AutoNation Inc., the country's biggest dealership group, is recruiting service advisers among restaurant waiters and other service-industry workers, part of a new plan to reduce turnover in a key position.
Service advisers, with 50 percent annual turnover industrywide, are difficult to keep, said Alan McLaren, AutoNation's senior vice president of customer care.
AutoNation's attrition rate is lower than the industry's and the group is shooting for 30 percent. Service advisers greet customers, inspect vehicles, write up repair orders and deliver vehicles back with the bill.
"We identified the service adviser role as perhaps the most critical role for us in the entire store," McLaren said. "There are perhaps only one or two people that have more direct eye-to-eye contact with our customers every day.
"Secondly, that role perhaps more than any other has such a massive impact on long-term customer loyalty and the financial performance of our business in the short term."
Last year, service business accounted for 15 percent of AutoNation's revenues and 40 percent of its gross profit, a spokesman said.
In mid-March, AutoNation began an online and classroom training program that will run for at least a year to train all of AutoNation's 1,375 service advisers, McLaren said.
AutoNation has six service advisers in an average store. The largest stores can have as many as 20.