By Bob Cooper
1. When first-time customers approach your facility they’ll typically be anxious, so anything you can do to reduce their anxiety will help them be more receptive to your recommendations. On your entry doors, or in a prominent location they’ll easily see, you should have clear indications of your professional affiliations, and any financing options you offer.
2. Inside the customer waiting area, rather than having cluttered walls and giving your customers sensory overload, you will be far better served by having your Mission Statement prominently displayed. This will give your customers good insight regarding the type of people they will be working with. For decades we here at Elite have argued that people do business with people, not with businesses, so anything you can do to humanize your company will help put your customers at ease.
In addition to posting your Mission Statement, another great way of humanizing your business is by creating a 10x12 plaque for each of your employees, and putting a photo of the employee in the upper left corner. To the right of the photo, you can list their credentials, certifications, awards, etc. Across the bottom, you can include a brief bio of the employee that addresses their personal life (“Jim is a native of San Diego, has a wonderful wife, three children, and two Golden Retrievers. On the weekends Jim loves to go biking, and camping with his family”). You’ll find that not only will these plaques help your employees feel appreciated, but your service advisors can use them as sales tools when they are telling a customer who will be servicing their vehicle.
3. At Elite we have always preferred service kiosks (stations) rather than counters. Not only do counters and desks serve as barriers between your advisors and their customers, but your advisors need to come from behind the counter to greet the customer. Kiosks also allow your advisors to stand next to their customers when looking at the computer screen. Again, putting your customers further at ease.
4. The clocks, newspapers and current event magazines need to go. The clocks will have your customers timing you and your techs, and the newspapers and current event magazines are filled with both negative news and the ads of your competitors. Instead, you should have magazines that address sports, hobbies, home & gardens and entertainment. You should also have point of sale literature that explains the value of vehicle maintenance, other services you offer, etc. Lastly, you need to have magazines and books for your small “future” customers, as well as self-contained toys that can keep those kids occupied when mom and dad are busy with you. Wi-Fi? Cellular phones are quickly replacing the need for Wi-Fi, but if your core customer base has a strong need for it, you should consider making it available.
5. You need to have fresh coffee available all day long, along with bottles of cold water and soda. When I still had shops we would offer our customers a cold drink, and it would always be on us. It’s your call, but I feel it’s a small price to pay for the relationship that you can and will develop.
6. In addition to having signs on the outside of your building, you need to have prominent signs in your waiting area that reflect your professional affiliations, state that you accept all major credit cards, and communicate that you provide financing options, if applicable. I have learned over the years that when customers are under stress, they can easily forget that credit card that they have tucked away for emergencies. You’ll be surprised when you see the relief on their faces after seeing the signs.
7. Your customers do not have an expectation that the furniture in your waiting area will be top of the line, but they do have an expectation that it will be well maintained and clean. Over the years customer panels have told us that if shop owners don’t care enough about their own furniture to keep it clean and presentable, then why would they care about their customers’ automobiles? Lost sales are guaranteed.
8. Lastly, your waiting room needs to have smiling, well-groomed employees that greet your customers as soon as they arrive. No matter how clean and well-appointed your waiting area is, it’s the people who work with you that will have the greatest impact on your customers’ decisions, guaranteed.
Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite, a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers coaching and training from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with sales, marketing and shop management courses. You learn more about Elite by visiting www.EliteWorldwide.com.