WACO, TexasWaco Honda dealer Greg May was desperate to serve more service customers, realizing he had no room left, we had to grow.
The owner of Greg May Honda in Waco said he was to the point that we had to turn customers away and tell them it might be two, three days or even a week before we could get to them.
So he decided to follow American Honda Motor Co.'s advice and add service bays and make other improvements to his dealership's service department. American Honda has been asking Honda and Acura dealers since last summer to add service bays, hours or both by 2018 to accommodate the auto maker's forecast of rising sales.
When he saw the sizable amount of revenue he was missing, Mr. May took the plunge.
He spent about $500,000 on various improvements, including five quick-service bays and additional parking. He also bought restaurant-style buzzers to alert customers when service on their cars was done, purchased tablets for his service advisers and paid for other upgrades. The improvements were completed last September. That month, his gross profit in service was $101,000 compared with $83,000 a year earlier.
The dealership's customer-pay repair orders increased by 9 percent to 2,152 during September through November compared with the same period the previous year. Its customer satisfaction scores jumped 4 percentage points from September through November compared with the 2013 period, Mr. May said.
If that success continues through the next few months, he plans to make similar improvements at his Chevrolet store in West, Texas, calling it a wise investmentcustomers want everything now, quick, quick, quick and convenient, and 'get me in and get me out.' Everything we've done has been to move us toward that objective.
Mr. May spent about $350,000 to build a five-bay service building strictly for jobs such as oil changes and tire rotations that are expected to take about 30 minutes. It is behind his existing service department and includes a parts storage area and two wash bays for detailing cars. He said he hired three service technicians to staff it.
All service customers come to the main service drop-off area. Their cars are then taken to either the express service facility, Mr. May said, or the regular service area. That means service advisers need to greet customers and make quick assessments. So Mr. May spent about $1,000 each on tablets for his three service advisers.
Tablet in hand, an adviser does a vehicle inspection and reviews the job with the customer. Mr. May said the customer signs the tablet so the job can get started faster without waiting to sign a printout, noting, When the customer gets out of the car and their foot hits the concrete, that's when the 30 minutes starts for them.
To make customers feel special and give them some freedom, he also spent about $1,000 on 15 pagerswhat he calls restaurant buzzersthat are handed to customers. The devices work all over the lot. Mr. May said patrons are told, You can go look at cars, go watch TV or whatever you want, and that will go off when the car is ready to go. They think it's a really neat deal and not something you see everywhere they go.
He also installed air hoses and battery-check machines in the drop-off service area to help staffers resolve small issuessuch as tire inflationimmediately to keep the cars moving through the system. The thing people hate to see the most is to drive up and see that long line of people waiting to get in, Mr. May said. We used to see people who'd drive in, see the line and circle around and go back out. We don't see that now.
Finally, he paved an acre of land he owned surrounding his dealership so he could add 45 employee parking spots, 10 spots for service customers and 100 for vehicle inventory, in part to give service customers better access to the service department.
American Honda pressed dealers such as Mr. May to expand their service departments because it wants its dealers to be more competitive with independent service shops.
Since completing his upgrades, Mr. May said he has become a Honda Express Service Certified dealer for quick service jobs. With the added five quick-lane service bays, now 95 percent of the time he can service a customer immediately and finish the job in 30 to 45 minutes.
You finally got to the point of hating to hear your customers being turned away, he said. When I realized I couldn't get to my customers for two to three days, that's when it hit me that I had to get this done.
This report appeared in Automotive News, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.