IMI Magazine

IMI Magazine

Recruitment: How to make it less dicey

How to make it less dicey

It’s a familiar – and often frustrating – story: Recruitment ads which fail to produce the right person for the job. Or that ‘right’ individual turns out to be not so suitable after all. Or the job doesn’t live up to expectations, and the employer is back to the costly and time-consuming business of re-advertising and interviewing. But, as our special report illustrates, there are ways to shorten the odds.

Hiring a service advisor? Why you need a ‘persuader’

In the February issue of Motor Industry Magazine, IMI members involved in aftersales – especially service advisors - were asked to take part in a behavioural study. Its purpose was to improve customer service and reduce stress levels of customer facing staff. Peter Turner of Automotive Advantage, which initiated the study, reports on the initial findings. Now here’s a puzzler. Despite our experience of finding honest, committed people in the aftersales sector, trying to do a good job and having had the benefit of excellent training , we still ask why is it that –

  • There were 1.3 million customer complaints a year about vehicle service and repair? (OFT, 2000).
  • There have been 40,000 customer complaints a year direct to the Office of Fair Trading?
  • There is a decline in customer satisfaction levels compared to other service-oriented sectors and dealer sales functions?

Trying to solve that puzzle is critical, for it has to be borne in mind that, once the vehicle retailer has formed a relationship with a customer by selling them a vehicle, the custodian of that relationship then becomes the aftersales department. Or, more specifically, the service advisor, because that person is the primary point of contact in fulfilling a customer’s service and repair needs. However, the very nature of the service advisor’s job imposes some conflicting demands, which provide a clue as to why customer satisfaction standards are not being met. At one and the same time service advisors are expected to be -

  • Assertive but non-confrontational
  • People-focused and task-focused
  • Thinking in a logical and sequential way, while doing many things at the same time
  • Conforming with company policies and procedures, yet flexible enough to cope with customer needs

This is clearly a difficult mix of behaviours to achieve! Our research, perhaps not unsurprisingly, showed that after sales staff were recruited from the entire spectrum of behaviour types, and closely matched the general population. In other words, at the moment, people aren’t recruited for their behavioural abilities. Critically, though, it revealed that, at work, many of them were adapting their behaviour away from their natural behaviour. This is stressful and uses up a person’s energy and can cause long term illness. Even more concerning was that the adapted behaviour was moving away from the ideal behaviour required for the role. If staff were displaying ideal behaviour (that is the behaviour customers expect and the role requires) then good communication would exist and staff would be able to persuade customers that the repairs are necessary and would be able to allay natural fears and concerns customers possess. It is therefore likely that customers over time would become more trusting and customer complaints would reduce. So what is the ideal behaviour for a service advisor?


  • enthusiastic and optimistic
  • persuasive communicator
  • achieves results through people
  • people friendly
  • process-oriented
  • multi-tasking
  • change agent

Our research has shown that customers are expecting to deal with what we behaviourally classify as a persuader Comparison of our IMI respondents adapted and natural behavioural styles indicates that the demands of their roles requires them to be far more analytical and process-oriented than –

  • Their natural behavioural disposition
  • The needs of their customers would indicate

Somewhere along the recruitment line, round pegs are being hired with the expectation that they will somehow fit into square holes. After all people do best what comes naturally to them.

Chinese proverb “A man who doesn’t smile shouldn’t open a shop”

How can this be avoided? By placing more emphasis at interview time on behavioural profiling. In the case of after sales staff – notably the service advisor – this profiling would identify the individual most suited to the role. To make best advantage of this and to enable service advisors to carry out their role within this behaviour pattern, after sales departments should be re-structured to allow for the separation of the administration from the customer interface. One manufacturer, Mercedes-Benz, has recognised that the existing way of staffing and operating dealerships needs to be changed. It is currently updating its working practices, including changing roles and structures to allow staff to behave ‘naturally’. This project is being extended, with the assistance of the IMI, to other manufacturers’ retail networks.

For further information on the survey results, as well as on behavioural profiling, contact Peter Turner at Automotive Advantage. 167 High Lane, Brown Edge, Staffordshire Moorlands, ST6 8QA. Tel: 01782 855700. Email: Or access the company’s website: