A full-scale remodel is the best way to make an aftermarket business sparkle, but when that’s not practical just taking time to clean can go a long way.
“[Cleanliness] offers a level of professionalism, almost an aura that you know what you’re doing and you take what you do seriously,” says Mark Decker, CEO at Jerry & Keith’s.
Transparency also can improve business functionality, says John Wensel, president of Wensel Service Centers.
“It allows you to be better organized, and that helps with customers but it makes it easier on your employees as well,” he says.
When remodeling an aftermarket business it is important to first determine the areas that will need to be improved, Gonzalez says. Retrofitting a business doesn’t take long if a clear plan is estab- lished before construction begins.
“There is a perception that these changes are very expensive but we are finding that they are not,” Gonzalez says.
He says Hunter’s consulting team advises service providers to select specific aspects of their business they’d like to highlight during a facility remodel.
Among the changes Gonzalez says Hunter sees from its light-duty customers are integrating parts displays and accessories to service counter and waiting areas, windows that allow visibility into service departments, standardization of floor tile and lighting from the showroom to the shop and closed-circuit televisions that allow customers to see parts specials and their vehicles being repaired.
Looping diagnostic or triage bays into these efforts can prove valuable as well.
“We believe there is a heavy-duty inspection niche coming to the forefront based on the idea of transparency,” Gonzalez says. “We believe customers in the market today are looking for information, and you can provide them that in an open and honest matter.”
Just incorporating some of those features has provided a significant return on investment for Truck Equipment, Inc. President Jordan Schroeder says the company incorporated aspects of Hill’s showroom design advice when building its new location last year. The impact was immediate.
“Our design wasn’t necessarily driven by [transparency] but we’ve still noticed it,” Schroeder says. “Our parts counter is right by our service counter now, and there’s a window from one to other. So if a customer is waiting they are right there.
“At our old facility the service counter and parts counter were on opposite sides of the building.”
Wensel saw a similar boom at one of his locations, setting a monthly service sales record not long after making cos- metic improvements a customer waiting room.
“The place just took off,” he says.
Gonzalez isn’t surprised. A facility that elicits a positive customer reaction builds trust, and trust builds the opportunity to make more sales.
“When a customer can see the issue — when they can see what is happening and they know there is an issue — it creates a type of discussion that was never there before,” he says.
But facility changes alone do not guarantee sales success, says Hill. Employees also must be trained on how to use those changes to their advantage. They must understand a customer’s thought process and how to respond.
Why tell a customer what’s wrong when you can show them?
“Understand how well your company is prepared to positively influence customer perceptions. Make sure your employees and processes are in the right direction to help the customer find an- swers,” he says.
Because when trained employees are matched with an aesthetically appealing and transparent service facility, the sky is the limit.
“It definitely has changed customers’ perceptions of who we are,” Schroeder says. “We’ve kept a lot of the same customers but we’ve also been noticed more [by others]. People see this isn’t a company that’s puddling along; they are making an investment.”
“I learned a long time ago you can only make that first impression once,” says Wensel, adding “This is how I want to present my company.”