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Schedule more work by improving the life of the waiters

by | Oct 13, 2022

Everyone else knows a “waiter” as someone who brings you a burger. You and I, however, know a waiter to be a customer stranded in your customer lounge. Making waiting less painful can increase the likelihood folks schedule service. That seems pretty basic to me, but it does make me ask why there are so many shops who neglect this aspect of shop life.

Here’s a few suggestions to make hanging out at your shop less miserable, ranging from free to kind of expensive.

Clean the john

This is probably the easiest and most obvious item on this list, yet it’s also probably the most neglected.

Toilet and toilet paper

A bathroom isn’t a place to stack the extra cases of oil filters. Photo by TheDman.

Maybe on a slow day a service writer or hourly tech can get into the restroom and update some fixtures and put a fresh coat of paint on the walls. And for the love of Pete, make sure it’s consistently clean! A nice, good-smellin’ can is table stakes—don’t be shy with the bleach. Look, if the loo is a mess, no one is going to want to use it. Make sure it’s well-stocked—soap, tissues, TP, the works.

Make this a recurring task, and it better not be monthly. A checklist may or may not be needed if your designated cleaner is recalcitrant. This admonition goes double for the ladies’ WC if you don’t have any females working at your shop—it’s all too easy to miss a gross potty if you aren’t using it or checking in on it regularly.

A person using a cell phone

“Ok, it’s Rick’s Auto, all one word, then two six three and then an ampersand.” Photo by Georgijevic.

Hang up the WiFi info

I can’t tell you how many places I go where I will likely want internet access, yet it’s not posted and I wind up having to ask for it. If someone is trapped in a waiting room during work hours today, the odds he may want to work or otherwise occupy himself are stratospherically high. Set up a guest WiFi network and post the WiFi network name and password in the lounge so people can see it! (A QR code can make life easy here.) If you’re a bit more remote and non-customers aren’t likely to suck up your bandwidth, maybe skip the password completely.

Lose the roofing tar

I find it strange I have to state it, but I will: It’s OK to not have terrible coffee. Customers, much like techs, service writers, and managers, like a nice, fresh cup of joe. (Those little coffee-pod machines are ready made for this situation. You could also go big and pop for one of those coffee super-computers available for lease.)

Cup of hot coffee

A really good cup of coffee is almost enough to make forking over money to the shop not that bad. It’s nearly an even trade for a lot of people. Photo by Irina Shilnikova.

Similarly, it’s also OK to have nice creamer or complimentary cold beverages in the fridge or maybe even leave out some snacks. I’ve definitely included a waiter on a shop lunch order before, and it was always appreciated. In a similar vein, a good buddy owns a dealership and he has freezers with free ice cream for people who come by. It’s a lovely idea—being mad about car repair bills is pretty difficult when you’re on your second Fudgesicle.

Fire up the shop truck

This one is difficult to do because it requires shorthanding yourself on labor: offer a ride to the waiter who ain’t waitin’ no more. If that state inspection turned up a brake job and evap leak, put someone in a shop truck and get that person a ride home. I know, it’s hard to do and no one has the time in the day, but remember, the customer is not an interruption to the work, they are the purpose of it. If you can’t free up someone, see if you can have a rental car dropped off for your custy.

A woman receives a ride.

There’s something to be said for waiting: don’t. Photo by AJ_Watt.

I worked at a shop once that was a stone’s throw from a shopping mall. When I scheduled service with new customers, I’d tell them it was nearby if they wanted to kill time over there, and many people did. Heck, I even reminded some regulars who had forgotten, too. Don’t be shy about suggesting other things to do that are nearby. (And this might also be closer than running someone all the way to their office or home.)

Make the lounge like your living room at home

Nice furniture, a big TV, and some decent reading material are not free, but I’d argue they’re the cost of doing business. Jazz it up in there. If you catch employees trying to hang out in your customer lounge, you’re probably in the sweet spot or dang close to it. Author Mike Principato, who’s been in the auto industry since steel wheels were invented, also had some sage advice: “Stick with non-upholstered seating. It’s easier to clean, doesn’t absorb shop or people odors, it looks neater, and it lasts longer.”

USB outlets are a fast and easy addition that can make your area a little more inviting, too—that’s a pretty quick spruce-up move that will be appreciated by plenty of people killing time on an electronic device.

Stick a window in there

This costs a little money, but it also helps out your service writers: You can hold off the impatient waiters if you have a nice, big window looking out into the bays. (That’s one more question you don’t have to answer!) Some people really do like seeing what’s going on with their car, too—even though we see car guts every day, some of your guests do not and are fascinated by the repair process.

A man watches as his car is worked on,

I always felt like my work was good enough to put on display. At least that was what I told myself. In reality, the customer was probably wondering why their LOF/rotate was taking so long. Photo by dusanpetkovic.

I’m sure you’ve all heard this before and probably thought about most of it without me bringin’ it up, but a gentle (or not-so-gentle) reminder that waiting is generally awful for most people might be just the ticket. There are a ton of hurdles for customers to come see us, and the more inviting you make your shop, the more customers you’ll see. Removing the basic obstacles ultimately help you pack your shop calendar full, which will save your customers money in the long run—frequent maintenance usually keeps expensive repair at bay.

It’ll pay off, trust me.

Just you wait.

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