Take Service and Parts to the Next Level: Make Your Facility Clean and Inviting?

In the past 10 years or so, I have seen lots of dealers spend millions of dollars on nice, new facilities. Some of them invested because they had to – the factory made them do it – but most of the ones I’ve talked to did it because they understood that if they wanted to attract and keep today’s demanding consumers, they needed to keep up with the times.

If you take a look at today’s new dealerships you will see state of the art architecture, multi-level parking, marble floors, restrooms that look like a Ritz Carlton and showrooms that will just blow you away. They have big screen TVs, free Wi-Fi access and interactive kiosks to engage shoppers with facts about the vehicles they sell.

And they didn’t stop there…they even spent millions on the fixed operation part of the business with hospital clean service departments, nice professional service write up areas, quick service bays and all of the high tech diagnostic equipment you can imagine. I am an old guy of 50 something and I have to say that some dealerships have really come a long way from the old days and that most dealers really stepped up when it came to updating and building their facilities.

So, here is the controversial part. I just don’t understand how these obviously smart savvy businessmen can invest so much, go in debt so far and plan so hard for success and still not get the big picture. What I am talking about is not found in brick and mortar. It is found in the little things you can do at your facility to make it more inviting, more comfortable and more “brag-able” – not sure that is a word, but what I mean is in addition to making your customer’s service visit a good one, wouldn’t it be cool if you could get them to brag about the experience and your facility after they leave. In other words, you should use the "awesome-ness" (yet another new word) of your facility to create positive word of mouth advertising.

Now obviously your facility alone is not enough - you have to have all of the customer service processes in place – you know, you have to answer the phone quickly and correctly, greet customers on the service drive fast and with enthusiasm, fix the car right the first time, stay in touch with customers...all of that stuff – but what I want to talk about in this segment is how you can also make your facility just as impressive and brag-able.

So let’s start with the service drive because that’s where it all starts anyway. Clean and organize everything from top to bottom. Get rid of negative signage. Make sure all your write up desks are professional looking and organized and make sure they don’t look like an Olan Mills photo gallery with a thousand pictures of your advisor’s kids. Hey, McDonalds sells 99 cent hamburgers and their order desks look more professional than some desks I’ve seen in dealerships – I’m just sayin’. And you have to make sure your people look like professionals – like they know what they are doing - not a bunch of thugs. Make sure everyone has a name tag on and make sure your drive is easy to navigate. Keep cars moving out of the drive so customers don’t think you are too busy just because the drive is backed up.

Get rid of your cashier and have advisors do all of the cashiering – this is the fastest way to raise your CSI scores I’ve ever seen. Customers hate cashiers – they don’t like to stand in line, they don’t like that the cashier doesn’t know anything and they don’t like, for the most part, her attitude. Cashiers are customer serial killers that live right on your service drive – they are overworked, create a bottle neck, underpaid and all in all they have no interest in the future of your dealership. Maybe you read between the lines here, but I don’t like cashiers and neither does anyone else – so get rid of them and have your advisors handle the cashiering function. Everyone I have ever talked to that got rid of their cashiers loves the results – happy customers and higher CSI scores. But don’t think you can skimp on credit card equipment – make sure every advisor has a credit card machine that works or you will just be moving the cashier line out to the drive.

In the lounge, make sure someone is always in there watching what is going on. The waiting lounge is a great place to put your service operator / concierge. She should be responsible for keeping the coffee area clean and stocked and for monitoring restroom cleanliness – I didn’t say she needed to clean them – but someone should check them every hour and sign off...just like they do at nicer restaurants. Think about upgrading from day old donuts to fruit or muffins. Offer specialty coffees and bottled water – and get bottled water with your dealership name on it. Have small brochures made that tell customers the Top 10 reasons they should choose you and include a referral certificate on the back if they bring you a car buyer or new service customer. Make your customers waiting time as enjoyable as you can. Some places now offer the use of I-pads –and some play games – we used to play bingo in the lounge twice a day with the winner getting a free oil change coupon for their next visit. I’ve been to stores that offer manicures, or chair massages – and some even have a salon right in their store.

The goal is to get customers to talk about you and brag about you after they leave – and remember you enough to return and hopefully bring you some new customers too - and these are just a few ways you can do that.

Here’s the Deal. If you are open to hearing about what a lot of other dealers are doing to grow their service business, sell more cars and make more money – let’s set up a 15 minute meeting – and even if what they are doing isn’t right for your store at least you’ll know what else is out there and you won’t be left out of the loop. What are you waiting for? Check us out at or give us a call at 866.227.7337.

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