Adding the WOW Factor to Your Front End

When it comes to WOW-ing your clients right off the bat, it really comes down to setting up your front end the right way. We can get into all sorts of specific ways of handling your guests during your visit, whether in the automotive industry or any other client-facing roles, but this post is just for the right set-up in your waiting area and reception area.

Amenities are critical. Every survey I’ve ever seen deployed by an auto manufacturer asks the clients how they felt regarding the amenities available to them during their visit to a service department. Most dealers and independent shops think it’s enough to have coffee and water and a place to sit; that’s not even close. Today’s clients are professionals on-the-go and require much more than a comfortable seat and a warm cup of coffee.

Instead of a basic kettle of coffee and some cream and sugar on the side, look into a more advanced coffee system. There are companies that will provide a machine that makes lattes, cappuccino, hot chocolate, and of course coffee. They’ll rent you the machine and bring the goods and keep them stocked. The companies are mostly local so do a Google search for “coffee delivery near me” and check them out. My clients were always impressed when they could tailor their drink to their tastes while they waited in the waiting room.

I’ve heard of and seen popcorn machines in quite a few waiting rooms in my day. I’ll need to defer to the comments section on this one. I think this is an awful idea. Popcorn stinks, popcorn is messy, and there’s a tremendous amount of upkeep to keep it fresh and popping for your guests. If you’re dead-set on providing a freshly made snack for your guests, why not pick up a small counter-sized oven and bake them some fresh cookies. Of course, you’ll need to keep it out of their hands to avoid any accidents, but a member of your support staff could keep it baking, much like a popcorn machine but with a way better aroma and the kind of feeling that puts a client at ease, rather than their olfactory senses keeping them in anticipation of the upcoming previews.

Beverages and snacks don’t stop there. Most luxury manufacturers will ask your clients if “premium beverages” were available during their visit. Even a fancy coffee machine doesn’t make the cut here. Invest the small amount of money it takes to stock a large refrigerator with sodas, juices, high-end waters, etc. The cost is low, so long as you keep your employees from ransacking it while you’re away, and the effect is tremendous. Clients will thank you for not having to shell out another $1.50 on a Coke from the vending machine before handing you their credit card for the repair bill.

In addition, always keep the snack baskets full and don’t skimp on the contents. Nobody is going to be impressed with value-sized packets of fruit snacks; after all, this isn’t kindergarten. Full bags of chips and cookies, large packs of crackers, various novelty snacks like biscotti, etc., are all great ideas. Just make sure you’ve got somebody in charge of keeping up. Clients walking up to an empty basket are likely to assume the business is too cheap to spend money on frills like this.

Have a business center for clients to work in? Advertise it! Don’t have one yet? Get one going right away! As we eluded to in the beginning of this article, our clients are professionals and they need a place to keep in contact with their office and get work done while you’re hammering away on their vehicles. If you have WiFi, make sure the network name and password are clearly displayed in all areas of your waiting area and reception area. If you don’t have WiFi, well, welcome to 2018. Where have you been? Get it setup, stat, and make sure your clients know you’ve invested in it to better serve them.

It would be nice to say that this is all you need to WOW your clients while they give you their time and their money, but it’s not. At this point, the things I’ve mentioned so far are expected in most dealerships and a majority of the independents. The last thing I recommend to bring it all together is “presence.” Whether it’s you or your employees, you need to ensure a constant presence in and around the waiting areas. Somebody should be regularly checking on your clients, offering them water, coffee, a snack, and proactively checking in on them and offering status updates on their vehicle. This might be enough to tip the scales in your favor and have your clients leaving with the feeling that you really care about how they spent their time in your facility. 

Any other ideas for a sound waiting room approach? Leave them in the comments below and join the discussion!

Thanks for stopping by, and good luck out there!

-Christopher Smith



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Christopher Smith

Christopher Smith is an experienced Automotive Management Professional with over 13 years in the Automotive Dealership industry. He created this blog to share advice, tips, and tricks to running a profitable and client-services-oriented front-end in an Automotive Service Department.

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