can be done. And, it can be very effective when done right.

“The ASE Education Foundation has an Adopt-a-School program that helps connect shops with the supply of new automotive professionals coming out of CTE programs nationwide,” Molla says. This would be another source of finding those valuable students as soon as they graduate from their programs.

Also, do not forget to look inside your facility. Even if those technicians are off limits, there are many other places you can look.

When you look internally to fill these positions, you may realize there are many different roles and departments that these applicants could come from. The detailing department may have many “car geeks” who would love to use their informally learned technical skills. Maybe a salesperson or parts advisor is looking for a change. These are both roles that have great customer service and sales skills with a great foundation of necessary technical knowledge.

No matter where you think you may find these future advisors, one thing that needs to be realized is that this is going to be a problem. Getting started on finding solutions to the issue now will ensure that your fixed ops department is not left scrambling when that key service advisor quits.

After all, isn't that the nightmare that keeps many fixed ops managers awake at night?

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