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In my quest to get my shop up to snuff I need to redo my office/reception area. Currently it's dirtier then I'd like but the big thing is the desk isn't very friendly. When customers come in, if I'm at the desk they can barely see me. I'd like to redo it so that it's more friendly and inviting. Where did you get your service writer desk? What about chairs? Also I know some shops have a TV on the wall, do you have local stations on it, or do you have a pre programmed thing? I don't have any real waiting customers at the moment but when I get to marketing more, I hope to have at least some.

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Here is a picture of my reception / waiting area. I know it's a bit more colorful than some people like but I get a lot of compliments from customers saying that they like it. The TV in the corner and behind my head are smart TV's.


The one that is in the corner, I provide customers with my Netflix and Hulu accounts if they would like. However I typically have Top Gear playing on it and they can change it if they like. The TV behind my head I use as a slideshow. It has customer reviews, jokes, basic information, and a bit more.


I have fresh ground coffee for customers, along with a fridge (the cabinet looking thing next to the coffee maker) stocked with water, sodas and creamer. The little oven there I use to bake fresh cookies everyday.


Also have a white board with the names of customers that I know are coming in throughout the day.


As far as where I got the chairs and tables. We have a used office furniture store here. Decent prices on everything.


Let me know if you have any questions.




Edited by CarER
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I just redid my room about a year ago. Have a 32in LCD with an antenna that pulls about 15 channels. Decent channel with the oldies on it (similar to TV land) that people keep on. I have two sofas and a table with 4 chairs. Actually the table gets used the most because people have their iPads and laptops and get on the wifi to do work while we are working on their cars. My waiting room and office is 105 feet aeay from the shop which is nice. Keeps the customer supervisor specialist in the waiting room while we work on their vehicle without distractions

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My advice is make it comfortable and inviting for women. We have rocking chairs and furniture that looks like Grandma's living room. Keurig machine with snacks. Tablet for them to play with. Toys for kids. Finally Autonet Lobby TV. It entertains and advertises for you and you can create your own content. Content is kept current and fresh by folks out in Utah.

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Xrac, I get the cookie batter that is pre-mixed and pre-sized I guess you could say. Meaning, all you need to do is heat up the little oven to 350 and bake them for 12 minutes and they're done and they give off an amazing smell. It takes me all of 3 minutes, if that, not counting the baking time.


Also, thank you mspec, people love seeing their name on that board.


Harrisonburg is a major college town, meaning about 28,000 college students here in a 55,000 population town. So college students provide a very large chunk of business. They love the cookies and tell all of their friends about the shop that has cookies. I also have some signs around the waiting room that college students also love (I'm 23, and my wife goes to one of the major universities here in town, so I guess I tend to think kind of like how they would think) Such as the sign on the shop door with the velociraptor. It states "This is a velociraptor-free work place. It has proudly been 12 days (written on a sticky note) since the last velociraptor incident. It may seem stupid to some, but I've received a lot of laughs, compliments and even pictures of the sign from both students and other people.

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I'm inspired by all your comments, and of course, the photos submitted by Cmillet. We've been meaning to remodel & expand our lobby area, too. I think it's the one part of the building that you shouldn't cut corners on. For the record, the idea of putting in a small toaster oven, and expanding our convenience food/drink to include fresh, warm cookies or even other items is a great idea.


I strongly believe all of you are forward thinking, and "outside-the-box" kind of operators, not just because you signed up like I did for this forum, but also because of the MANY things I've read pertaining to endless aspects of our businesses, and your creative solutions to industry problems.


With that in mind, I'd challenge you consider every repair shop lobby you've ever seen or visited, and actively begin creating a document that, in lieu of a better title, creates a "Word Picture" of what every one of those lobbys has in common, and WHY they're set up the way they are. List all the features, right down to the OPEN sign, and the water cooler.


Once you have a list, step two is to consider each item on that list, and then ask youself why that item is a part of the lobby, and what value it brings or adds to your customer's experience with your company. I'll give you two examples, one good one, and one that I humbly believe revealed why a change was necessary in our own lobby.


1. The OPEN sign

What type of sign do you have? Is it electric, or a colorful sign that's simply flipped over each morning as you walk in? How big is it? How big does it NEED to be? Do you need to see it from the street, or is it to assure someone walking toward your door that it's unlocked, because you're obviously open (via the sign). The point here is that it's likely that each of us has an open sign, and of course, if we continued to dig deeper and study the "Why"...we'd all agree that an OPEN sign has value, and speaks to our ability to help someone in need...if only because it lets them know somoene is inside that they can talk to right now. This was a simple, obvious example, and one I thought makes my point in this exercise nicely. (lol, of course, if it forced me to realize my 120 sq. ft. lobby was encumbered by a 3' x 4' Neon, flashing OPEN sign...well, maybe it would give me reason to ask if it wasn't just a little bit oversized, or out of place, taking up real estate on my window or wall better suited for something else.)


2. The front counter.

How big is your front counter? Is it tall? Long? Do you sit on a stool, or a high-backed chair? Is it a one-seater, or are there stations for multiple service writers? There's obvious value in your desk/counter setup. Fancy or otherwise, it serves as a fixed place for you to work with guests in your lobby, access your computer, catalogs,write estimates, use the phone, access reports, etc. It's your own personalized "Captain's chair", just like James Kirk had in the center of his bridge. There's no question about who's in charge on the Enterprise. That may have made perfect sense to Kirk & the team...there could be no question or hesitation about who was in charge, and who they had to look to for answers. However, in my opinion, our environment is very different, and it's time to change that standard layout.


When your customers come in, ask yourself why you need such an obvious division between them and you. Now I don't know about you, but I don't want them looking over my shoulder as I'm crafting the very best timing service estimate ever written, but that doesn't mean you need to be up on a high stool, behind a barricade. I want our lobby to be inviting, and comfortable. A space that makes them feel completely at home, and relaxed. I'm not trying to trick anyone, but the truth of the matter is that the more comfortable a prospect is with you, the easier it will be to show them they can trust you, and then of course, the easier it will be to make the sale.


We got rid of our nicely built counters, which were well appointed, and custom built 2 desks that were the same height as a kitchen table. Furthermore, the desks are shaped kind of like a kidney bean, so that it's just "natural" for our customers to pull up a chair to sit at our table, and have a frank discussion about what the service writer has to say about our tech's inspection of their vehicle. More often than not, we'll even actively move another chair in the room alongside the guest, to go over the information no differently than two people who were sitting in a livingroom discussing the big game last Sunday.


In other words, we saw value in the more cliche' tall service writer desk, but saw a powerful advantage in letting our customers know that we're no better than them, we're advocates, and we sit alongside them when discussing their concerns. It's a fact in business that sitting "Across the desk" from someone will always imply a power structure...one of the two participants is in charge of the situation, and we decided we wnated to foster a feeling of advocacy, not authority. It has worked wonderfully, and to our customers, the lobby area is just "comfortable".


In keeping with my Star Trek metaphor, however, in the words of the late Gene Roddenberry, "Something can be designed with purpose or intent in mind and be completely acceptable. However, anything of GREAT design will be invisibie, or transparent to those who see it. To those people, the response can only be: Well of course...that's just how it's supposed to work"


As usual, this post is more lengthy than I'd planned, but sometimes it's hard to convey how excited I am for the little things that just seem to work so well. Our lobby is in a state of disrepair, as we're making it larger & have hired a consultant to assist us in making the best use of the space we have. When it's done, I'll post the finished photos, if anyone wants to see them.


Just one man who LOVES taking care of people.

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I've got a 16' counter that separates the customers from me, on top is mostly art and sculptures and an assortment of weird foods I offer for free. The rest of the waiting area is carpeted and has 60's funky furniture. Free WiFi, a candy bowl, and a keurig. No TV. I have some yak hides too. I can't post pictures from my tablet but I'll try with my PC. This time of year there's tires in the waiting room, people like looking at the different treads. No joke. Overall its a nice quiet place to relax, like grammas house 40 years ago. I painted it as couple years ago bright yellow.


The overall idea is "this place is not like any garage waiting room I've ever seen". No sales pitch material. If you haven't noticed I'm opposed to selling. I dont even like the word. I'm in business to fix cars, and fixing cars right costs money, that's what I assume people understand.


What I don't have but should is a nice customer restroom. Its so important, yet to put one in my place will require some demolition and a new septic so its on hold. A new alignment rack or a customer restroom. Hard choices.

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Ah, yes. It's not unusual for me to agree with you, Alfredauto.


We redesigned out customer restroom with the same, diligent thoughts in mind, not too long ago. It's been outfit with all the amenities necessary to accomodate people wtih disabilities, for sure, but we went even further.


To be "female friendly", we cleaned and painted the room in brighter colors/pastels, and then decorated it with things you'd put in your own bathroom at home. (Paitnings, shelves, fake plants, etc.) Furthermore, we added a "convenience" section that is stocked with everything anyone would ever need. Ever. In a bathroom.


I considered that when I multiplied the number of years I was in business by the number of people that have patiently waited while service was being performed...then divided that number by a guess at to how many of those patrons were women. That gave me a HUGE number of women (1,000s) who came to us for service, who waited in the lobby.


NOW...my data gets vague by design. Let's just say that I found it difficult to believe that in all those years, all those customers, all those waiting guests....that NO ONE ever found themself (or herself) lacking some personal items of great value.


So now, needless to say, our bathroom gets rave reviews, because it's female friendly, it's cleaner that ANY semi-public restroom in the city, and it's stocked with cloth/folded single-use hand towels to dry your hands, soaps, hand sanitizers, 3 different feminine hygiene products, body sprays, hair spray, individually wrapped disposable razors, floss, and even some packaged toothbrushes and personal sized tubes of toothpaste like you get at the dentist. One of our patrons was so pleased, she began providing homemade "lotion bars" to us at no cost.


So the point is, was all that necessary? Of course not. In fact, most people probably don't see the value, and many customers might even tweet their friends and tell them they think we're just a little weird.


But for the VERY silent few...the people who needed something they'd NEVER ask the mechanic up front for. Well, their continued patronage has been measureable. We get 1-2 comments a month about the restroom. Most of the time it's an email or a text, or a FB comment. Sometimes it's an anonymous card. Either way, we know we're satisfying a need.


Just one man's crazy restroom idea.

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  • 2 weeks later...

OOH a topic I really enjoy because I love interior decorating lol. ALL of our office was designed using IKEA furniture except our Kitchen.


Open area: We tore down some walls to make our lobby have an open feeling...its something I was always used to in the tech startup industry. Idk why, it just feels better this way in my opinion. It feels open and more spacey, and we are on a more personal level with customers with not so much blocking in between. Also painted the inside walls gray and red to match the walls of the shop.



We dont have a counter and use IKEA galant desks. Pros are its cheap, large, and intimate communication with customer (talking at the same level). Cons are its open and they can easily see mess (if we let it get messy), and they can see the cables so its not as "clean" as a typical reception counter.



TV, books, snacks area: Flatscreen is old and used TV that we never used much so brought to the office. ROKU: me and my partner stopped using cable TV at home and replaced it with a Roku (one time fee about $100 or less), then use it for Netflix, Youtube, History Channel, Car channels, food channels (we only pay for Netflix about $8/month, the other channels are free)...etc. So I brought this idea to the shop. This is so much fun for our customers. I just leave the remote on the table and they have soooo much to choose from. Also, very kid-friendly. If your customers have young ones, there are tons of kiddy channels like PBS that will keep them quiet and glued to the seat. TV helps with customer patience, but allowing them to choose what to watch---they'll just forget about their car lol



I call this our Work-and-Watch station. Bought 2 shelves from IKEA (I think like $30 each) and then the brackets which were like $3-4. Charging station and plant also from IKEA. The charging cords--you can find cheap at electronic stores. This is a popular spot for customers that get to work from home and want to be able to look up to see the progress of their car.



Restaurant Book: I've gotten into a weird habit of collecting menus from restaurants and organizing it at home. I started doing the same thing for the shop with nearby restaurants and restaurants that deliver to our shop. Sometimes, things come up where the customer has to stay longer than planned and our free snacks isnt enough. They love that they know which restaurants deliver. Also that little plaque I made that gives customers the Wifi password, tell them we have coffee and water and free snacks, show them that we have a Restaurant book if they need to order food delivered. Every time some one asks for it, all I have to say is oh its there on the plaque (instead of spelling it out lol)



Kitchen: I was not involved when our biz partner had these built but the fridge is a hand-me-down, the plant from IKEA, the K-cup machine gets a lot of use and you can buy this anywhere. Toaster and microwave are cheap brands as well. Would love to get the toaster oven though! All dishes used internally are from IKEA. Customers use disposable cups. I bought the knobs from Home Depot for a little over $2 each.



Deco & live plants: I like modern but classy. I got a gift certificate for my bday to this store that sold these brass plated hanging planters. I bought the plants from Home Depot ($5 each) and for some reason, my partner already had tweed rope in his supplies lol. Normal price, these brackets are $40 with the pot, 30 without. Most guys would never spend a dime on decoration (including my partner), but every single new customer that walks in leaves not only impressed with the work, but with the peace of mind that when they come back, they come back to a very comforting lobby that looks great and makes their stay much more bearable. Decoration doesnt have to be expensive too. So much good stuff at dollar stores and clearance sections. Also, I think plants, especially succulents, make any office look better. Succulents (like cactus) dont require much water either.



Our bathroom...thats something we had to put on the back burner in terms of decorating because its small, single person, and not much room to play with. So really right now all we do is keep it clean.


So in summary, the most expensive was: kitchen, painting walls, tearing down walls. Cheapest: furniture, decorations, TV/Roku. Other tips on cheap decorating: we go to liquidation warehouses, craigslist and moveloot.com for things that we wanted but didnt want to spend much on it like a large white board, trash bins, tool organizers, sturdy work tables for the shop, and other things. Snacks we get from Boxed.com which is like going to a club warehouse but not having to go in-person and not needing a membership.

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Our waiting area is in our store. The counter is a 2 x 4 frame covered with sheet aluminum. The idea was to have a comfortable "man cave" that is female friendly. We have collected some memorabilia over the years, that is interesting to some, and we have a few magazines.


The window behind the TV looks into the room with our chassis dyno and where we do restorations. We did have wifi, which we are setting back up, we got a new wireless router.


I don't know how to post pictures, but here is the link to the pics on facebook.



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Here is a picture of my reception / waiting area. I know it's a bit more colorful than some people like but I get a lot of compliments from customers saying that they like it. The TV in the corner and behind my head are smart TV's


Your tight area gives me hope regardng mine. My office appears similar in size as yours. The door into the shop is in the same corner but on the ajacent wall. Thank you for giving me hope, my office needs updating too.

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