how this shop got a remote service advisor

Clockwise from top left: Craig O’Neill of autotext.me, Colin Watson of Gold Rule Auto Care, Chris Cloutier of Golden Rule Auto Care and Chris Cotton of AutoFix-Auto Shop Consulting

Good, experienced service advisors are hard to come by. So when Golden Rule Auto Care was on the verge of losing one of theirs, a radical idea for the automotive aftermarket needed to take place: Create a remote service advisor position.

Colin Watson’s wife was moving up the corporate ladder in the healthcare industry, taking her away from home for longer periods of time. With young kids, Watson had to dedicate himself more to taking care of the family. He didn’t want to quit his job as a service advisor at Golden Rule Auto Care, which has two locations in the Dallas area. He approached owner Chris Cloutier to talk about his options, such as reducing his hours.

But it’s already hard enough to find people to work the counter. To lose Watson and his 11 years of experience and knowledge would be too big of a blow.

“To train a good service advisor who has the depth of knowledge to be able to price out the ticket, the job and the labour — It’s not three months. It’s not six months,” Cloutier said during the webinar Meet the Remote Service Advisor. “He knows the parts, he knows the add-ons. Just the training alone once you get that person takes a long time to get that experience and that understanding.”

So Cloutier pitched an idea: Work remotely. And it’s worked. Watson oversees two shops where be build tickets. A service advisor is still at the shop taking in customers but it’s Watson who is keeping an eye on things and building orders as they come in.

“I live about 30 minutes away from each shop. So you’re gaining an hour of productivity from me because I’m not having to drive to a shop as well,” Watson said. “So that kind of opens up the time that I’m available to be able to build tickets as well.”

“So Colin being remote has absolutely increased his productivity 10 times when it comes to building a ticket.”

For Cloutier, it’s all about being at a productive and efficient level. It’s hard for service advisors to be at that level when they’re in the shop because they’re constantly being interrupted — phone calls from customers, those who walk in, the technician standing behind them or the shop owner questioning something. Being remote takes away those distractions.

“So Colin being remote has absolutely increased his productivity 10 times when it comes to building a ticket,” Cloutier said.

But to make it work, you need a strong person in the role. For Golden Rule, Watson has been with the company for 11 years and Cloutier considers him his top ticket writer and one of the best estimators in the company.

The bare minimum to get this started is simple, Watson said. The shop’s software is web-based so all he needs is a laptop with an internet connection. He also recommends earbuds and a second screen to help speed up productivity.

Shops that choose to go this route also allow themselves to expand their talent pool. Because it’s a remote position, candidates aren’t restricted to a single geographical location. An east coast shop could hire a remote advisor or estimator on the west coast, allowing a shop to be productive late into the night, said Chris Cotton, president of AutoFix-Auto Shop Consulting.

Furthermore, he added, shop owners need to treat remote workers the same way they do those who are in the shop.

“It’s just as easy to hold remote workers accountable as it is people in the shop, but you have to be in that mindset and you have to do it,” Cotton said during the webinar. “You have to look and see what they’re doing, actively mentor and coach them and be like, ‘Hey, tell me what your struggles are. How can we make it better and keep moving forward?’”

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