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Motivating Service Advisors During The Coronavirus Crisis

Right now, an insidious, invisible enemy is threatening to destroy your Service Drive. Hell, it may already be affecting your Service Advisors if you haven’t been careful. 

I’m not talking about Coronavirus.

Or the shutdown.

Or the government, or China, or your competitors.

The enemy is complacency.

Yes, the Coronavirus pandemic has swept the automotive industry (and the world at large), and forever changed the concept of “normal.” Yes, you should be taking every possible precaution to protect your Service Drive during this time. I don’t think there’s any argument there (unless you’re like Jeremy, and believe the whole thing is a great big conspiracy). 

But let me ask you this:

When the dust settles, and Coronavirus is a distant memory… Will your team be motivated to go back to work in the automotive industry? Are your Service Advisors and Technicians Bulldogs; the kind of worker who hates feeling stuck during this shutdown and can’t wait to get back into the fray?

We’ve heard from quite a lot of people in the automotive industry these last few weeks who are seeing both ends of the spectrum: Some workers are furloughed, stuck in a rut, and can’t wait to get back to work. They’re scared, stressed, and (in the current economic situation) they probably need to get back to work. Others are fortunate enough to work in Parts and Service, which is considered an essential business… They’ve had their pay plans adjusted, and are sitting comfortably with 40 hours guaranteed, regardless of traffic…

…And they’ve gotten lazy, and complacent.

“It doesn’t matter,” they’ll say. “I’m getting paid.”

It says a lot about your character if that’s your response during a time like this. Stuff like that just breaks my damn heart in two. So, how do we fight back against complacency? How do we motivate our Service Advisors and Technicians to work every bit as hard as they normally would, even with reduced traffic?

It’s a difficult question to answer, but we tried to do exactly that on this week’s Service Drive Revolution. We know people are getting a little depressed right now. Not just in the automotive industry, but everywhere! Businesses are closing, people are hurting, and the news is really bleak… but time will fix this. Better times are coming, and we’re going to figure this out as a country. You’ve got to focus on the good.

There was a lot happening on today’s show, including some pretty interesting news from the international automotive industry… as well as some sobering, but interesting questions.

More on those later, but first:

I read this morning that Cash for Clunkers is a thing that’s coming back, or at least in Germany where they call it the Scrappage Program.

Right now, they’re ahead of our curve by a month or two since the pandemic started. While our car sales have been down about 90%, theirs were down only 52%.

Now, that’s weird to me, but the automotive industry over there is way different than the automotive industry here. We seem to chase a lot of things, but I think some of their cars over there are sold by appointment. So you order a car, it comes in, and then you finalize the transaction or something like that. It’s all more regimented and structured.

And, you know, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the government to bring back Cash for Clunkers in the U.S., because right now the average car on the road is 12 years old… the oldest the average has ever been. It was 11.8 before, but this coronavirus lockdown is going to push it over, because people aren’t buying cars.

Jeremy brings up a pretty good example from his shop: a customer has an ’09 Impala and is looking to get it fixed. Problem is, he’s looking at about $5,700 worth of work while an ’09 Impala is worth only $3,100 to $4,100 on Kelley Blue Book.

Now, Jeremy’s advice is, when you’re in that position as a trusted Service Advisor for the customer, and you have the decision in your hands to sway it one way or another… always go back to dealing with those situations like how you’d want to be treated. Nowadays, it’s unlikely you’ll run into the customer at the grocery store after you closed a sale the other day. Even if you did, you’d probably both be wearing masks, but the point is no one wants to be the Service Advisor who makes that kind of sale but can’t bring themselves to look the customer in the eye after the fact.

Your priority should be helping the guy through it, because it’s a tough situation for anybody.

“If you are going to fix it, how long are you going to drive it for?”

“Is that your only car?”

These are questions you should have the answers for well ahead of time!

In other auto news, the Ford factory in Plymouth, Michigan is testing out a system where employees wear wristbands that vibrate if they come within six feet of each other.

Not only that, but they’re also making ventilators I think at that same factory, bless them. It’s awesome that our car companies can be saviors like that when they quickly adapt.

Speaking of adapting, Pennsylvania is passing a law where they can sell cars online. I’ve talked about online car sales before, including on last week’s show, but I think a lot of people don’t understand that this means they’re kind of bypassing the finance laws.

Most of the time, in the dealer agreement with Ford or BMW or whoever, you’ll have a salesperson there and an F&I person to deliver the car, but this law is basically letting you do the paperwork, get it notarized, and sell the car through the computer.

I mean, that’s the future anyway. I think that one positive thing that will come out of this is, car sales will become easier for the consumer. In situations like the present, any industry that’s slow to change will have to change very rapidly, out of survival!

Jeremy takes it even a step further. He thinks the traditional sales model for selling a car is backwards! They get you into the car, you like it, but then they make you wait for six hours before they put you into finance, and then they beat the hell out of you for four more hours. Most consumers today want to just show up, get the keys, and go so this is something that consumers always wanted but society is finally making it happen.

So I got a new podcast that I love by this kid, Lex Fridman. He’s at MIT and he’s kind of at the forefront of AI.

I go back and watch an interview he did with Elon Musk, and every time I watch that man explain something, it just makes me realize I think so small – and you can tell by his metaphors that he’s used to talking to stupid people like me! He has one that I’m gonna dumb down, but it’s unbelievable:

They’re talking about driverless cars, and Elon Musk says, “Well, the car I’m driving now can drive itself. The problem with driverless cars is how much safer than humans does the autonomous system have to be for it to become accepted by the regulatory body? Does it have to be two times safer? Three times?”

I remember touring the Tesla factory, and they took us for a ride in a self-driving car, and I remember how the thing was perfectly in-between the lines.

So then Musk says, “If you watch a human driving on the freeway, there’s a little swerve to everything we do. At some point, people are going to be thinking, ‘Can you believe that people used to drive cars? People used to get in cars, point them in a direction, and go. How dumb and unsafe is that compared to AI?!'”

Now, the metaphor Musk used was an elevator operator. You would never want an elevator operator anymore, or that whole crazy mechanical system with cables and all that, right? A computer is way safer!

That’s where his head is at, and I never once thought about it that way. Jeremy and I think society is definitely ready for the driverless car. Think about it: how much more could you get done on your 40-minute commute to work if an AI can drive your car more safely than you can?

We also have some really thought-provoking questions on the show today. 

Let me remind everybody that if you post a question in the comments section in the Vault over at, leave us a comment on Youtube, send it to us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, or email [email protected] and we read your question on the big show, we’ll send you some swag which consists of a Service Drive Revolution T-shirt, hat, coffee mug, and more!

We’d include a bottle of hand sanitizer, too, but I don’t know about sending that much liquid in the mail…

“After a recommendation, I started watching some of your videos and using them in training of our after sales teams. Our CSI scores do not match the efforts we put in. We have started to use, in our training, the CSI ask upfront video which is starting to make a difference in our culture. My aim is to get every Service Advisor enjoying what they do and enjoying being a part of a team that wants to win and be on top. I am just wondering what will hit the spot and how will we do it. I am currently thinking of a challenge where I may need your help if I can get it past HR. Once we are back from this COVID-19 disaster, I am thinking of a weekly challenge which will keep them on their toes. Maybe a quiz. What are your thoughts?”

Okay, so there’s one thing we’re getting a little bit wrong here, and I want to point this out because these little things matter – little hinges swing big doors.

It’s commit upfront, not ask.

We’re not begging for it. It’s about committing upfront and a lot of little things affect this: our tone when we do it, how we do it, the followup, and then our performance.

The thing I would say about that is I would play different games with the Service Advisors. I would start with the smile game.

The smile game is just being out there and, if you’re playing a daily game in the drive (assuming you’re in our OnDemand Training platform), I would say that any time you get a smile or a laugh at the car before you take the customer to write them up, you get a mark on the board. Play the game and get $5. It’s going to get Service Advisors connecting, petting the dog, and really building rapport with the customers.

Once you’ve played the smile game for a couple days, then I would play the commitment game where you roam the drive at peak times and, whenever you hear a Service Advisor commit to CSI, then they get a mark on the board and $5.

It’s just like potty-training a bulldog! Well… mostly.

You see, bulldogs are classified as non-sporting. If you look at the list of how smart dogs are, you’re going to have to go really, really far down to find a bulldog.

But the thing is bulldogs are pretty smart if there’s food involved. If there’s food, all of a sudden, their IQs light up. They sit when you tell them to sit and roll over when you tell them to roll over.

It’s kind of the lesson of Gamification. When you play these games with your Service Advisors, they’re going to want you to see them do something that you couldn’t get them to do before.

“Good morning, sir. I’m a long time follower. My dealership has changed our pay during this virus to an average of last year’s weekly pay for my fellow Service Advisors and Techs with a guarantee of 40 hours a week. Since this has started, I’ve seen my fellow Service Advisors and Techs become lazy and make comments about how ‘it doesn’t matter, I’m getting paid.’ But at the end of the day, the customer is suffering due to this. What are some ways to get everyone fired up and motivated to perform? Thank you for your time.”

That’s a heartbreaking question… And it all comes back to what I said at the top. If someone is getting complacent right now, then that says a lot about their character.

Isn’t it funny that in times like this where there’s stress on the system, real character comes out in people? It’s like how people say:

Money makes you an a–hole. And I always say:

Money doesn’t make you an a–hole, it amplifies a–holes. If you’re a jerk already and you get a lot of money, you’re just an amplified, empowered jerk!

But if you’re not a jerk and you get money, you’re not gonna be a jerk!

So this is about character! If you don’t understand that during this time when nurses and doctors are on the frontlines, people are putting their lives at risk, and our job is to keep them in dependable and reliable cars and you can’t see that there’s a person behind that car that’s a mom or a dad or a son or a daughter, you’re just indifferent to the fact that those are humans that depend on us.

I don’t know. I’m at a loss as to how to fix that. That’s a character flaw…

One thing I might do is put pictures of people in the shop – customers with their kids – so the Techs and the Service Advisors understand that there’s people behind those cars.

The car is a commodity. It’s not just about the hourly rate.

What Technicians are doing is way more than maintenance and repairs on a car. It’s way bigger than that. If you don’t think it’s special, you should spend a little time rethinking your approach and you’ll be happier as a person if you understand that’s what you’re giving back.

I’ve quoted my grandpa on the show before: “If you always give people more than what they paid you for, you’ll always be in high demand.”

Oddly enough, you’ll make more money by default if you start focusing on taking care of people.

“Dear Chris, I am a Service Advisor that was furloughed at the end of March. I’m stuck at home and I feel as though my fire has been extinguished. I’ve lost my purpose in life; my passion bucket has run empty. I really look up to you guys. How can I get out of this funk?”

Yeah, it’s tough right now, I know. It’s not just Service Advisors, it’s a lot of people.

One of the things Jeremy advises is to look at your professional development and use this time to work on becoming the best Service Advisor you possibly can. Make sure that you’re completely up to speed with all the new models as fast as you know. You should be role-playing and practicing every single day. Take in as much as you can so that your saw is absolutely razor sharp when it’s time for that switch to get flipped back on and you’re there.

Personally, something we’ve done here that I think really has helped is we started having a morning call at 7 AM Pacific with everybody on the coaching staff just talking. We’re doing some competitions, we’re reading stuff together, and sharing what we learned. But just the fact that I have to get up every morning and be on this call at 7 AM makes me have a purpose. And then we have another call at 8:30 with the rest of the team.

I’m hearing from a lot of friends that they don’t even shower for days! They’re just laying in bed. Somehow, you got to give yourself a reason to get up and interact with people on Zoom or on Facetime. You got to set some sort of goal every other day that you have to get up, shower, and be ready for.

Maybe if worse comes to worse, go volunteer somewhere. There’s a lot of restaurants that are delivering to older senior citizens that can’t go grocery shopping. We want to protect them from getting the virus because it would be game over for them if they already have emphysema or something.

You can volunteer to deliver food and you’re not even touching anybody. It’s a pretty safe thing to do and you’re helping and being part of the solution.

In my experience, whenever you start to feel down and depressed, go help other people; do something to give back and that’ll cure you really, really quick!

There’s this old Native American story about a young kid and a chief mentoring him to become a man. The chief says that there’s two wolves inside of you:

One wolf is going to want to feed jealousy, anger, disappointment, complacency, and entitlement.

The other is fighting for happiness, success, and everything that’s positive.

The kid says to the chief, “Well, which wolf wins?”

The chief responds, “The one that you feed.”

Just be very aware that if you’re feeding negativity, if you’re feeding depression, then that’s the wolf that’s going to win inside of you.

We hope you have a great week. Remember to feed the right wolf and we’ll come out of this for the better. Thanks for tuning in and we’ll see you this Friday with our Drive By!


Few industries are feeling the fallout of Coronavirus as hard as Automotive. Service Advisors everywhere are reporting complacency and heartbreak in their teams. How can we keep hope alive during these dark times? The answer, only on this week's Service Drive Revolution. Now streaming on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and YouTube!

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