Wednesday, July 6, 2016

July 2016: "What Are You Waiting For?"

Have you noticed the Service "Waiting Area" lately?...or have you just passed by it, hoping not to have to talk to anyone on your way back to the Parts Department?...

Seriously though, have you ever actually counted the number of customers at the beginning of each day and maybe even right after lunch, that are sitting in the "Waiting Area" while their vehicle gets serviced or repaired?

I believe these are legitimate questions to ask the Parts Manager, not just the Service Manager because each time we have the opportunity to experience a "one-on-one" relationship with the customer, we have the opportunity to increase sales and gross profits.

For years, from a Service perspective, we have tried and tried to limit the number of Service Customers who would rather "wait" for their vehicle to be serviced as opposed to dropping their vehicle off for service.

We have also known for years the reason for limiting customer "waiters" was because average sales per repair order drops drastically when the customer chooses to "wait" versus leaving the vehicle for the day. Even though this has been the "norm" for many years, we are now seeing that trend start to shift in the other direction.

Customer convenience has and always will play a big role in customer retention and overall customer satisfaction. In many cases, it's the number one reason for the customers' overall choice in not only a vehicle brand, but also the dealer the choose to buy from.

More and more customers are "demanding" to wait than ever before, making it even tougher for Service Departments to control the overall  number of "waiter slots" available on the appointment schedule. 

Many manufacturers are offering and in some cases, mandating their dealers offer Express Service to their customers in order to provide added convenience and to increase overall customer retention and customer satisfaction. Once again...adding more and more pressure for the Service Department with more and more "Waiter" Customers.

In addition, customers are choosing to "wait" for more than just oil changes and other minor services. With more and more dealerships offering more and more conveniences, more and more customers are taking advantage of those conveniences by choosing to wait even more!

It has also led to longer and longer average "wait times" as many customers are "choosing to wait", even if it takes hours to complete their service and/or repair. They actually don't mind the longer wait, or maybe they drove quite a distance to get there and they have no choice but to wait.

Dealers have added conveniences like wireless internet, child play areas, big flat screen televisions, comfortable seating, various refreshments, up to date reading material, work stations, cafes, name it!

 I'm just waiting to see which dealer will be the first to offer "rest stations" next, like in many major airports where they can actually take a nap while waiting for their vehicle!

So how does this become a new opportunity for increasing overall parts sales and gross?

First of all, in my opinion, this is a "game changer" and we really have to redefine today's "Waiter Customer". To me, whether a customer "chooses" to wait in the "Waiting Area" for four to five hours, or they "choose" to wait in their own home, or even at the mall, that vehicle is a "Drop Off" in my mind.

What used to be considered a "waiter" is now a "drop off" in many situations and should change the job priority when dispatched. Services and/or Repairs that can be completed inside of the average, accepted "wait" time of an hour or less will have a higher priority over "waiters" left for longer periods of time.

Once the new "Waiter Categories" have been established, we now have new opportunities in front of us. We now have new opportunities to build customer relationships as they are in the dealership already for a longer period of time.

 More opportunities for "one-on-one" interactions will lead to more trust, which in turn leads to increased sales and gross profits.

Here are a few of the opportunities that I'm referring to and suggesting;

1.) Reviewing the Service Departments "next day" appointments in the Parts Department can reveal many opportunities for accessory sales on lower mileage vehicles scheduled as "waiters". We all know that there isn't a lot of gross percentage in accessory sales already, but there is gross opportunity. 

Why not introduce yourself as the Parts Manager while they are "waiting" and compliment their vehicle they recently purchased and offer a 10% discount on accessories? Have they even seen an accessory catalog or brochure on the accessories available for their vehicle in the first place? 

It is a known fact that most of the money customers spend on added vehicle accessories is done in the first year of ownership. This gives me, the Parts Manager at least two, if not three opportunities in their first year of ownership, while they are "waiting" to get their vehicle serviced, for accessory sales opportunities.

2.) After reviewing these "next day" appointments, as the Parts Manager, I can review all the appointments, especially the "Waiter Customers" to see what their concerns are to make sure that the more common concerns with higher "First Time Off Shelf Fill Rate" parts are available. 

Just like in New Vehicle Sales, sales are much higher if we have the vehicle on the lot with higher "point of purchase" opportunities. It's much easier for the Service Advisors to make their presentations on primary items and additional services and/or repairs if the parts are in stock. 

Believe it or not, to a customer, having the part(s) in stock is another convenience as it may save an additional trip back to the dealership, or even without their vehicle, down in the shop waiting for parts.

 It also increases overall shop productivity and efficiency as the vehicle services and/or repairs can be completed immediately, without waiting for parts.

3.) If logistically possible, as the Parts Manager, I would build my retail parts area to support my Service "Waiting Area". I'm not talking about just a few display items with some accessories, jackets, hats, miniature cars, etc...I'm talking about making my retail area "alive! 

I want to "draw" those customers into my Parts Retail Area with movement, such as television monitors, or maybe even a fan on low speed moving streamers or signs that show activity. Depending on the logistics and layouts, I would have to find a way to get traffic down over to the Parts Retail Area.

4.) Don't be shy!...and don't hide in the Parts Department all day! Get out there and meet those "Waiter Customers"! It's not just the Service Managers' responsibility to insure Customer Satisfaction, it's every employees duty and responsibility!

Take advantage of this opportunity to create a relationship, which has already been provided for you by the customer. They "chose" to come in and all we have to do is cease the opportunity. Dealers spend thousands upon thousands of dollars just trying to get customers to come into the dealership. 

5.) As the Parts Manager, I would develop a "Parts Department Brochure" that would be colorful and loaded with all the conveniences, benefits and commitments that I would offer. Think about it, do your customers know what conveniences and benefits you offer?....Here are a few examples;

  • Current Inventory Amount
  • Advertised Specials
  • Parts Warranties
  • In-Stock Accessories
  • List and Pictures of Parts Department Employees, Tenure, etc.
  • Parts Department Awards
  • "Car/Truck Clubs" depending on Vehicle Model/Manufacturer
  • Newsletters/ Social Media
  • New Vehicle Owner Parts "Over-The-Counter" 10% Discount Card

The more "ownership" and "membership" that you offer your customers, the more likely you are to retain them. We can't do it by hiding "in the closet" every day, we have to be proactive and have the "want" to develop better customer relationships.

After all, they are already there, in your "Waiting Area" and growing more and more each day. We can either complain about it or we can seize this great opportunity for building better customer relationships. The results will positive if we have a positive mindset as increasing parts sales and gross profits are just a handshake and a smile away!

Dave Piecuch is the Vice President of Automotive Consultants Group Inc. and is the Head Coach for Smart PartsTMThe only "Results Based" High Return Training, Coaching, and Consulting company in the world!  Dave can be reached at Cell 786-521-1720 or E-mail at Vist our Website at