Service writer is one the most misunderstood positions in an automotive repair shop. The ambiguous nature of the service writer’s role also makes it one of the hardest positions to successfully fill, or turn over from the owner or manager of the shop. One problem is the position is misnamed. The days of simply writing tickets are long gone, and the vehicles of today are highly sophisticated machines. The person upfront in an auto repair shop must have significantly greater skills and knowledge than his or her predecessors.
Based on the title, one would assume a service writer simply writes up the needs or complaints of a customer regarding their vehicle. At closer inspection, we would find the service writer is someone who not only writes up customers’ complaints or needs, but also suggests services that might be needed or desired, and sells those services. Now we’re getting closer to the truth. So the service writer is no longer just writing tickets, they’re suggesting or advising the customer on how to best protect their investment with additional services. That makes this person a service advisor.
In an average size shop, the service writer also answers the phone and greets people as they walk into the shop. Ah Ha! Now the same person whom a moment ago was writing tickets and advising customers is the shop’s receptionist. And if this person has any automotive skill and knowledge, there is a good chance he or she is also ordering and controlling replacement parts and materials. In this scenario, the service writer is also the parts person.
But wait! Who is dispatching the work to the technicians and controlling the flow of work in the shop? You guessed it… the service writer! And we’re not done with this person yet. When a job is done, someone must write up the bill and collect the money from the customer. Well, that’s the duty of a cashier, who once again is often the service writer. Finally, we need someone to walk customers to their cars, resell jobs, and ask for referrals, very much public relations functions. And yes, someone has to send thank you cards, service reminders, and recommended service notices. All functions of the marketer, but done by whom? Yes, the service writer.
So I think it would be a good idea if we all decide to change this position’s title from the inadequate and misleading service writer to something closer to what this person actually does—The Grand Poohbah of Auto Repair! Only kidding, but how about we upgrade the title to Customer Relations Manager? This title would be closer to what this indispensable person does for your shop, and as you grow and shed some of these hats, at some point, you can hire someone who is truly a Service Advisor, but never again a service writer. That title is officially retired!
MANAGEMENT SUCCESS!, is a company that specializes in training and consulting the independent automotive repair shop owner. Bob tours the country as an educational speaker and writes numerous columns and articles for trade publications. Additional articles on management can be read online at www.managementsuccess.com
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