I worked as a service adviser at 2 different Sears shops when I was in college. One of the shops was in Tuscaloosa, Al, the other in Knoxville, TN. To be good as a service adviser it's tough. The shop manager's attitude makes a world of difference. We had a good shop in Tuscaloosa. Much smaller than the Knoxville shop, but the mechanics were non union which was a good thing, and the shop manager wasn't a crook. He wanted us to sell, but wasn't overly concerned about selling certain products.
Knoxville was a whole other ball of wax. The shop manager at the time was a crook. He'd get bonuses or something for selling a certain number of whatever parts in a month. At one time it was coil springs. He wanted us to sell 10 sets of coil springs a week. Really, not something there's that much of a need for. I remember one SA selling a set to an older lady telling her they couldn't change her oil because the coil spring was weak and in the way. The boss thought that was a good idea, I thought it was crooked and wouldn't participate in that stuff.
In Tuscaloosa, I pretty much ran the shop. If I had mechanics that would work with me I'd make them money and keep them happy. On the other hand, if they screwed around with me I'd starve them out of the shop by filling their bin with oil changes, batteries and tires which they didn't make much money on. The ones that would work got the $$ jobs. The S/A needs to be mechanically inclined. You have to be able to test drive it, look it over, whatever and figure out what's wrong with it, get the parts in and have it ready for the mechanic to repair. You don't want one of your better mechanics sitting on his thumbs waiting on parts for 20 minutes when he could be working on a car making both of you money.
Selling is part of the S/A's job. I always had the attitude that I could make enough money selling people what they needed and I didn't need to attempt to sell someone something they didn't need. For the longest time, Sears wouldn't make me full time, so I'd clock out and work on commission only as much as I wanted to and always did just fine that way. Rainy days, I'd sell a ton of windshield wipers. Hot days, we'd charge a lot of air conditioners. I sold my share of tires, shocks, struts, etc. Front end alignments, tire balancing, brakes etc.
The worst cussing I ever got from a customer down there was over a hose fitting. This guy was on a business trip from somewhere and had a hose fitting break on the back of the engine. I put one of the better mechanics on it, and ended up working on it myself for a while. It took about half an hour to get the fitting off of the engine and I called Napa to get one, they didn't have it, neither did Western Auto. Even called the Ford dealer and they had one in Memphis for $75 and could have it there in 2 days. I got to looking at the fitting and decided that it wasn't worth $75 and probably a hose house would have something that would work. I tossed it on the seat of my truck and went to the hydraulic hose shop and got it fixed up cheap, cost me $10 cash because they wouldn't do a PO for Sears. When I got back to Sears, the guy was raising sand because his car wasn't done yet. I got right on it and put it back together with help from my mechanic. I asked the mechanic what he needed for the job and we decided on $100 labor. I gave the customer a bill for $100 labor and my receipt where I'd bought his hose fitting and explained he owed Sears $100 for the labor and me $10 for the part. They guy went ballistic. He wasn't about to pay me for the part and $100 labor was way too much. I explained that it took right at 2 hours to physically remove/replace the part, plus I spent 30 minutes on the phone with 3 parts stores and the Ford dealer trying to locate the part which was only available through Ford and our dealer cost on it was $75 not to mention the mark up Sears puts on that. Then there's the 40 minutes or so I spent driving across town to the hydraulic shop and waiting while they fixed up the hose and that Sears didn't have an account with that shop and that's why I had to pay for the part out of my own pocket. The shop manager tried to explain that we'd done him a favor as best we could and sorry that it took the better part of 3.5 hours to get him back on the road, but that was the best that could have been done given the alternative was to wait on Ford to get a part from Memphis. He went on to the store manager and she knocked his labor bill down to $50 and wouldn't make him give me the 10 bucks I'd spent to get his part. I bought my mechanic diner at Dreamland BBQ and we learned a lesson. The nicer you try to be to people and the more accommodating you try to be, the worse they'll try to screw you over.
Knoxville was a Union shop and that's a very bad thing IMO for an auto garage. Where in Tuscaloosa, mechanics would work with me in Knoxville they were as apt to tell me to fly a kite as they were to fix a car. In Tuscaloosa I kept a small box of tools with me and went under the assumption that if it took me less time to explain to the mechanic what was wrong and how to fix it, I'd just do it myself. I had changed a many of a battery down there myself because the battery techs were generally lazy and wouldn't work. It only takes about 3 minutes on most cars once you get used to it. I'd get one of the mechanics that was doing a good job for me to initial the work and he'd get 5 bucks on me. Made him happy and if I happened to find a brake job, shocks, struts or CVC joint in the process, all the much better. In a union shop everyone has a prescribed job and from my view of it, nobody wanted to do anything. You could have a day with tires lined up around the parking lot and if only 2 techs rated to change tires were on duty the rest would sit on their thumbs and do nothing. People would get tired of waiting and drive over to Tire America or Sams. The union also protected the sorry worthless techs that couldn't and wouldn't work. I got in trouble once for turning an oil filter off. The customer asked why there were 5 mechanics seemingly holding a vigil over his car that was only getting an oil change. I walked back to check on it and they didn't have a filter wrench to get the filter off. I looked on the tag and saw it was last changed at a quick lube across the parking lot and said, "They don't have any wrenches you don't have" and reached down and turned the filter off by hand. They got mad and reported me to the union steward for working on a car.
A service adviser primary job is to keep everyone happy. The mechanics work for you or against you, and you have to know how to get them on your side and understand that not all of them are created equal. A good mechanic is worth a lot to you a poor one isn't worth diddly. You have to keep the customer happy. They all want theirs fixed yesterday. You also have to keep the shop manager/owner happy and making money. You also have to make money yourself.