To most customers, service centers are more or less all the same. When it comes time for a tire rotation or an oil change or a brake replacement, their decision is made between a number of shops that are, ultimately, direct substitutions of one another. And that “sameness” is often shared when it comes to the unpleasant waiting area customers have come to expect.
Unlike the doctor’s office or DMV, both of which also have fairly gruesome waiting areas, there’s no “insurance policy” or “legal obligation” reason for customers to select one service center over its competitor. Sure, they’ll choose one that’s convenient. And a coupon may sway some. (My dad, conversely – like many who grew up during the his time – wants to feel reassured that his vehicle is being treated respectfully.)
Perhaps my dad aside, at the end of the day, what most customers really want is for this hour their day – of their lives – to be spent in a space a little more humanizing. Whether it’s the charisma in the customer service dialogue or the appeal of the environment, there’s a lot of opportunity to offer a more palatable experience – and, in doing so, differentiate yourself from otherwise highly-substituted alternatives.
The solution involves more than complimentary coffee and ragtag magazines pertaining to an industry that, to be blunt, matters very little to customers beyond this hour. Give them a space that preserves their innate human-ness; that caters to their basic needs. Nobody wants to be made to feel that they’re merely a car-key and another buck.
Offer them real chairs. And real magazines. Paint the walls a color other than putty, and empower your employees to speak to them as something more than strangers. Let them amuse themselves: a putt-putt hole or trivia. (And, for those of you already doing it, continue handling the vehicles like they are your own. This means the entire world to my dad.)
Make it an hour your customers enjoy, and they’ll start to look forward to spending it in your shop over anybody else’s.