When asked to identify the primary factor that influenced their choice in where to take their car for service, 33% of vehicle owners said convenience.
Convenience can be a broad subject, but generally speaking it means showing up for minor maintenance without an appointment, waiting while the vehicle is serviced, and being able to quickly navigate through the check-in/check-out process.
Convenience trumps price by a four-to-one margin. Only 8% of vehicle owners choose their service center based on who’s got the cheapest price. (Note: Quality is still the #1 factor influencing service center selection, with 47% of consumers saying quality matters most. I’ll discuss quality in a future article, for now, I want to focus on convenience. (But, let me just say that if you’ve got both of these factors on your side, then you are meeting the expectations of 80% of the buying public!)
Bill Ferguson, the service director at Hudiburg Toyota Scion in Oklahoma City, has first-hand experience when it comes to convenience. Earlier this year, Bill implemented a Toyota Express Maintenance (TXM) process in his service department.
Hudiburg Toyota divides their shop into three distinct service levels:
Level 1 includes basic services, such as oil changes, filters, and wipers. Bill has two TXM service bays with two techs per bay, they focus strictly on Level 1 services and comprehensive multi-point inspections. This tag-team approach allows the techs to get the multi-point inspection back to the customer in less than 15 minutes.
“Studies show that if we offer additional maintenance recommendations within the first 15 minutes, customers are much more receptive to having it done,” Ferguson said. “It works!”
Level 1 customers are always “waiters,” so their target is a one-hour turn around. “People will usually give us an extra 25-30 minutes to perform additional services, as long as they know early on in the process,” he explained.
Level 2 is where they perform fast maintenance services such as brakes, transmission services, power steering flushes, fuel injector cleanings, differentials and other fluid exchange services.
A Level 2 service customer is usually on their way in a couple of hours. Bill accomplishes this by having three techs in each of his Level 2 service bays. If Level 1 is a tag team, then Level 2 is best described as a pit crew! By having this degree of man power, Bill can achieve speed without compromising quality.
Fast moving parts and fluids are located in Level 1 and Level 2 service bays to facilitate efficiency and eliminate technician “social gatherings” at the back parts counter.
Level 3 service is performed in the main shop, this includes heavy line work and warranty.
The strategy is really quite simple: Level 1 feeds Level 2…Level 1 and Level 2 feed Level 3.
“We are still a work in progress,” Ferguson said, “we are still tweaking it, adding techs, and smoothing out the rough edges. It’s not perfect, but it’s making a difference.”
It sure is: Hudiburg Toyota was averaging 125 cabin air filters per month before TXM, now they average 220. Air filter sales have doubled from 110 monthly to over 200. Battery installations are up 400%, and they’ve seen wiper sales go from an average of 12 sets per month to over 100 sets per month.
When it comes to money, obviously oil changes are fairly low gross, but services that are sold during the TXM process have a higher gross, and Level 2 fluid maintenance services have the highest gross in the entire shop.
The bottom line is this: convenience is good for the bottom line!
A word of caution: I’ve seen many service centers lose their focus of why they put an emphasis on express service in the first place. If you’re not careful, convenience will become the goal…you got ’em in, you got ’em out, the job was done right…mission accomplished. Wrong!
Convenience is merely the means to an end. The goal of convenience is not convenience. Say what? The goal is not customer retention, customer retention is also the means to an end. The goal is profitability! Convenience produces retention, retention creates loyalty, loyalty opens the door for vehicle inspection, vehicle inspection results in upselling opportunities, upselling opportunities produce additional labor hours, and labor hours translate into profitability!
Everyone likes convenience. Just because one third of consumers say it is their top priority, it doesn’t mean the other two-thirds don’t care about convenience. They do.
Let’s face it, no one wants to be inconvenienced. If you have a robust appointment and drop-off process in place in your shop, then, by all means, continue to grow that segment of your business. Why don’t you also take the time to evaluate implementing an express service process in your dealership.
If your shop embraced convenience a long time ago, maybe it’s time to review your numbers and make sure that you’re getting the desired results. A little training, a little refocusing, and a little encouraging will make a big difference. Focusing on convenience made a big difference for Bill Ferguson and Hudiburg Toyota, and it will make a big difference for your shop, too!
On a personal note, as 2011 comes to a close, I want to thank you for all the phone calls and emails I’ve received over the past year. It is great to get the feedback, it encourages me and it causes me to continually strive to improve.
On behalf of my wonderful wife, Angela, and my beautiful daughters, Beth and Hannah, I want to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!