Dealership Service Departments and How They Work

The tech­ni­cian brings the car to their work bay, and begins work­ing. In most cas­es, whether per­form­ing an oil change or major repair work, the tech­ni­cian will need to order parts for the job. Some­times these parts come from the dealership’s own parts depart­ment, oth­er times the parts are deliv­ered, if they are not in stock. Once the parts are in the technician’s hand, they are billed to the repair order.

As the tech­ni­cian per­forms the work, they might look for oth­er prob­lems with the car or rou­tine main­te­nance needs that could be addressed, thus per­form­ing an “upsell.” It’s up to the ser­vice advi­sor to sug­gest this work to the cus­tomer and up to the cus­tomer to approve or deny it.

If the cus­tomer choos­es to deny it, the ser­vice advi­sor will like­ly write a rec­om­men­da­tion in his or her notes on the repair order, in part to try and per­suade to con­sumer to approve the work next time, and in part to note that the cus­tomer was aware of the con­di­tions and chose not to approve any work, just in case any safe­ty issues may arise. Either way, for repair jobs that aren’t part of pre­ven­tive main­te­nance, the ser­vice advi­sor will usu­al­ly explain what needs to be done and why it’s being done, and will need cus­tomer approval in most cas­es.

Once the work is done, the car might be washed (usu­al­ly at upscale deal­er­ships). Washed or not, it will either be parked in a stag­ing area in front of the deal­er­ship (if the cus­tomer was wait­ing on the premis­es) or in a stag­ing area out back, where it will sit until the cus­tomer arrives to pick it up.

The ser­vice advi­sor will now com­plete the billing, adding any dis­counts. He or she will also deter­mine if the job is being paid for under war­ran­ty, if the cus­tomer is pay­ing, or if the shop is pay­ing (could hap­pen as a make-good on a come­back for a failed repair, as an exam­ple). Any sub­let charges for work per­formed off-premis­es or by an out­side con­trac­tor (body and paint repair, tow­ing charges, et cetera) will also be billed at this time.

Once all billing is com­plete, the R.O. is print­ed. If the cus­tomer is on site, the advi­sor will walk the to the cashier, where they will pay the bill (if they’re respon­si­ble) or sign off on the work (if it’s a war­ran­ty claim). If the cus­tomer is pick­ing the car up, he or she will pro­ceed direct­ly to the cashier.

It’s at this time that the ser­vice advi­sor will explain what work was done, why it was done, and what may be rec­om­mend­ed for next time. The ser­vice writer may also look to cre­ate a good rap­port with the cus­tomer, in order to gain trust and receive favor­able treat­ment on any cus­tomer-ser­vice sur­veys.

There you have it.

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