CommentaryApr 23rd, 2020

Service Waiters: The Overlooked Audience


When I enter a new showroom for the first time, it’s never long before I make my way over to the service waiting area. You can tell a lot about a dealership by their service waiting area, and I get a kick out of most of them. I remember the old school waiting areas that flaunted a circle of plastic chairs around a small television, and a table off to the side with an old coffeepot and a can of powdered creamer. In recent years, the focus shifted more toward the customer experience, and dealers took that to mean bigger televisions and newer coffeepots with liquid creamers.

Today, in some of the more modern stores, you’ll see grand waiting areas, with rows of cushy seats and multiple large-screen televisions. Some boast floor-to-ceiling fireplaces or bakery-cafes, and others are strewn with arcade games or pool tables, and there are all different types of liquid creamers. Still, the surveys and online reviews detail the disconnect between you and your service waiter, the overlooked audience. Here are a couple of ideas to better cater to your service waiter….

Educate Them

Instead of running Forrest Gump on a loop, why not educate them on your store. After all, these are your customers, the people most likely to patronize your store both today and down the road. Isn’t there something you’d like to tell them or show them? I was talking with a GM last year who used the waiting area television to educate their customers with the factory’s new (and relatively complicated) connected audio system. They got a few sales reps together and made a video demonstrating the audio system, and they bookended it with the manufacturer’s how-to videos.

They ran it on one of their televisions every two hours, and he remarked how effective it was in keeping their attention: “like my kid watching Paw Patrol!” Use this time to provide additional value. Create short videos or slideshows with newsletter-type topics. If content isn’t your thing, you can even run the OEM’s Youtube channel. It’s better than watching paint peel around daytime TV.

Survey Them

Launching a new campaign? Want to test out a new branding message? Companies spend thousands of dollars on product surveys and think tanks. Yet, your fixed ops herds in a new focus group of paying waiters every day. What better opportunity to get some feedback than to poll these customers. Put a survey in front of them, or give them a survey link so they can use their phones. Ask them what services and products they like and which ones they may dislike. Show them a series of potential promotions and ask which ones are compelling. Give them a choice of offers and ask which ones they’d redeem first. Customers are more likely to remain loyal if they feel vested in your business. I know a five-star dealer who won’t create a brand logo without polling their database first. 

Free Them

If these ideas seem like too much work, you probably still use powered creamer. Seriously, if engaging them isn’t your thing, then maybe ejecting them is. I’ve dealers utilizing rideshares like Lyft to shuttle customers in and out of the store and alleviate the waiter burden. A $14 round trip ride could prove to return hundreds or even thousands over the life of a happy customer. If your store is near a shopping plaza or attraction, a shuttle is a great way to keep your customers busy while their baby is in the bay. I also see more dealers incorporating pickup and delivery services, which is more interesting.

Regardless, the next time you see a service customer whistling around the cashier or sleeping in a chair, give some thought to the overlooked audience.

Authored by

Joel Gordon

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