Should the customers stay in their car or head to a waiting room during service?
It’s not the most detrimental decision a shop will make, but it’s a clear operational choice that brands have made.
Some major brands market sitting in the car as a part of their business model, while other shops always have customers step out and into a waiting room— sometimes before driving into the bay.
It could depend on the layout of a shop or the resources available. But is one preferable over the other? Two experts offer their thoughts.
Peter Barram, the founder of Integrated Services, Inc., falls in one camp. He says he’s always had the customer stay in the car.
“First and foremost is communication with the customer,” says Barram, who worked at Oil Can Henry’s before founding ISI. “They are right there. Minute you pull that air filter out, they're right there.”
There can be efficiencies gained when the customer is ready to drive the car in and out of the bay. And the customer will see that the techs working to do things as quickly as possible. That can go a long way to develop trust between a shop and a customer.
“Your customers time and perception is much faster when they're involved,” Barram says. “We’re all about serving quickly and properly, but the perception of the customer is very important.”
In addition, modern point-of-sale software can run smoothly on moveable or mobile devices, making checkout another efficiency gain.
It might be the customer’s preference, too.
Steve Isom, executive vice president of operations for Stonebriar Auto Services, says that the customer experience should be considered.
“There are some customers that have strong feelings one way or the other,” he says. “If they have a dog or kid in the seat, it makes it easier for them to stay in.”
Get Out and Stretch
Shops are making big investments in waiting rooms, and they can make for an excellent customer service tool.
They let drivers get out, stretch, get a snack and relax while the technicians do their thing.
Having customers leave their vehicles also opens up opportunities for some added services, like a quick interior vacuum or trash pickup.
Many brands have adopted or are developing video or photo interfaces, so that customers can see the progress on their vehicle from the waiting room.
But just as always, certain situations might make it better to have customers leave the car with the techs.
“When you're in a hot humid area, or very cold, having a customer waiting in the car when the car’s not running could become uncomfortable,” Isom says.
There’s really no absolute right answer in this case. It could depend on the services a shop offers, where it’s located or what a crew’s workflow is like.
Shops have to decide whether they’re able to do only one or the other— or be ready to do both.
“Personally, doing both sides,” Isom says. “I think the best is a hybrid where the customer gets to go where they’re comfortable.”