There are arguments for and against allowing customers into your service bays. In my last column, I discussed reasons to exclude people from hanging around the bays to watch technicians work on their vehicles. Here, I'll explain why revealing some service department activities may benefit your tire dealership or service shop. In my previous column, I compared automotive repairs with medical procedures. Many auto repairs and medical procedures are both necessary and routine. Yet however appropriate these repairs and procedures may be, they really aren't right for general viewing. Matter of fact, they can be very unsettling, scary stuff. Regular readers know that I don't hesitate to compare and contrast automotive service with the medical profession. Medical pros usually earn stellar money due in no small part because they charge for diagnosis. What's more, they can charge for their services because they look and act the part—simply put, they look like they're worth it. To get some additional perspective, recall the most common daily images of medical pros that you encounter. Are you more likely to see blood and guts or cleanliness, lab coats and stethoscopes? Answer that one for yourself. Now let's bring this discussion full circle, back into your bays. When you weigh the question of allowing “civilians” into or near where the work gets done on their vehicles, consider these factors. First, you have to verify that bringing customers into the bays does not create any needless liability issues for the company. I'm no insurance ace—don't pretend to be. Those potential issues are yours to resolve. In my travels around the country, I have seen service departments with fenced-off areas where customers can supposedly watch the action safely. Yes, if I did admit people to the bays, I'd prefer to corral them at some reasonably safe distance from the work. No, I don't know whether insurers would nix this arrangement. Second, if I really wanted to show off my service department, I would scrub and pressure wash it front to back, top to bottom. Then I'd have it professionally painted. Likely, I would put an attractive, darker color on the bottom five feet or so of the walls. But the rest of the walls—up to the ceilings—would be white. Where necessary, I'd also add high-efficiency lighting. Let's suppose that you did invest in cleaning and painting. Those improvements will be wasted if your foreman and/or managers cannot convince technicians to keep the place clean. There are very talented workers out there who would rather change jobs than keep their work area reasonably clean. It's fine for a tech to move like a dervish all day. But eventually, he or she has to do the required housekeeping. To me, “opening up” the bays for customer viewing would put extra pressure on the staff to be well-groomed and to change uniforms more often. Third, I'd really prefer to keep people safely inside the comfort of a customer lounge. If I wanted them to see the activity in the bays, I'd install the appropriate windows along one side of the customer waiting area. There would be tasteful curtains or blinds that the staff could close easily whenever necessary. Plus, I would have phones in the waiting area from which customers could speak to “their” technicians. Last but not least, I'd prefer to do what I've seen some service shops do. That is, the only thing customers could watch from the waiting lounge would be a squeaky-clean diagnostic bay. This is a bay in which a top tech—in a lab coat—performs the highest levels of diagnosis with the expensive, higher-tech scanners, meters, oscilloscopes and other testers. This would ensure that the only firsthand image they get is one of an automotive doctor at his professional best. The crisp, clean lab coat would telegraph the aura of a professional. Meanwhile, the high-tech instruments and testers would convey the level of sophistication required to diagnose and repair today's vehicles. These kinds of images suggest you're worth what you charge.
Reasons to allow customers into bays
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