Good customer service prioritizes the customer’s needs. For Brett Beachler, vice president of Beachler’s Vehicle Care & Repair, this means saying “yes” to his “A Customers”—repeat customers who bring substantial revenue—when possible, even if they don’t have an appointment.
Easier said than done for a shop in a high traffic location in Peoria, Ill., that sees 850 vehicles per month and earned more than $2.5 million in 2021. But, through trial and error, Beachler has found a way to accommodate walk-ins by his A Customers while keeping his staff and scheduled customers happy.
A full waiting room isn’t conducive to Beachler’s vision of a well-run shop. “Chaos causes me stress,” Beachler says. That said, not every job can be scheduled months in advance. As with any business, unforeseen circumstances can cause disruptions to a well-managed appointment schedule, such as breaking down on the way to work. In those situations, Beachler gives priority to his best customers.
“I want to be able to handle our A customers all day long,” Beachler says. “One of them has brakes grinding, they take precedence.”
Beachler has always had this mentality but didn’t always have the right system in place. Walk-ins have always been welcome. Beachler has a rule that his staff never asks, “Do you have an appointment?” because it tends to make people feel bad, something he never wants to do. For a while, his strategy for accommodating walk-ins was to block out a morning appointment and an appointment right after lunch each day for these customers, but it wasn’t working out as seamlessly as he would have liked.
“It adds one more person to your waiting area and we’re trying to get work done,” Beachler says. “We’d have two, three, four breakdowns over the weekend … how do you handle that?”
Scheduling jobs three to four weeks out leaves little room for walk-ins, but Beachler has found a system that works for him.
Instead of scheduling time out each day, Beachler’s Vehicle Care & Repair no longer schedules work on Mondays. That day is now dedicated to helping customers who run into unforeseen circumstances and need to come in earlier than their next scheduled visit.
In order to make this work, Beachler says it's important to try as much as possible to schedule maintenance work with customers before it’s needed. When a customer comes in, for example, he trains his staff to do everything in their power to get the next appointment in the books. That way, walk-in customers are truly those who have run into an out-of-the-ordinary issue and not customers who have missed maintenance appointments and had a part fail because of it. Beachler says he’s lucky to have a customer base who plans ahead and schedules far in advance.
Obviously not every walk-in customer will come in on a Monday, so flexibility is key. Beachler says his staff always asks if the customer is able to leave the vehicle for a few days. If they can, the shop calls a ride-sharing service to take them where they need to go and Beachler gets to the job when the next available slot becomes open, whether on Monday or if a customer cancels. If the customer can’t wait, Beachler says he’ll call customers who may have a scheduled maintenance appointment that day or the next and explain the situation to see if they mind waiting a few extra days. Many times, they don’t.
“You have to think outside the box. You have to have some agility in your schedule,” Beachler says.
Beachler says the new way of scheduling has cleared up the waiting room and that he’s absolutely seen a reduction of chaos. “It’s a more peaceful environment,” he says.
Turning away walk-in customers may be easier than finding a way to accommodate them, but down the road, Beachler says those who put customers first and go the extra mile are the ones who are going to remain successful and stay in business.