Looking to the lounge


LoungeIn this column, we hope to bring up facility-centric ideas that are generally off the radar and can have a positive return on investment, customer loyalty and employee morale. In some cases, it is interesting to look outside the automotive industry to see how other businesses invest in their facilities to enhance the customer experience.

Think about your last airport waiting experience. Would you rather wait at the gate? Or in the Air Canada Elite Lounge?

The ‘status lounge’ teaches us that waiting can enhance the customer experience. This is observed worldwide in large airports, and is a concept that even trickles down to small ones like the Toronto Island Airport.

Toronto-based Porter Airlines was revolutionary in providing the ‘lounge for everyone,’ and this has paid off with unprecedented growth. I used to fly out of the Island Airport before Porter. It was a very tired environment that made Pearson Airport look enticing.

Lounge access makes people feel special, catered to and attended. Porter opened it up for everyone.

How does this translate to your store? Well, many people do not want to wait because they catch the shuttle — but many leave because the environment is stale, the coffee is bad, the magazines are from two years ago, there is no natural light and six people take up seven chairs. Not exactly welcoming.

If the lounge is comfortable and amenable, people are more inclined to use it. When you create a comfortable environment, you are also creating a level of trust with your customer. They know to expect an inviting space, and the level of detail and service in the lounge will be associated with the level and quality of service to the vehicles — the same level of service associated with your business.

The lounge is an opportunity to positively enhance the customer’s experience in your dealership. If your customer has the option of getting their car serviced elsewhere, can you risk them going to your competitor? Besides, you spend tens of thousands of dollars every year attracting people to your dealership. Then what? The goal is for them to stay awhile, get to know your product, your team and the type and level of service you provide.

Earlier this year, I was trying to get home from Vancouver but the flights were sold out. This meant waiting six hours for the next red eye flight. Luckily, the ticket agent gave me a voucher to wait in the status lounge and all of a sudden, a dreaded experience became a positive one. In a much better mood, I was happy to spend a few extra dollars at the concession stand for a souvenir mug for my kids. Call me cheap, but if every traveler bought one mug…

The point is, a customer that is motivated to stay in the dealership to wait, is more likely to look at new cars, speak with people on your team and browse boutique items and accessories. Your business is under the microscope and a customer with time to wait, has time to absorb their surroundings. This is a key opportunity to connect with them.

A customer in your lounge who finds the space inviting and relaxing, is also more apt to connect with your business (read — bottom line), because people who are in a good mood, like to spend more. So that $200 BMW kids’ tricycle in your boutique looks adorable to a happy person, they buy it — and boom — a toddler gets a Bimmer. Thirty years later they may move on to the real thing. (There are a few other steps in between, but you get the picture).

That’s creating customer loyalty through proven and consistent positive experiences. It takes years to build and constant effort to maintain. Your customer lounge is an extension of your service offering and should therefore be part of your business strategy. Don’t miss the opportunity the lounge experience presents. So trade in the stale coffee for something a little more akin to bar-quality espresso.

Placement of the lounge is also key and ideally away from the service write-up area to ensure privacy for service advisors and the customers communicating with them. With tools such as Xtime, you can post service progress on a computer screen.

Although it requires investment, time and attention, improving the waiting experience can contribute to customers engaging with your staff, customer satisfaction and potentially boutique sales, parts sales, and most importantly, connecting with your customer.

CAD-avatarMonte Weis, President of Weis & Associates, shares his design and facility expertise with dealers, via the leading industry journal, Canadian auto dealer magazine. A selection of articles are reposted here with permission.