Service Advisors are not trained to handle their job

Malaysian car brands have been trying to bring their after sales standards up to acceptable global levels for the past few years to get professional survey company’s like J.D. Power to give them a top three ranking. This is vital to keep customers coming back to the brand and to get repeat sales or even better, get new customers from other brands.

Vehicle reliability and after sales standards in Malaysia have been falling little by little year on year as finding good, knowledgeable staff is getting more difficult with the lack of proper trained technicians.

The many colleges offering workshop courses are giving out the diplomas to students who are not equipped to even service a car (changing engine oil and spark plugs). Some automotive colleges are trying hard but the rest are just collecting fees from parents.

This is why Service Advisors are one of the biggest job turn-arounds in this industry. They just cannot keep customers happy.

The past 14-15 years we have seen franchised car workshops evolve into professional maintenance centers that have a tier system. Before 14-15 years ago, you buy a new car, you go to the authorized service center to book an appointment, a mechanic is assigned to your ‘case’ and he handles your case and hands the keys back to you. Somewhat like what you find till today in your corner neighborhood car workshop.

Service Advisor

In time you build a relationship with the mechanic, you have his cell number, you know if he is married or not and he probably has had lunch or coffee with you some time.

Now we have a tier system. The franchised workshops have added a new layer in between the mechanic and the car owner. This person carries the title ‘Service Advisor’ (SA). Most commonly known as the ‘gatekeeper’ to your car ownership experience.

My brief encounter with a number of SA’s of different car brands over the years has led me to believe that this job function was created to put a stop to car owners getting friendly with the mechanic and having a dedicated mechanic for their car whenever they come in.

The SA for most part is never a technical trained person. They are more a PR person that handles your complaints and their job status rarely lasts more than 1-2 years. So why the rather high turnover of SA’s.

They are the ‘punching bag’ for the disgruntled customer which is a rising phenomena in recent years (not just Malaysia).

All and we do mean ALL car brands are having after sales issues today. Our recent articles highlighting issues with workshops, warranty and after sales have all brought us much added information from readers expressing their dissatisfaction with almost ALL car brands on sale in Malaysia (only the small volume brands and super luxury brands get very little complaints).

Even the once ‘halo’ utter reliable automotive brands with ‘excellent’ after sales are having issues which have been shared with us.

Today, the average SA does not last as they can’t keep taking the ‘hits’ from customers and it is a thank-less job when the automotive brand has trouble prone models that are constantly failing.

The solution is no where in sight and it looks like the corner neighborhood car workshop will continue to survive as new car workshops fail their customers.

We did mention in our heading ‘Automotive Bankruptcy’ for a reason. Some car owners have their cars returning over and over to workshops for fixes and meanwhile they continue to pay monthly instalments and after too many problems try and sell their 1-3 year old cars at a big loss as the market already knows these models to be problem vehicle (thanks to facebook and social media) and so for a middle class car owner this loss can be a financial burden on them for years to come.

Losing money on the sale of a ‘LEMON CAR’ means borrowing heavily to settle the remaining car loan on the sold Lemon Car and having to pay the down-payment for a new car.

Will the car brands look into all the issues and return smiles to car owners faces? Well, it is tough task to fulfil and will probably never happen in my automotive lifetime.

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