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Traits of good service managers versus substandard managers

Many good service managers struggle in their job. That’s probably why we see an almost 50 percent turnover annually in service managers. Not only is that ridiculously high, but it also runs up costs for service companies.  When you consider it, service departments are spending money for recruiting, hiring and training new managers.  When managers learn and incorporated some of the traits of good service managers, hiring managers are able to look for those traits. In turn, managers will be happier in their jobs, the service operation will be more productive and the company will save a lot of money by stopping the constant turnover.

So, do you know how to be a good service manager?  Let’s take a look at tips and traits that service managers can take and develop to not only excel at their jobs, but to be happier in their position as well.

A 90-Day Roadmap to Your Best Fixed Ops Month Ever

1. Good Service Managers are open to new ideas.

One of the first things we see when we’re talking with service managers is how they deal with new ideas. Poor service managers tend to take a “that’s not the way we’ve always done it” attitude.  When you want to be the best of the best, you’ll need to have an open mind and adapt/change with the times.  Elite service managers want to learn more.  They understand and see how new ideas and processes can help them be more efficient.

2. Their service technicians show up on time, every time.

We advise service managers to have a pre-work shift meeting for about 15 minutes.  This meeting is to share what’s going on in the shop and make sure everyone knows their expectations for the day ahead. A trait of a poor service manager is to complain that it is difficult to get people to show up for the meeting on time, whereas elite managers don’t even entertain the option that someone will be late. As an elite manager himself, Coach James can’t even remember the last time someone was late to one of his meetings. All he knows is that it’s been years. (Yes, you read that right… years!) Good managers have the respect of their employees.  And, they set high expectations – they don’t put up with workers who don’t follow the basic rules.

3. They ask open-ended questions.

No one likes being “told” a question instead of asked.  Poor managers tend to ask questions that are more like statements. They’ll say things like “How can I improve productivity when it’s impossible to find new employees?”.  That’s a difficult “question” to answer, since the asking manager already has an idea in his or her head that it’s not possible to find good employees. Elite managers will ask for and receive advice.  They simply ask how they can find good employees and sit back and listen to the answer.

4. Their service areas are not in chaos.

You can generally tell within the first 30 seconds of walking into a service area whether the operation has a good manager or not. The poor manager’s service area will usually be in chaos.  This can include shouting, people running around, half-finished jobs and tools and parts strewn everywhere. This type of operation will also often ignore customers when they walk in.  Many times, employees put their heads down, avoid eye contact or, worse, pick up the telephone.  A well-managed service area will be well-organized, look efficient and have employees that are confident and welcoming to customers.

A 90-Day Roadmap to Your Best Fixed Ops Month Ever

In conclusion

The differences between great service managers and poor service managers lies largely in the manager’s work ethic and commitment to the job. When service technicians see the boss working as hard or harder than they are expected to work, it garners respect. And, when a boss is respected, his or her employees show up on time, ready to work. There’s also much less turnover in that type of shop.

In closing, we discussed the most important law of leadership. Coach James and I both agree that to be a good service manager, you must have confidence and humility. I hope that gives you something to think about this week… or the next time you’re hiring a new service manager.


In today's episode of Service Drive Revolution, Chris and Coach Christian are joined by our brand new coach, James. They talk about James's fascination with Star Trek, and how the community of die hard fans can teach us about the power of having a fan base for a business. Christian also goes over some tire and battery news and how customers choose them. The topic of the day concerns the difference between elite and struggling service managers. What can you do do to improve your leadership?

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