The collision of customer expectations and a changing service landscape means a fast-paced trend is sweeping dealer shops. With the improving quality of vehicles, it’s becoming more difficult for dealers to expect added revenues from warranty repair. As a result, many vehicle manufacturers recommend express service programs as new-revenue and customer-retention opportunities for dealers. Hundreds of dealers have responded by building express service facilities or dedicating lanes in their existing service departments. Even dealerships without specific quick service lanes are looking for ways to improve bay productivity and profitability, as well as customer satisfaction, by providing faster service.
We recently surveyed a group of service professionals about their experiences and plans for express service at their dealerships. Of the 379 fixed ops directors, service directors, parts directors, general managers and owners who completed the survey:
- 48 percent reported their operations currently include quick service/express lanes
- Of those respondents who don’t offer express service, 45 percent said they plan to add it within the next one to five years
- 9 percent of those who reported they don’t plan to add express service lanes said they are already using regular service lanes to perform express service
The numbers show quick service is growing in popularity and worth considering. As with any shift in business practices, though, this one brings its own set of challenges. But that shouldn’t keep you from hopping on board. Here’s a look at the benefits, the challenges and the automotive lift solutions surrounding this trend.
Benefits of Express/Fast Service
The customer is (almost) always right, and these days, they want faster service. Quick service lanes let shops meet that demand. Not surprisingly, 33 percent of survey participants cited customer retention as the biggest value of express service. Another 22 percent said express service has improved customer satisfaction. “Customers love the fast service, OEM parts and trained techs,” said one dealer.
Another significant benefit of these express lanes is the opportunity to upsell additional services and parts. “We perform a multi-point inspection, which has helped us upsell additional work,” wrote one survey participant. At the same time, several people noted that the selling environment is more relaxed in their quick service lanes. “I think customers feel less pressured about purchasing additional work this way,” one participant said. “It is still presented, but it seems to give them peace of mind, as they are only waiting and do not feel pressured to purchase more than they came in for.”
Finally, 11 percent rated increased service volume as the top value of express service. “It gets vehicles in and out of the dealership faster without taking up any parking,” wrote one respondent. “We service approximately 130 vehicles a day with less than 60 parking spots.”
Of course, with these clear benefits come a few growing pains.
The promise of speedy service inevitably means mechanics feel the time crunch. According to the survey, the single biggest challenge dealerships face with express service is completing the task at hand plus additional inspections within the allotted time. Each vehicle that comes into the express lane has a deadline attached – if a dealership promises a 30-minute oil change, the customer expects that vehicle back in 30 minutes ... or faster. That means that technicians have less than 30 minutes to get the keys, set up the vehicle in the bay, perform the service and return the vehicle to the customer. That doesn’t leave a lot of time to inspect the vehicle for other service needs.
Considering that 32 percent of those surveyed said the single biggest opportunity they see for express lanes is the chance to upsell additional service, being able to conduct a thorough multi-point inspection while also completing the original task in the allotted time is key to success. Fortunately, choosing the right equipment and following best practices can help you do both.
Built for Speed
There are several steps fixed ops directors can take to maximize bay productivity and profitability, both in express service lanes and standard bays. The first step is to develop a process, perhaps even including a checklist, and training service advisors and technicians to follow it every time. Some of the OEMs provide their dealers with recommended processes, including times calculated down to the second. Equipment choice also plays a significant role, which is why many OEMs recommend specific equipment in their programs.
Automotive lifts are an important piece of the puzzle. As the centerpiece of the service bay, vehicle lifts are used more often than any other shop equipment, and it can take even an experienced technician a few minutes to properly position a vehicle on the lift and then raise it. If it’s a competitor’s model that the dealership doesn’t handle often, spotting the vehicle can take even longer. Every minute the technician spends just getting the vehicle set up cuts into the time he or she has to actually service and inspect it.
Recognizing this, Rotary Lift invented ways to speed up the process:
• A new laser spotting system makes it faster and easier to get the vehicle positioned right the first time. A green laser shoots down the center of the bay and onto the vehicle’s hood and dash. When the vehicle is centered on the line, the car is where it needs to be for a quick lift.
• Lifting times are going down. These inground and surface two-post lifts make it possible to lift a vehicle in just 25 seconds and have it back on the ground in 19 seconds – twice as fast as any other lift. The new lifts save 55 seconds per up/down cycle, providing technicians with additional time to complete service and inspections, plus work on other vehicles. One of these new lifts in a single bay can save an hour a week, which is enough time to handle an additional project or two every week.
• Drive-on lifts have been updated. A new type of four post lift provides faster rise/descent speed and now with an improved hydraulic and mechanical lifting system. It can be a more productive choice for alignment bays or fast service bays where a drive-on lift is preferred.
Fast service can help dealers build long-term, satisfied customers. It requires some effort to set yourself up for success in this new arena: You’ll need planning, dedication and the right equipment to get the job done, but the payoffs in customer satisfaction and overall productivity will definitely pay off.