Once a customer agrees to service, they’re going to have to wait. And consumer expectations of what they do when they wait have vastly changed over the last decade.
Lundeen’s store – with white marble tile, comfy chairs, a 75-in. flat screen TV, fresh cookies and free coke and water in the waiting area – creates a customer experience similar to coffee shops like Starbucks.
“Ten years ago, a coffee shop was a coffee shop. Some people say Starbucks is too fancy, but it meets customer demand,” he says. “So many people forget about having that space that is comfortable and inviting for the guest. It’s almost as important as doing a great job. Going the extra mile is a way of saying I appreciate your business.”
Nowadays, customers also bring in devices like their phones, laptops and tablets, Kolton says, which leaves you to cater to their technology needs. He encourages dealers to have a productivity bar or business center with charging outlets, and most importantly, a good Wi-Fi connection. And refreshments are a must.
“There’s an expectation of a hospitality center with a fridge that holds cold beverages,” Kolton says. “We tell dealers to make sure that craft pot of coffee or Keurig is out.”
At Tate Boys Tire, customers are treated to free Wi-Fi, popcorn and various bottled refreshments. They also have their choice of different seating arrangements – from leather chairs for relaxing to a business center for working – as well as a kids play area. Underhill says various seating heights allow customers to sit comfortably.
Another aspect of the waiting room that some dealers have embraced is installing a window into the garage so that people can look at their vehicle as a technician works on it. Craig Tate says the large glass walls between the bays and waiting area at his stores promote transparency in service.
“We encourage [technicians] to talk to [customers] and take them out in the service area,” Tate says. “We show them exactly what we’re talking about… it’s that transparency and trust.”
In order to do that, though, Tate says service areas are kept clean with technicians going through a clean-up checklist each time they finish a job. The window also has to be cleaned regularly.
Underhill says if dealers make a point to open their service area with windows, they must understand that their shop is on full display.
“You have to sit there and recognize the choreography that happens on the floor is something that is being watched,” he says. “Therefore, the decorum of workers working on their car is a factor. How someone jacks the car up needs to be thought about (as do) technicians’ actions and what they say.”
Sealing the Deal
There’s also a theater and protocol when introducing customers back to their cars after service, Underhill says.
“What always surprises me is that every time I drive off the lot after buying new tires, I’m surprised at how much better the car drives,” he says. “There is a certain joy to it. If there is a way to be able to get someone the first day after they drive off the lot to do a review within 24 hours of having been there, that’s important.”
Underhill encourages dealers to let their past customers be their greatest marketing agents to gain future customers and repeat business.
At Tate Boys Tire, Tate says his staff is always talking to customers – whether its on social media or in the store – about their tire buying experience. He says his team created a 10-question checklist that is emailed to customers to fill out after service. From that feedback, Tate says his stores have been able to build better rapport with customers.
“It’s all about building that relationship,” Tate says “With all the consolidation going on in today’s market, as independents, we gotta add value over the Costcos… at the end of day, if you got one store, you can’t compete on price… you have to create a value-added service for the customer.”