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Repair Shop Advice

Three Ways to Enhance Your Waiting Room Experience

June 22, 2018

Your waiting room is the public face of your shop.  Just as the condition of your shop floor indicates how much you care about your mechanics or the vehicles you service, the condition of your waiting room indicates how much you care about your customers.  And you always want to care more about your customers than their vehicles.

This might seem counter-intuitive – you probably spend a lot of time talking about fixing customers’ cars, and very little about fixing their lives. But as a service provider, an auto repair shop’s most important job is to improve the customer’s life – it just so happens that maintaining and repairing cars is a huge part of how shops improve lives.

If you don’t believe this, answer this question.  Which shop is going to earn a better review: the one who is rude and demeaning to the customer but fixes the vehicle, or the one who makes a mistake on the repair but apologizes profusely and goes way out of the their way to make the customer happy?  The second one wins every time.

Your waiting area is going to be the environment customers are in when you ask them for a review and send them a link to their email or smartphone to complete.  What can you provide in that environment that will really help you stand out from the rest of the independent auto repair shops in the area?  Here are three ideas:

Food or drinks through a local business partnership

If you have a local bakery or sweet shop nearby, offer their snacks in your waiting area.  If you have a coffee or tea shop nearby, offer their blends in a hot drink area stocked with cream, sugar, and a nice coffee or teapot.  The business providing the snacks will likely appreciate the opportunity to advertise their goods as much as they enjoy your business, and you may be able to negotiate a significant discount for daily deliveries.  Customers will be surprised to find high-quality snacks in the waiting room.

A comfortable place to get some work done

Most auto repair shop waiting rooms have a TV, some chairs, and maybe some magazines.  But these days, most people are going to be glued to a screen of their own while they’re in your waiting room – either their laptop or their cell phone.  What they really need to do is to get some work done in a comfortable environment.  If you can provide comfortable, wide seats, WiFi access, and an environment that isn’t excessively loud, you’ll earn more goodwill than the best cable package or magazine subscriptions could ever get you.

Great Communication

Inside every waiting area is a service writer – the person responsible for the customer relationship.  That person needs, at a minimum, the same level of customer service skills as you’d expect from a waiter at a nice restaurant.  They should focus on the customer when talking with them.  They should get an understanding of what the customer wants – the services to be performed, and the expected timeline – and quickly let the customer know if anything is going to impact the shop’s ability to meet those needs, even if it’s just an extra 10 minutes.  They should also be able to determine whether the customer wants something or is content being left alone, and interact with them accordingly.

If this seems easy, it isn’t – especially at a busy shop.  In addition to taking care of customers in the lobby, a service writer is also taking phone calls, relaying information from technicians to customers, scheduling part deliveries, and handling whoever comes through the front door.  A service writer that can juggle all of this while convincing customers that they truly care about their experience is a very talented one, indeed.

Does Your Shop Pass the Test?

Of course, it’s difficult to be price competitive and offer every possible waiting room perk.  The main question is, when your customer receives that request for a review while you’re handing back their keys, and they’re still in your waiting area, does anything they’ve experienced prompt them to leave an especially positive review?  If so, your waiting room has accomplished its objective – improving the customer experience!

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