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Tackling Customer Wait Times in Fixed Ops

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Tackling Customer Wait Times in Fixed Ops

The Road to Swift Service

“Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.” – Theophrastus

Car maintenance and repairs shouldn’t break the bank, but in today’s economic landscape, even routine maintenance tasks like an oil change can feel like a financial strain on your customers’ monthly budgets. The real challenge, however, extends beyond mere monetary costs – it’s the invaluable commodity of time.

In the hustle and bustle of daily life, finding a window for basic car maintenance becomes a formidable obstacle for your busy customers. This is especially true for those juggling multiple responsibilities after a hectic workday. Imagine the frustration of being without a vehicle because a dealership can’t accommodate you immediately or lacks the necessary parts for a repair, causing a ripple effect on your customers’ financial well-being. It’s not just about the dollars spent; it’s the immeasurable impact on their precious time and overall convenience.

Customer Wait Times in Fixed Ops

Navigating the Complex Landscape of Customer Wait Times

While dealerships can’t prevent all hurdles that cause lengthy or delayed repairs, it’s important to address any of the areas that will keep these delays to a minimum. When the delay can’t be avoided, communication must be on point to encourage customer understanding and patience. Here are some things to consider for improved wait times and the overall service customer experience.

Identifying the Root Causes

It can be difficult to narrow lagging repairs down to a glaring cause, as multiple issues are typically in play. Fixed ops leaders must be willing to consistently audit their processes and evaluate their teams to identify areas for improvement.

In addition to making your own observations, many dealerships can lean on data collected in their manufacturer’s customer satisfaction (CSI) surveys to find where their opportunities are. These surveys often measure wait times dropping off, wait times picking up, and total completion time.

Increased Vehicle Complexity

Manufacturers continue to increase the complexity of vehicle design, and in doing so, are making them more difficult to repair. A Wired.com article points out that ”each vehicle is now studded with sensors, packed with hundreds or thousands of computer chips, and controlled by software.”

While the resulting product might benefit vehicle sales, the unintended consequences of computerized cars are taking a toll on service departments. Repairing these complicated vehicles requires greater expertise that is pricy to attain, and many repairs take much longer to complete even with adequate knowledge. Dealerships should invest in ongoing technician training to keep up with the latest advancements in vehicle technology. The more skilled a team is, the easier it’ll be to provide the most efficient repairs.

Staffing Shortages

Most dealerships are no strangers to staffing shortages and are well aware that a low technician headcount can lead to longer customer wait times. The question is, what is actively being done to recruit and keep talented techs? At TVI MarketPro3, we discussed this topic at length with many of our dealer partners. The interviews covered the challenges of staffing shortages and the many different ideas these fixed ops pros implemented to solve the problem. A few highlights include: partnering with schools to recruit and grow techs immediately upon graduation, mentorship programs, and creating a clear and transparent path to career success.

Inefficient Workflow

Chick-fil-A is known for being one of the most efficient fast-food restaurants in the country, and that’s no accident. The method to their magic includes training, technology, drive-through design, and planning. Focusing on each of these pillars for your service drive will create a more efficient workflow, but planning is imperative to true improvement. Chick-fil-A even has its own innovation center based in Atlanta, from which it can test and implement innovations to help it combat problems.

Dealership leaders can create similar innovation systems by implementing the following steps:

  1. Observe: Fixed operations managers and service directors should have designated times to watch their processes and players and take notes on any points that seem to lag.
  2. Determine Causation: Find the cause of any issues impacting efficiency. Was it an issue with equipment access, or was it a team member who wasn’t confident enough for a specific repair?
  3. Gameplan: Discuss with the team possible ways to prevent the slowdown going forward.
  4. Practice: Carve out time to run through the new process multiple times with all team members. 

All of the above actions take time that fixed ops leaders simply don’t have if they aren’t intentional. Whether it’s once per week or per month, taking the time to assess the service drive’s situation is the only way to overcome these challenges.

Communication is Key

Even when dealer leaders do all they can to create efficient processes, there will still be surprise hurdles that will slow things down. In this case, the focus should be fixing the problem as quickly as possible and communicating with the customer. There are a couple of ways to ensure communication is easy and accurate.

Setting Realistic Expectations

Service advisors need to give the most accurate service time estimates possible. There are software programs that help service departments produce accurate labor times on maintenance or repair jobs. Something like this would be a good technological investment. But even with the best predictions, the unexpected will still happen, and when it does, clear communication channels are a must.

Leveraging Technology

Communication is much quicker and easier with text and email capabilities. Service advisors are able to keep the customer in the loop throughout the repair process. There are also online service status trackers that keep the customer apprised, much like pizza ordering apps. This is a more automated system that takes care of the updates for you. Frequent and consistent communication using these tools prevents undue frustration and worry. It also allows the customer to make accommodations around the absence of their vehicle. 

Customer Comfort

Oftentimes, a customer without alternative transportation will be forced to wait at the dealership. Imagine if you could change the word “forced” to “get.” You can! Dealerships have the ability to change the hours-long wait at a dealership from an inconvenience to an opportunity. 

Transportation Uninterrupted

Transportation provisions are the ultimate way to ensure a service customer’s day isn’t thrown too far off track by car repair or maintenance. However, events over the past few years have decreased the number of available loaner cars. While this situation slowly improves, dealerships still face the challenge of providing temporary transportation for their service customers. Some dealers have even added restrictions on what repairs qualify for loaners. Shuttle services and rideshare vouchers are helpful but not always available to every dealer. When rides are not available, the dealer has one option.

Comfort and Amenities

Make the customer’s stay as welcoming as possible. Give your customers the opportunity to enjoy your coffee bar, fully stocked with coffee brewed to perfection and a variety of sweeteners and creamers. Did the customer miss out on their Starbucks run? Not a problem. You even have pastries in case they need a little something to hold them over.

Have a seat in the comfortable lounge, equipped with tables and Wi-Fi, so they can crack open their laptop and get some work done. Some dealership lounges even offer barbers, manicures, massages, putting greens, and cardio machines. Think outside the box!

Digital Access

Whether your customer needs to work or just needs to unwind while waiting, your lobby’s digital game needs to be up to speed with easily accessible, complimentary Wi-Fi, phone charging ports, and outlets for laptops and other devices. These relatively inexpensive conveniences make the car repair process a lot easier to stomach for busy clients.

Awareness

Having these luxuries makes no difference if you don’t consistently promote them at every opportunity. Show your customer the experience by including pictures of your waiting room on your mail pieces and email promotions. Tell them about the amenities as you schedule their next service, and ensure your website and online scheduler paint the picture as well. These reminders need to be integrated into all communication so your customers can envision a positive experience if they have the privilege of spending their day with you. Do you see the spin?

Steering Towards Success

Minimizing customer wait times not only enhances customer satisfaction but also gives a competitive advantage within the uniquely challenging landscape of the fixed operations industry. By efficiently managing service timelines, fixed operations leaders position their dealerships for success and customer loyalty. This commitment to streamlined processes not only addresses immediate concerns but sets the stage for an improved customer experience in the future. As fixed operations leaders navigate this problem-solving path, they pave the way for continued success and prosperity for both their teams and the entire dealership.

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