This is Part 1 in a two-part article.
Years ago, I recall a conversation with a Service Manager about starting a Quick Lube Department. His thought was that if he could have a department that was focused on light maintenance, he could offer his customers quick, convenient, competitively priced services that would keep them from defecting to the aftermarket. It was a great idea in theory but unfortunately, there were unforeseen challenges.
The store was averaging 25 oil changes per day and their customers were waiting over 2 hours for services to be completed. The Manager’s plan involved hiring one designated Quick Lube Technician, a new advertising campaign, and lowering pricing. The tag lines of the campaigns were “No appointment necessary” and “30 minutes or less”. Pricing was also lowered from $24.95 to $19.95. From my standpoint, these changes covered the quick, convenient, and competitively priced feedback the customers were asking for.
Offering no appointment necessary quickly boosted the car count from 25 cars per day to 40 cars per day. In an 8-hour day that’s 5 cars per hour or a car every 12 minutes (we all know the cars didn’t come in every 12 minutes). Typically, when the store opened at 8 am 6 cars would be lined up waiting for service. By the time they reached 10 am, the store was already behind. Looking back now, we can see that some of the things that were done to become quicker, more convenient, and competitively priced created the opposite effect.
By offering no appointment necessary there was no way to know what the daily intake would be. So even though the car count increased, they were unable to handle the volume. Cycle time was still over 2 hours and at points they were so backed up, they were just processing cars.
Fast forward to 2019. Our customers are still asking for quick, convenient service at competitive prices. But are we quick? Convenient? And competitively priced? And are we profitable? Part 1 of this article will discuss Appointments.
Appointments vs No Appointments
When the topic of Appointments vs No Appointments is brought up, opinions can go both ways. In this example we will take the position of appointments.
Most dealerships will have lots of reasons why they don’t offer Oil Change appointments. I usually hear things like “we always have done it this way” and “our customers don’t like to make appointments”. Then I ask these questions. “If we offered appointments, is there a value to making an appointment? If the customer is not getting preferential treatment, why should they bother making an appointment? If we expect our customers to set appointments, should there be a benefit that is significantly greater to customers without an appointment?”
Being able to plan our day is one reason we like customers to make appointments, but let’s look at appointments from the customer’s point of view. If you ask most customers (and I have) if we could provide a quick, consistent service that was reasonably priced, would they be willing to make an appointment to do so? Most customers said yes. So why do we continue to tell customers to just come in? If they would make an appointment why not offer one? Two factors I have seen are why we continue this method. First, we are afraid that if we ask customers to make appointments, they will not choose us as their preferred service provider. We fear responses like “I never needed an appointment before,” and “no one ever told me I needed an appointment.” This can be easily deescalated with some word tracks. Some examples would be “Appointments are not necessary, but we do recommend them,” or “By making an appointment we reserve a bay so your car can go right in.”
Second, if we do take appointments, we struggle to organize our work flow. We tend to sacrifice one customer for another. By not having a plan of how to dispatch appointments and work in the non-appointments, inevitably someone gets poor service. Something that works well is having dedicated appointment and non-appointment groups for light maintenance. This structure allows the shop to offer capacity for both appointments and non-appointments. The appointment group would be able to have a set work day based on appointments scheduled, including scheduled time for lunches and breaks. The non-appointment group would operate on a first-in first-out method of dispatching. Based on how many vehicles were in line, the groups could communicate estimated wait times to the Advisors. This would allow the Advisors the opportunity to give the non-appointment customer information that would allow them to decide if they wanted to wait.
Considering how we can set an appointment with an app on our phones for just about anything, it makes one wonder why the car business is still divided on this subject. In my opinion we cannot see how to make both methods work and therefore we will have upset customers. But I ask you to look at how not doing a good job with either method not only upsets your customers, but your employees and profits, as well.
This is just a small part of what M5 Management Services is involved in every day. Our company helps dealerships by being involved in not just offering solutions but by working alongside your team to improve the process. You can contact me at 727-946-7731 or markguido@M5Ms.com.