Think Inside Out

June 1, 2020

Columnist Adam Tatum offers these simple tips to improve your customer experience.

How many of you have taken the time to just sit in your lobby areas? Do you have windows into the bays? What are the employees doing or saying? What can you see from their seats? Do you have a television on or refreshments available? What are you doing to stand out in today’s competitive environment?

Your customers chose to come to you for their services. They could have chosen many of your competing shops to venture into, and some still do with the right coupon, but they still turned on your lot. What kind of experience are you giving them?

With the COVID-19 pandemic hopefully coming to an end soon, I sit in the office at one of the locations that I run, writing this article. My stores are quite nice, as many of yours are too. We have the clean, painted interior walls, bright yellow bays and rails and rubber flooring in the bays. We make the area where your car is serviced look sharp. 

It’s the first impression that a customer gets when they pull up to your shop. If you are clean and organized, the customer feels a little less worrisome that something is going to happen to their vehicle. It is an effective tool in your customer experience arsenal. Keep a clean shop. For more info on how that can be taken to extremes, look up Roger Penske and cleaning on your favorite search engine. 

Right now, I can see across the shop bay into the lobby windows and customers inside. We have no shortage of amenities. In fact, the customer experience is a key point in our everyday life in my shops. We want you to feel comfortable and invited each time that you step into our business. How many of you can sit in their seat, investigate the areas in your lobby and say you’re doing all that you can?

In this checklist, I want to go over some best practices and little changes that can mean the world in your business. All of these can be found from the seat of your customer.


I just said it above, you could have seen it coming.

Where are your customers sitting? Is it a hard chair or an oversized leather office waiting room chair? When I made the change last year to this nicer style, we received many compliments. The cost was nothing more than you paid for the harder chair, maybe $60 on Amazon. 

Test a single location. Buy the new chairs and switch them out. Listen to your repeat customers talk about the change. 


What is your customer listening to? Can they hear the ruckus outside that’s common in shops, or do you have something else to occupy their time? The longer that they are sitting there with a phone in hand, the easier it is for them to time how long your service is taking or things that they are seeing in the bays. With that phone in hand, Twitter, Google and Yelp are only a click away.

Put in a television. Invest in either cable news or an automotive channel that is geared to your business. Spend a little money here and watch the complaints come down on time of service.

Family Amenities

How many of your customers come into your shops with small children? As a parent myself, I know how quickly they can become bored while waiting. How many of you have had to clean up magazines, pick up trash off the floor, etc. after the customer has left?

Simple solutions to help your shop, as well as making you child friendly, can be found in your local retail store or online. Look at putting in a kids table, adding some coloring books and crayons, and you will have time consuming things for them to do. How much did it cost? 

Now if you want to go further, you could do what we did in my locations and add tablets with Nick Jr. and other apps downloaded onto them.


How clean is your lobby area? Look at your coffee areas and see if they are presentable. If you do not have this, get it! When was the last time you emptied that trash? I bet the next customer knows all about the tuna sandwich your last customer ate. Set up a cleaning schedule and make rounds.

In a competitive marketplace that sees shoppers using the Internet as a major research tool to guide their purchase decisions, as well as a platform for sharing customer experience and feedback, it makes sense for a retailer to want to make the efforts above to turn that negative review into a positive. Try a few and see what a difference it makes when you treat the inside as nice as you to the outside shop area.