Over the past year I have visited over 500 repair facilities, new car dealerships, quick lubes, undercar specialty shops and more. Trust me when I say I have seen it all — from the cramped closet showroom and waiting area outside on a bench, to the majestic showroom complete with small convenience store, coffee shop, small restaurant and more. I have "banked" many great ideas on what attracts consumers to businesses and what could be a deterrent to them. Here are a few of my observations…I call them "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly."
Glass-Enclosed Customer Waiting Area: I recently saw this in a Virginia tire store. It makes for a quiet work area for the customer and the counter people. Sometimes conversations at the counter (by parts people, technicians, and customers) need to be shielded from the waiting customers.
Flat Screen TV over Service Desk: In November I visited a tire store that had a 60-inch flat screen TV over the service desk. It was showing various services, why they were needed, the result if the service was not performed, and then the facility's price. It was flowing without dialogue, and was in view of waiting customers as they watched TV.
Comfortable Chairs in Waiting Area: I have seen a park bench, small wooden benches, and metal chairs, and then I have seen comfortable sofas, cushioned chairs, and nice seats. You de-cide how comfortable your customer will be.
Product Education Center: I just returned from visiting a group of tire stores that is at the top of my list for professionalism and for presentation to the customers.They have a product education center in all their stores. It informs the customer about little-known products and parts, as to their function, needed maintenance, and importance to the overall well-being of their vehicle. On display were Cabin Air Filters, Aero Blades, and TPMS sensors, as well as information on Nitrogen for their tires.
Customer Refreshment Center: What is in your kitchen? Freshly ground and brewed coffee with free, plastic coffee cups with your logo and store locations on them, complimentary water bottles or soft drinks? I have seen this at three groups of tire stores and one independent repair facility. Nice touch over the "institutional" coffee setup.
What Is Included with Every Service: One shop in California posted large-print copies of two types of inspections that the consumer received with every service. One was an 18-point inspection, with oil change, and the other was a 32-point inspection with more detailed services. The advertisement was,"Your safety is important to us." Therefore when the technicians found items not asked for by the consumer, it was due to their "safety check on all vehicles."
Good, Better, Best Pricing: One 7-store tire group in North Carolina has a professionally printed maintenance sheet with easy to understand specials including good, better, and best options. Each option also includes a 32-point "courtesy" check.
Let the Customer See their Car Being Serviced: A very busy quick lube in New York City has a glass walkway in front of all their service bays that allows the customer to see what is happening to their "baby." It also keeps the technicians on point for cleanliness and professionalism.
Gimmick Reader Boards: Stay away from advertising "Free Brake Inspection,""Free AC Check," or "FreeAlignmentCheck."The consumer knows that you are looking for something wrong with their car. Instead, post values:"Free Tire Rotation with Oil Change" or "Save $63 in Fuel with a New Air Filter" or "$5.00 Off All Air Filters."
Price vs. Percentage Off: When advertising your specials in the paper, online, or on your reader board, quote your regular price and then list a specific dollar amount off rather than a percentage amount. It is simple, easier for the consumer, and usually gets more attention.
Too Busy: Two tire stores in California had so many signs in the window and the showroom that I lost interest in reading any of them. A showroom that is too busy will confuse and overwhelm the consumer. Be judicious in what you post and have a schedule for updating.
Out of Date Advertising: I recently visited a multi-unit tire store chain that had tons of posters and consumer advertising on the windows and in the showroom. I counted seven still on display that were for promotions that ended in 2007, or were just "supplier" posters that meant nothing to the consumer.
Advertising Display: Nothing says "unprofessional" more than point of sale material that is stapled or taped on the wall. If you are going to post it, frame it and install it properly.
Custom Signage: If you are going to offer your own specials and post them, make sure you check the spelling and grammar, and remember, "Less is More." Do not cloud your advertising in paragraphs of verbiage. Bullets are best for communicating to the customer.
Out of Date Signs: A very large multi-unit tire chain has tire displays on the wall for consumers. Many of these feature tires they no longer sell. Secondly, the old, yellow and faded signs do not reflect the current price of the tire.
Cleanliness: I don't eat at dirty restaurants, or have my car serviced at dirty repair facilities. I am not talking of the bay area, but the service counter, waiting area, and restroom. You would think it simple, common sense to clean the restroom, remove the magazines from the restroom, wash the greasy fingerprints off the wall, sweep the floor, and clean the windows. Keep the counter free of all non-essential advertising.
I have always been told that "You never get a second chance to make a good first impression." Sometimes in the heat of business we forget what we can do to improve our image to the consumer. Many facilities today "get it" and are proactive in creating a great first impression to customers and new clientele. Others over time become "house blind" and fail to maintain one of the most important areas of any repair facility — the customer waiting/display area. Use this list as a checklist for your own facility, and send me some of your own suggestions.