Managing Walk-In Customers

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Managing Walk-In Customers
How to properly address unexpected work that’s thrown your department’s way.

Stan Burgess has noticed something about the modern service department customer: now, more than ever, their patience is in short supply.

“They look at the clock non stop while they’re in here,” says Burgess, the service manager at Bob Mayberry Hyundai in Monroe, N.C. “I mean, you’re on a timer, as soon as they hit the door.”

Because of that, Burgess knows his facility needs to schedule repairs wisely. He knows windows of time must be worked into the schedule so that his shop floor can handle unexpected elements, like walk-in customers, without devolving into a disorganized mess.

“You just have to make room for them,” Burgess says of walk-in customers, “and not exclude them or push them away, or else they’re gonna go someplace else. You just try to … make it seamless.”

Burgess—whose facility has a CSI score of 92.2 percent (or, 461 out of a possible 500)—also realizes that walk-in customers can be converted into loyal, longtime customers if Mayberry Hyundai treats them right. That’s why he tries hard never to make walk-ins feel like an inconvenience—or like they’ve been pushed to the back of the line, destined to spend two or more hours watching daytime TV in a dealership waiting area.

Over the course of his lengthy career, Burgess has developed a multi-pronged strategy for handling walk-in customers, which he recently shared with Fixed Ops Business.


Assemble a Fast-Service Team.

Burgess has become a fan of express service setups over the years. One reason? They make handling walk-ins rather easy. Typically, any service center with at least five technicians can field an express service team with ease. Even devoting two employees to such a setup can greatly benefit a dealership, and allow its service department to handle extra, unexpected repair work.

“Of course, everybody wants the heads-up of an appointment,” Burgess says. “But sometimes you can’t help when something happens to their car.”


Provide Honest Repair Timelines.

It becomes tough to convert walk-ins into repeat customers if they become irritated by their eventual wait time at your facility. That’s why Burgess feels it’s best to level with walk-in visitors from the moment they arrive at your dealership.

“We always give a realistic promise time as to when the vehicle will be looked at,” he notes. “The biggest thing we do is try not to tell anybody no. [We say], ‘Bear with us; if you give us some time, we’re going to get it in for you.’”


Have a Comfortable Lounge.

While virtually every dealership pridefully boasts about the TV, coffee and cookies in its waiting area, it’s worth taking that area of the dealership to the next level if you want to keep large numbers of walk-in customers content. Offering free WiFi is a start, for example.

Consider: According to the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Customer Service Index Study, 70 percent of all service department customers are willing to wait 1–2 hours to have a vehicle serviced. Thus, it only makes sense to make those customers as comfortable as possible and reward their patience.   


Use a Scheduling Program.

Mayberry Hyundai, which boasts an average monthly car count of nearly 1,000, utilizes the scheduling software Xtime, which helps streamline the process of planning each work day. Xtime helps Burgess’s staff open up 15-minute windows here and there, during which walk-in work can easily be addressed.

“We try not to schedule 100 percent capacity anyway,” Burgess notes. “So, that does leave room for your walk-ins, or tow-ins, or emergencies, and carryovers. You should always have a slot for ‘unexpectedly,’ so you don’t look ridiculous when you try to facilitate them.”


Empower Advisors.

A final key to handling walk-in work smoothly lies in the hands of service advisors. Advisors, who typically have a good feel for the current workload of technicians, need to be given leeway to shuffle techs around as they see fit in order to address unexpected work. For example, an advisor could pull a tech off of a slower-moving job, like transmission work, to quickly address a walk-in customer’s maintenance demands.

But, taking things a step further, Burgess also demands that his entire staff realizes the importance of addressing walk-in work, and acknowledges the potential revenue stream that those customers can present.

“They know the importance, and the value, of every customer,” he says of his employees. “Because you can’t afford to lose any [customers] anymore.”

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