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Is retaining front line staff the key to a better customer experience?

Updated: Oct 26, 2023

At a recent aftersales conference for a market-leading brand, we polled three questions among the participants. These questions are listed below, but spoiler alert, it was an aftersales conference.

  1. Who has the toughest job in your dealership?

  2. Which role has the highest turnover in your dealership?

  3. Complete the saying: ‘The salesperson sells the first car the [blank] sells the next’

What was not surprising was that the answers you’ve written down or answered in your head were very likely the same ones that were given in the conference (but don’t ask James in vehicle sales the same three questions).

Black Mercedes-Benz  in a dealership. Photo by <a href="">Jass (akajassd) Hernandez</a> on <a href="">Unsplash</a>
Better Customer Experience starts with a high performing aftersales team

What became evident was the challenges facing the dealers present were pretty much the same challenge facing many dealers. How do you recruit, and retain front-line service advisor staff, while delivering high standards of customer care? One observation was clear; poor recruitment and on-boarding with deficient training, results in high staff turnover, which in turn delivers a poor level of customer service.

While to many this is obvious, breaking the cycle is not easy; it requires a multi-faceted approach. At Boost Auto we believe there are three focus areas that can contribute to breaking the cycle, and each one of these focus areas needs a plan in place to change the status quo. The three areas are:

  1. Recruitment

  2. Retention

  3. Business Process Improvement

There is no doubt that recruitment has become more difficult. There’s a shortage of labour and good talent is both harder to find and more expensive than a couple of years ago. Help is at hand, but none of these solutions will be effective without a commitment from all dealership department heads to work together to develop the solutions. For example, many dealerships offer (or at least say they offer) a recruitment bonus for referrals to friends and family. But few payouts. This might be because the process is flawed, or your employees aren’t recommending your dealership. As a DP or aftersales manager, you need to find out why your referral programme isn’t working and fix it. This may require hard questions to be asked. You might not like the answers.

If your recruitment process is solid and you are getting good candidates but they aren’t staying, then perhaps this signals challenges within your business. This may be cultural (sexist, racist, or just an unhappy workplace) or it might be a specific manager or a workload issue. Most people don’t speak out, and they will quietly leave rather than make a scene for example. Ask yourselves, do you have a career path mapped out for good candidates? Do you acknowledge and recognize good work or long hours? Do you have clear guidelines for office banter, noting what was acceptable just ten years ago, is probably not acceptable now?

Do you have a balanced gender split at all levels of the business? Car dealerships are often male-dominated workplaces, and that means there is a heightened risk of the culture being off-putting for women. Alternatively, you may not have looked at the career pathway for groomers or sales executives, or parts persons. What role is open to them next? Should all sales cadets have worked as a service advisor for example?

Apple Mac
Creating a process map is quick and easy

Lastly, we have process improvement. Few dealerships have documented processes, which in turn makes inductions harder and training tough. It is not quite enough to say, "this is how we do things", because inevitably how you do things when it’s a curly customer or a recurring fault or a vehicle recall reflects in your CSI and customer experience. These escalation steps should be clear, and the guidelines for write-offs, and service advisor authorities should be written and understood.

Writing processes can be surprisingly simple, especially when using flowchart apps like, Lucidchart, or even the integrated flowcharts in PowerPoint if that’s your comfort level.

By creating a process flowchart, you can update the processes easily for future members to update, or improve upon. It doesn’t have to be the Service Manager who writes the process, this can be done as part of an internal team-building programme, and the tasks can be allocated out. The objective is to give the team clear instructions, as well as the opportunity to discuss where the process can be improved. Getting the team involved in writing and improving the processes also helps the team grow closer and makes them feel appreciated and empowered.

These three areas are not the start and end of improving the effectiveness of the service advisors and after-sales team. However, they are practical starting points that can help your business improve its internal processes and staff retention. Ultimately this is about customer satisfaction so that you can say with confidence that it's not James in vehicle sales that sell the second car, but the high standard of aftersales service your dealership provides.

Boost Auto is an automotive consultancy working in seven main areas.

· Market Insights & Trends

· Sales Training

· Sales and Marketing effectiveness for brands and dealers

· Green fleet facilitation for large corporates

· Go To Market strategies for emerging brands

· Business Planning and facilitation

· Operational Effectiveness

You can contact us at

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