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Service Managers Can Learn A Thing Or Two From Grocery Stores In Appealing To Woman Customers

Inexpensive outreach in these six areas can make a huge difference in transforming your service drive to a destination. BY ANNE FLEMING

shutterstock_212596930What do grocery stores and dealership service drives have in common? They both provide tremendous opportunities to engage women customers by providing comfort and convenience features.

The better and smarter grocery stores engage their customers with extra services for a one-stop, time-saving experience that goes beyond just shopping for food. Examples are cafes, in-store banks, and mailing and dry cleaning services. Automotive service centers are the perfect place to imitate this concept, since customers have only two choices while their car is being serviced: Wait, or leave and return.

So, what additions can your dealership make to its service center to provide extra convenience for your women customers and improve customer retention? There are plenty of ways to provide engaging and unexpected services that let your women customers know they are important. Following are several possibilities to consider.

Beyond Coffee Machines

In today’s service industries, it should be obvious that the old coffee machine just isn’t sufficiently welcoming anymore. Single-serve coffee machines make a great impression with a wide variety of coffees and teas. Plus, bottled waters and healthier snacks for both women and children are really just the most basic place to start.

Nice refreshments are an absolute must, but great retention efforts require a bit more effort. To truly welcome and impress your women service customers, take the extra step with gourmet snacks and beverages and updated décor (think airline lounges), which go a long way toward leaving a lasting, positive impression.

Comfortable Surroundings

Most women customers’ days are filled with juggling jobs and family responsibilities, with long task lists. When they need to bring a car in for service, it is rarely a welcome event in their schedules. Your dealership, however, can do a lot to change that reaction by providing:

  • A business center. Your women customers may choose to work while they wait for their car and bring a laptop, tablet or smartphone with them. Designate a semi-private area where they can work in quiet (complete with electrical outlets and phone chargers) and catch up on tasks while away from the office.
  • More quiet spaces. Also consider adding a room where they can relax, away from the noise that accompanies a service area. Include comfortable chairs, yoga mats and exercise balls. This mini-workout room can provide what a woman needs to relax and unwind, and costs very little to implement.
  • Special services. For example, invite a local massage therapist to give 15-minute chair massages. This is a win-win for the therapist and your dealership. Your customer gets to relax, and the therapist has an opportunity to build her client list.

Or, bring in a manicurist. This is another surprisingly easy-to-implement personal service for women customers who could use a break from their busy days.

Added Convenience

Relaxation opportunities are great, but your woman customer may opt instead to multi-task while her car is being serviced. Most of our schedules include more tasks than the day will allow, so you don’t want your customer to feel stuck at the dealership and unproductive, even if it is just for a few hours. Here are some suggestions:

  • Offer a loaner car for a woman customer to use during the service time. She can run errands and work through her day’s task list, and your dealership has risen to the top of her “wow” list. A courtesy vehicle should also be an option, if she is going to return to work or go home.
  • Wash her car. Vacuum the interior and return the car looking shiny and spotless. She will take one look and think, “One less thing to do. Thank you!”

Educate The Customer While She Waits

Don’t overlook the opportunity to educate your customers while they waiting outside your service drive. There are always questions to be answered about what kinds of services are needed and when. An educated customer is more likely to adhere to service schedules and not complain about costs of service.

These topics can be delivered in a short class, video, seminar or customized sales brochure. Your dealership can provide access to a personal computer with links to on-demand videos that are pertinent to a customer’s visit. These videos could also be available on your website to prepare a customer for an upcoming repair. A few suggestions for educational topics include:

  • Oil changes and periodic service. Why are they necessary? How often are they needed?
  • How to select them and keep them in good shape. Why is proper inflation so important? Why do tires need to be rotated and balanced?
  • Cleaning tips. How to keep a car looking nice for as long as possible.
  • Maintenance and care. How to keep your car’s resale value as high as possible.

Other topics that could be covered in videos, classes, seminars and brochures but that don’t apply directly to auto service include: How to properly install a child safety seat, safe driving, tips for vacation safety, staying safe while driving at night, and what to do if you have an accident or a breakdown. Or, a dealership could opt for a refresher class on the latest safety and technology features in the vehicles it sells.

shutterstock_261643355Hold Special Events

A great way to help persuade women customers to bring in their vehicles for routine maintenance is to offer special events. For example, trying schedule “women’s days” on specific days of the week. On these days, offer a service discount, provide special refreshments and take the time to enhance the aesthetics of the service center. Invite a local florist to provide fresh flowers, and a local caterer or café to provide snacks.

Events like these help cement your dealership’s relationships both with your service customers and with the community.

Also, during the summer, try providing a “vacation preparation special” that will give your woman customers extra confidence that their families will be safe during the drive. Create a “vacation kit” that includes some safety items and a handy vacation service checklist.

Get The Word Out

Whatever enhancements and events you decide to add to engage your female service customers, be sure to promote them. Advertise the extra amenities on Facebook and Twitter. Run special ads in your local media that really speak to women. Definitely add to your website’s home page. For the special events, offer a “bring a friend” special that gives each of them extra service coupons. With the right advertising, one service customer can quickly become two … or more.

Ultimately, the key thing to remember when fine-tuning your service center for your women customers is that little things matter. Upgrading your coffee to a better brand really matters. Offering small, unexpected “gifts” matters. In a hectic world, offering 30 minutes of peace and quiet to a woman customer will really matter. These seemingly small touches are inexpensive and easy to put in place, and they will return benefits far beyond the cost and effort and increase client retention.

Source: Service Drive Magazine, September 2015 Issue

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