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How Extended Hours Create New Customers

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Every customer has a different schedule: some work the late shift, some tend to errands after work, and some simply just don’t have time to get their car repaired—despite warnings, and the overall knowledge that their vehicle is in bad shape. When it comes to servicing customers’ vehicles, it’s difficult to cater to everyone when some people are simply unable to make it into the dealership until after the doors are closed.
Situated alongside busy U.S. Route 281, Alamo Toyota of San Antonio kept its hours running until 9 p.m. in order to accommodate customers that couldn’t make it in right after the workday. But even with those extended hours, there were still customers who were left without help once the department closed for the evening.
“We definitely saw a push and a request for people who wanted to come in later than 9 p.m.,” Lorie Ramirez, business development manager at Alamo Toyota, says.
Roughly two years ago, Alamo Toyota decided to take a leap of faith and extend weekday service department hours from its previous schedule of 7a.m.–9 p.m. to 7 a.m.–midnight.

“It was actually a big debate on whether or not we should stay open until midnight,” she says.  “[The change occured] mainly [to accommodate] people who work late and get off between the hours of 5–6 p.m. and not being able to come in.”
Ramirez discusses how the service department navigated the service hour change by adjusting shift hours, determining procedure guidelines, and by creating a place of solitude for a younger, night-owl generation.


Creating the Night Team
After deciding to push for additional hours in the service department, the shop’s schedule changed in order to create new shifts for the crew.
Although the dealership as a whole hasn’t strayed from closing at 9 p.m., the service department now stays open until midnight with a crew includes 12 staff members, she says. The midnight crew’s shift is 3 p.m.–midnight.
“We don’t really have a large midnight team because it’s not as busy as it used to be when we first started staying open until midnight,” she says.

All positions are accessible during the midnight hours: cashiers, service advisors, technicians, appointment setters, and a shuttle driver. By creating a night team, staff members are able to work together comfortably and rely on each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

Takeaway: Hire team members that are comfortable working a non-traditional schedule.

Preparing for Walk-Ins
Although each evening might bring in a different amount of customers, having a customer cut-off time ensures that your crew can leave at the end of their shift or a few minutes after. According to Ramirez, the dealership tries to make sure that staff members don’t stay longer at the end of the night due to a last-minute customer.

“Everybody likes to leave at midnight,” she says. “We try to make sure that we don’t have customers rolling in at 11:30 or 11:45 to make everybody stay a little bit longer; for scheduling, we do take our last appointment at 10 p.m., which buys our staff enough time to get [vehicles] done within an hour or hour-and-a-half timeframe. Our shuttle driver does stop shuttling at 8:30–9 p.m.”
Depending on the season, walk-ins and appointments in the evening vary, Ramirez says.

“On a daily, per night, I would say between 7–12 appointments per night,” she says. “That does not include people who just walk in, because we do accept walk-ins also.

“Typically our volume goes up when there’s no school, so school holidays, summer, spring break.”

Takeaway: Create a set schedule so employees won’t have to stay longer than his or her shift.


Welcoming a New Demographic
Since extending service hours, Alamo Toyota has seen a shift in which type of customers come into the department in the morning versus evening.

“I would definitely say that our morning a.m. crowd is all of the seniors and early birds and toward the night, it’s more younger college kids and middle-aged women,” Ramirez says. “It was definitely beneficial for the younger crowd and people who didn’t have time to get stuff done during the day, it’s very accommodating for them at night.”

While a younger crowd generally tends to come later at night, Ramirez says it’s important to reiterate the service departments’ late hours to all customers during phone calls.

“We do keep track of service history and if I made the call to a customer and I see that the last three times that they came in were with the service advisor at night, then I for sure know that they’re a nighttime customer,” Ramirez says. “It (extended service hours) definitely brought in other people who work off of a different highway that drove specifically over here to see us because they were due for an oil change that needed to get done that week.

“It definitely helped push a broader expansion for us to get customers outside of our limitations and regions.”

Takeaway: Pay attention to customer history when scheduling appointments in order to determine if they would be a good candidate for a later appointment.

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