Here’s the truth: the standard 7 AM – 5 PM workweek with a half day Saturday might be losing you a lot of revenue. More importantly, setting extended hours of 7 AM until midnight probably isn’t the answer, either. Longer hours do not necessarily mean more profit. Whatever profit those late hours manage to pull in might not offset the labor costs involved in staying open.
Getting the most out of your hours means being aware of your location. Realize that the hours that work great in a retirement area might not be ideal for a dealership near a college town. Your hours should be specifically tailored to the needs of your community.
Ask yourself three things: What do my customers need and want? Am I running efficiently during my current hours? Does the business gained during extended hours offset the costs?
You need to schedule better, not necessarily schedule more. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
1. Survey your customers.
Remember: your customer’s needs should determine your hours, and the best way to figure out what times are best for your customer is to ask them yourselves. Try running a 3-month survey to get a feel for the needs of consumers in your area.
When people pick up their vehicle, ask them to fill out a questionnaire. Do they prefer weekdays, evenings, Saturdays, or Sundays? What time? You can also track the busy times of your day and monitor how it fluctuates throughout the week. A mainly retired community might prefer weekdays, but other types of customers just don’t have the time until the weekend. Likewise, if you’re situated in a college town, the college crowd might prefer evenings to mornings.
2. Set up an appointment system.
If you can get your customers to set appointments, you have guaranteed service during that time slot. You can plan for it. You don’t have to worry about having a full team working during dead hours. Your customers will also like to have a time set up just for them—they won’t have to wait in line or compete with others for your attention. Just make sure you’re ready for them when they arrive—even if they’re a few minutes late.
3. Consider an express lane.
Have you thought about opening a quick lane? On your busiest days, it might be beneficial to open an express lane for customers with quick, easy fixes. You don’t have to have the express lane open from open to close—just when you need them most.
Extra techs and a more efficient strategy for moving cars through your bays can result in happier clients. Extended hours mean nothing to a customer if they have to wait in line 20 or 30 minutes before you have time and space for them.
4. Be consistent.
If you’re open during different hours for every day of the week, you’ll only end up confusing your cliental. Even if your observations reveal that business slows down at 5 on Mondays and 6 on Tuesdays, it doesn’t make sense to set specific hours for each day of the week, with 7 – 5 on Monday and 7 – 6 on Tuesday. Your weekday hours should be consistent, with the possible exception of Fridays.
This doesn’t apply if you own more than one store. Different stores might be situated in different areas with needs specific to the people who live there. Your stores don’t have to share the same hours.
Make your hours of operation clear and easy to understand. Post them on your website, and ensure they’re easy for your customers to find. If you want to promote yourself as the only dealership open past 6 in the college town where you’re located, make it known. If no one knows, no one will come.
5. Don’t stop there.
You want to be someone people can count on. This means operational hours at the most convenient times for your consumer base, but also accessibility in all areas of your business. Answering phone calls and responding to emails and voicemails in a timely fashion will make you seem like the more accessible, more convenient option overall.
Overall, you want to come across as the most convenient place to go. Customers don’t want to waste their time, and you don’t want to waste your labor wages on an empty dealership. With a smarter scheduling system and hours in tune with your community, everyone benefits.
By putting the customer’s time schedule first, you’ll quickly find yourself one step above the competition.