Do you provide coffee in the customer lounge of your tire dealership? If so, offer the beverage proudly and professionally or don't offer it at all! Like it or not, the little coffee station you set up speaks volumes about you and your business, so make the most of this overlooked opportunity to impress customers with added value.
Coffee won't make or break a business. But a neat, clean coffee station is one of those small but classy details that distinguish an exceptional business from a mediocre one.
On the other hand, a coffee station that has undrinkable coffee or looks like an eyesore is just another black mark on your dealership's overall image—along with the damage a dirty restroom or an inhospitable customer lounge can do.
Offering good coffee is timely because it ties your dealership into the ongoing consumer coffee craze.
If you don't think coffee's big today, review the growth of an outfit such as Starbuck's which, until not long ago, was hardly known outside the Pacific Northwest. Today, it's almost a household name.
In previous columns I have urged tire dealers to recognize that they're basic retailers. Therefore they should glean good marketing ideas from the best retailers around them. In my travels, I'm seeing more and more retail shops, boutiques and stores (especially upscale ones) offering coffee to weary, harried shoppers.
I've carped before about dirty, poorly maintained loaner cars that detract from a service shop's image. A loaner car need not be a Lexus, but it certainly must be clean, neat and reliable. Similarly, the little coffee stop in your waiting area need not serve trendy gourmet coffee. But it should have decent coffee and must be kept immaculately clean.
Many owners and managers worked their way from the service bays into the front office. That may explain why so many coffee stations I see in waiting lounges look grotesque—the boss treats it as if it's something in the back shop that consumers cannot see nor care to see.
Workers may gripe that keeping the coffee station clean and tidy is a major nuisance. But if you're serious about your dealership's role as a competitive retailer, you should realize there's never a substitute for cleanliness in every area of the business.
Spills and tabletop coffee rings are an unavoidable byproduct of offering beverages. Front-line service personnel should periodically patrol the coffee station for spills and sticky rings.
Keep a wastebasket next to the coffee station and empty it before it fills up. Put a plastic liner bag in it or wash it out periodically so it doesn't smell or become an eyesore itself.
Setting out real coffee mugs is a decidedly classy, upscale touch. However, you must keep the mugs squeaky-clean and that's additional work some employees loathe doing. But there's nothing more disgusting than finding unknown organisms growing inside a mug.
To minimize maintenance and worker input, some businesses have invested in fully automated coffee makers that brew individual cups to the customer's preference.
Identify a space under or near the coffee table where customers can leave a used mug so the dirty mugs are separate from the clean ones. Replace any chipped or cracked mugs promptly.
Consumers don't expect to get a good cup of coffee at an automotive service shop. So, offering a brand-name coffee (regular and decaf) brewed at the proper strength may enable you to pleasantly exceed customers' expectations—and that's what good business is all about. A good cup of java connects with people deep inside because it telegraphs that you're a good host who cares about his guests.
What's more, the aroma of good coffee helps create a positive selling environment. Savvy realtors say a good aroma coming from the kitchen makes any house more appealing.
However, inexpensive and/or weak coffee usually conveys the opposite impression: You're cheap and/or you don't care about your customers. Some bosses say people don't know the difference, but I disagree. Just ask a coffee drinker!
Some airlines boast about the fact they serve nothing but Starbuck's coffee. Horizon, a regional airline that primarily serves the Pacific Northwest, always has Starbuck's available in the waiting areas near each airport gate.
Consider the market your tire store serves. If it's an upscale, higher-income area, serving a marquee name brand at your coffee station may be the only appropriate choice.