Our first strategic meeting was held at the local Chili’s Restaurant. Over a few beers and burgers my team and I outlined our future. We talked about the business today and the business yesterday. We talked about our successes and our failures. We talked about how the business has changed in the past 10 years and where we believed the industry was headed. Prior to this meeting we interviewed many customers to find out what they wanted from our company. We asked them what they didn’t like and what changes would they make in our business. We found out that although price is an issue, it’s not at the top of their list. What do our customers want? A friendly face, a fair price, one-stop-shopping, a good warranty and most of all to bring in their car when it was convenient to them. Many customers told us that we were always so busy and having to make an appointment for basic service was not acceptable. Because of this, many times they went to the local quick lube.
Our customers never mentioned ASE certification, or asked what kinds of parts we use. No one asked what kind of equipment we had. I guess they assume we hire qualified techs and are equipped with the right equipment. I think it’s the same as when you go to the doctor; you just assume he’s qualified and has the latest equipment.
Based on our feelings on where we thought the business was headed and what we found out by listening to our customers, we decided to design the new building to handle all the customers who prefer to wait for service. Our new business will market; “You don’t need an appointment, bring it right in”. The existing 6 bay facility will handle all the traditional repairs, diagnostic work and those jobs that require longer times for completion. All basic service work will flow through the new 4 bay facility. If extensive work is found and up sold, the vehicle will flow to the 6-bay facility for completion. The new 4-bay facility will work as a feeder to increase car counts and to satisfy while-you-wait service and emergencies such as flat tires, bulbs and wipers.
We tested out our new plan the beginning of 2007. We began to offer while you wait service. We asked customers when would they like to bring the car in for service. This caused a lot of problems at first and my techs rebelled. Pulling techs off of repair jobs to do an oil change or tire repair caused a lot of tension. But for the greater good we endured. After 6 months things settled down and our car counts went up. Our productivity suffered a bit, but our ARO increased due to more up sells. We pushed the envelope to see how this model would work and it did!
We expect an increase in our productivity once the new 4-bays are up and the repair techs can concentrate on their jobs.
Now that we have the plan, what do we do with it?
Next time I’ll talk about starting the process with the site engineers and the bank.