Article

Profit From Your Architecture - The Sale Goes Home

August 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Jeff Margaretten - Also by this author

If the old adage, “Sales sells the first car; service sells the next car,” holds true, then any successful dealership facility plan must provide a user-friendly customer traffic flow that 1) begins with a covered service drive and comfortable service write-up area, 2) passes by the cashier, retail parts counter, and bathrooms as it 3) leads to the customer lounge where 4) you can easily see the showroom. The goal is to increase the buying opportunities for the waiting customer. Encourage them to get out of the lounge chair and interact with the facility.

Too much of the store profit is generated within the service drive and write-up area for it to be relegated to the back of the building. It should be easy to find, open and inviting for your customers and livable for your advisors.

Is it easy and comfortable to diagnose, write-up and up-sell customer-pay service work when it’s raining, or five degrees outside? When it’s 5o? How about when its snowing or when the wind is blowing paper everywhere? If not, then an enclosed service drive, with full visibility into a comfortable write-up area will only serve to increase your profit per R.O. Provide ample space for the service writer and the customer to inspect the car and a counter inside where both can look at the computer screen and write up the job together! The feeling of being part of the process conveys that you are on the same side (literally and figuratively) as the customer.

The Customer Lounge should not be a room! It should be the whole dealership.

Have you ever tried watching soaps or The People’s Court for two hours? How about with a three year old in tow? Fixing the car right and providing friendly service is expected and appreciated. Providing alternate, productive waiting activities, however, is the key to creating a positive service experience, earning higher CSI scores and increasing your profits per customer transaction.

Occupy the children, and the parents have a much better experience. Encourage browsing through the retail parts store, and the service wait time will pass quickly. Offer the businessperson a quiet work desk and they will feel more productive from being there.

The cost of dedicating 50 square feet for kids to play safely is negligible when the result is the perception of a shortened service wait and/or a prolonged buying opportunity. A Disney video and a Lego Table can become one of your best sales allies while the service customer wanders through the after market boutique or gets a peek at the new 2003s on the floor.

When a sign with an arrow pointing down a hallway is the only way to the see the parts store, it becomes a destination sales point. If I’m not buying, I’m not looking. Turning it into an After Market Boutique, with no doors and putting it right next to the showroom keep means you’ll have more browsing, more upselling by the sales staff and more profit. While you’re at it, try putting the coffee machine and popcorn popper in there too. Customers can just follow their noses!

Offering your business customers a quiet place to work, get online, read e-mails and make phone calls while their car is being fixed leads directly to more profit opportunities for the dealership. Without needing to miss work, a businessperson can come in at any time of the day – perhaps during your slow time and wait for their car. This equates to shorter service drive back-ups, fewer 6 am drop offs and more upsell opportunities. This also allows for unforeseen problems discussed on the spot, not the telephone; and more on-site inventory space – no more "fixed at 10 a.m. and picked up at 6 p.m."

If there is a problem with the car, then you can show the customer personally, sell the service and perhaps at that point offer, him a loaner car while you wait for a parts delivery. Turning the negative news into a positive experience is the way to increase your profit per R.O. and CSI scores simultaneously.

The buying opportunities will also increase as they wander through the boutique, grab a cup of coffee or say hello to their sales advisor.

There are many ways to increase your sales and service volume in this industry. Providing a user friendly, customer-oriented facility is one of them. Investing in your real estate should be thought of the same way as marketing and advertising. Brand awareness and increased profit potential are vital to its success. Take financial advantage of the time that your customer spends with you. Nurture a buying environment and you’ll find that your customers will enjoy the experience of visiting your dealership. Satisfaction leads to customer loyalty. Enjoyment of a memorable buying experience leads to marketing foot soldiers that will tell their friends all about you. Then, and only then, will you be able to say, “This sale goes to the house.”

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