There's an old saying that speed kills, but not at VIP Discount Auto Centers Inc. in Lewiston, Maine.
More speed for this 48-store chain has resulted in higher sales, better service and reduced turnover.
But while the dealership now moves lightening fast to serve its customers, it took its time before deciding to adopt its new ``Speed Lane'' in-store service format.
If you're looking for ways to boost sales and build excitement at your dealership, consider how VIP went about creating this highly successful program.
The impetus behind Speed Lane was management's desire to reduce turnover among tire-changing personnel and to develop a higher standard for the tire installation and service process.
Instead of moving quickly to try to im-prove in these areas, management took a step back. That meant thoroughly examining the company's service operation and asking questions such as, ``What's the best way to change a tire properly?'' And they didn't just give lip-service responses; they ripped them apart.
``We locked ourselves in a room for over three weeks before we answered that question,'' said VIP owner John Quirk. ``We listed every little thing we could think of.''
The result was a complete re-working of the dealership's tire installation and vehicle inspection routines.
Now when a customer pulls into a VIP service bay, a team of automotive and tire technicians wearing headsets and uniforms resembling a NASCAR pit crew converges on the vehicle checking the turn signals, wiper blades, brake lights, belts and hoses. Next, a master tech checks the vehicle's undercarriage for problems.
Contrast this to the past when installing four tires could take 45 minutes to an hour, and the dealership often had tire techs performing safety inspections because its automotive service techs were too busy.
Today, a typical oil change, safety inspection and tire rotation at a VIP store takes less than 30 minutes, and only the highest trained personnel conduct the safety inspections.
But even though the dealership found sales jumped 22 percent at the five stores where it tested the format, it again moved slowly before expanding the program throughout the company.
First, it took five months to train nearly all of its 1,200 employees to get them on board with the concept. Then it made a hefty investment of $500,000 in new equipment and facility renovations to support the effort.
That's when the Speed Lane format took off, not only generating higher sales but cutting turnover substantially.
In today's highly competitive retail tire and automotive service climate, independent tire dealerships need an edge...any edge they can get. VIP found a way to offer customers some real VIP treatment-first by moving slowly, then giving it the gas.