Taking Parts and Service to the Next Level Part I:
Be More Convenient!
‘Being More Convenient’ is all about understanding the part that ‘convenience’ plays in attracting and keeping service customers. Convenience is one of the most important factors consumers consider when they are looking for places to spend their money – and the fact is, it doesn’t really matter if you have great prices, great service, and a great product, if you aren’t convenient – customers just won’t visit your store – they won’t even give you a chance. May sound unfair, but it’s true.
And for the record, the convenience I am talking about, is more than just being open more hours...it’s about being easy to do business with, answering the phone quickly (which I will discuss in depth in another segment), and fixing the car right the first time so customers don’t have to come back and be...here it is...inconvenienced! Let’s try to grasp this another way – imagine for a minute that you don’t work at a dealership...I know it’s hard, you’ve been in the car business for years...but, go ahead and give it a try – it’s a great way to get a real “customer’s eye view” of what it is like to do business with you and can even be fun putting things in perspective, so humor me for a minute and do this, OK?
Ready for the - out of dealer experience (sounds almost Sci-Fi) doesn’t it? Let’s say you work at Wal-Mart, an office building, wherever...and you need to get your car serviced. You don’t have a relationship with any dealer or independent shop really, so you ask around to see where other people get their cars’ oil changed and start to hear about all of the independents out there and someone always knows someone at an independent shop that you can “trust”, that will save you money, do the job right and not sell you a bunch of stuff you don’t need.
Then you mention that you were considering going to the dealership...where you bought your car – you say that you kind of think they will do the job better and are more qualified. That’s when you will probably hear all of the horror stories...you know; how it took 3 weeks to fix their car and it still wasn’t right and that was when it was under warranty and free ...or how they took the car in for an oil change and were sold $500 worth of nonsense service they don’t really think they needed...and how the dealer was closed so they went to an independent that was open...or how the dealership service advisor didn’t call them back to tell them when it was done, or that they had to call the dealer 4 times and were put on terminal hold for so long that they finally hung up...you know what I am saying. Inconvenience at it’s finest.
All I am saying is – if we are going to take service to the next level at the dealership, we have to ‘be more convenient’ and we have to start giving customers real reasons to do business with us instead of the other way around. We have to make it easy to do business with us – and to be honest, if we really look hard at our operation, we just often times don’t do that.
So, now that I have your attention and you are all fired up about being more convenient – (I can tell because you are still reading), you have to sometimes run the store like you own it. If you owned the store, chances are you would start by being open more – come on guys, you can’t do business when you are closed! Most of the time when I talk to service managers about being open more the main reason they don’t want to do it is because they don’t want to work more hours themselves – and I understand that, so before you get all bowed up on me – hear me out, ok? Open your mind for a minute and don’t block out the idea of being open because you think you have to live at your store – that’s not what I am saying at all.
So, blinders off, mind open...think about this - I don’t know about you, but I never really understood why service & parts should have different hours than sales...I mean it is the same store, right? Why would one department be closed and the others be open at the same store? You sell cars and trucks, parts, accessories, service and maybe collision repairs – why would you close some departments at different times than others?
Maybe you don’t buy into the concept of being one store open the same hours, but you have to at least buy into this concept - If you want to sell more of anything, you have to be more convenient and you have to be open more – that’s just common sense. Start easy, be open hours that consumers can remember – like at least 7 am to 7 pm...if not 9 pm, Monday thru Saturday. If you aren’t that busy those hours then get busy – advertise more and use the time to catch up on overflow work or used car preps until you get it going. And a lot of dealers have already started opening on Sundays - Firestone is open Sunday, and so are most Goodyear, Pepboys, Wal-Mart, and quick oil change stores, so why not you? You can hate it and fight it all you want – but Sundays are coming... so get ready by staffing up to handle it.
But, convenience is not just about the hours you are open – it is also about “what you do with the hours you are open.” I just don’t think you can really take a store to the next level if you take too long to service the cars or don’t have the right parts in stock – you inconvenienced customers and they wont forget it!
And, another thing (while I am on a rant here), you can’t expect customers to return over and over again to get their car fixed...they just won’t keep giving you chances – would you do business with you if you had to keep coming back? I mean, how many times would you go to a restaurant if they constantly burned your food or gave terrible customer service? How many times would you go to the same grocery store if they were always out of milk or if the check out lines were too long? How many times would you return...answer honestly, OK?
So fix it, get some fire in your eyes (or under your butt), go out there and get involved in your day to day operation and make sure you are open enough, make sure you are doing the right stuff to make customers want to visit and make sure you are more convenient. Look at your store through a ‘customers eyes’ and dig in – get more convenient and you’ll get more customers...it’s that simple.