So, I get a call from a good-sized import client I had restructured in service about ten years ago. “Quick service is out of control…customer retention is down, the repair order count is behind year-to-date, cars are lined up–shop output percentage is down – Help!” During my visit I stood by the drive with the service manager witnessing the jam up, including taxi-buddies picking up clientele, turning their vehicles around in the drive blocking the entire entrance, even heading in the wrong direction. The assistant service managers were literally running from vehicle to vehicle, performing a write-up sequence similar to a drive-through car wash– “Only the basics please and blow me off at the end.”
As it turns out, one patron was a local radio personality who had spent part of his youth growing up at my house. We visited about his service experiences and he said “I like the fact that cars can be lined up six deep, but they always get to me quickly anyway.” While that seemed favorable to him at the moment, it was indicative of the causes of this looming crisis.
Going back a few years, their well-meaning manufacturer decided universally that there has to be a better way to get the basic services completed, and that the oil change issue in particular was driving customers away from their dealerships (and lucrative oil and other filter sales for them). Since the competition which appeared to be winning was the (aptly named) quick lube industry, the obvious conclusion/solution was to mimic their successful business model.
Do This Or Else
Hence, some aggressive exec(s) determined that all dealers would adopt a separate quick service process, including “no appointment needed,” plus hiring separate QS writers, adding distinct signs and even a unique reception area. “I didn’t have choice,” the GM told me. “It was part of a certification plan.” The concern by dealer personnel was that the existing program was proving to be very successful and profitable, and while not separate per se, quick service was being successfully provided through integration into the main shop appointment and dispatch process.
As with most things of sudden colossal priority, the quick service momentum has begun to fade for this manufacturer and many dealers, according to this GM, are gradually moving back to integrating quick service into the standard shop process, having experienced marginal results with a separated plan. That’s not to say that some dealers have not been very successful utilizing this initiative, perhaps because they had such an inadequate program originally, they adopted the concept completely and stuck to the principles which would help guarantee success, they moved the quick service center away from the main shop and adopted all makes, or they would actually be more successful with a different approach, but that would not be known.
Who Loves Ya?
What began deteriorating for my client was the relationship-building nurturing involving an assigned ASM and the customer, a program they had been utilizing for years. Each ASM controlled their group of techs (each with a technical supervisor), along with their specific workplan, managed through a well-controlled appointment procedure. The appointment arrangement was introduced at infancy by setting up the very first required maintenance service during the new and used car delivery process.
A mammoth challenge today is the amount of small dollar repair orders each ASM has to handle to generate a reasonable amount of gross profit. I conducted a study and found that the quick service writer(s) were handling 25 plus repair orders on shortened Saturdays. To top that off, the tech population was understaffed for the volume, so that moving on to the next vehicle was the only priority. While some customers may feel good about the employees’ quickness related to the obvious volumes, what have they learned about purchasing service over the longer term — when vehicles need more than a basic service?
Them Or You?
Capturing every customer sold by a dealership isn’t reasonable of course. The one significant advantage that quick service centers have is location — impossible to overcome on their playing field. Unless there is a considerable reason to battle the ever-present traffic trekking back to the dealer, why bother? Here’s another rub concerning quick service centers versus dealer quick service — the quick service centers develop relationships extremely well, while the dealers don’t.
Compare that the customer remains with the vehicle at the quick service center, engrossed in learning from a well-trained “manager,” while purchasing the many facets of vehicle maintenance. This is serious customer-relationship development time — make no mistake about that. At the dealer, as in the case above, the customer was exposed to only a few minutes with a hurried “advisor,” more focused on moving the lengthy vehicle line then anything else — and it was obvious.
Consider the opportunity to train the customer to make two visits per year (typical mileage timeframe), for “required” maintenance service packages to preserve the warranty. An appointment allows a professional manager to prepare for the visit (pre-pull history, recall status, maintenance schedule, prior notes, etc.). It also provides time to examine all concerns, along with making an exhaustive examination of the vehicle with the customer present. The customer would look forward to this interaction as an important learning situation, as well as justification for purchases. This is particularly important as the miles progress and more issues arise.
During the appointment conversation the word track advises the customer to set aside 15 minutes for the transaction (will be less, but that’s a win). That creates reasonable time for nurturing the vital ASM/customer relationship at reception, ensuring a future visit and the related income.
If you need an effective appointment word track, just email me firstname.lastname@example.org, and put on the subject line “I’m Sick Of Reception Lines.” I can, at least, give you a start towards changing the future. Don’?t compete with the impossible — do your own thing — it’s where the real long-term honey is — can you feel the love?