As seen in the October 2016’s Oil & Lube News. By: Peter Suciu
To many consumers, the image of an auto service center is likely just another repair shop that has pools of oil on the floor, pin ups of scantily clad women on the walls and a waiting area that is little more than someone’s old couch and some burnt coffee. Today, that image isn’t really an accurate, or even a fair, representation of the modern auto service business or quick lube shop — yet all too often it is what many customers might expect.
More importantly it is said you can only make one first impression, so the right shop design can change the perception of the expected auto repair facility and make it so inviting customers won’t want to put off necessary work. In addition, it can ensure customers will be happy to pay a visit, which can translate into more business.
“Hospitality and customer experience can contribute to the bottom line for any service business,” said Sondra Phillips, principal and owner of SKP Design. “If the spaces people experience are comfortable, clean and functional, they are more likely to consider coming back!”
Inside the building most customers will spend their time in the waiting area, and it is crucial they are comfortable. No one likes to wait, and this is true of a service industry or even a doctor’s or dentist’s office. The waiting room is where no one wants to spend more time than necessary, so having a nice space can make a lot of difference to the customer.
“I have a comfortable waiting room with a big screen TV, a Keurig coffee machine, water and current reading materials,” said Ken Barker, owner and operator of Cottman Transmission and Total Auto Care in Waldorf, Maryland. That description could easily sound like a lawyer’s or doctor’s office, but the comparison to a professional business office is notable in another way at Barker’s location.
“We have a photo of a technician holding this ASE certificate next to a doctor holding his credentials,” Barker explained. “We like to show that a small piece of paper can make a big difference when it comes to service.”
These and other minor details can instill a sense of professionalism, where customers know their car is in good hands — but more importantly in experienced hands. The right decor can enhance the customer’s wait time, but it can help lower costs by not needing to be updated as often.
“Interior design solutions should reflect the company brand,” Phillips said. “If interior choices reflect the shop brand, they become more timeless, less trendy and may not have to be replaced as frequently. Using durable finishes, such as vinyl wall covering and vinyl fabric seats will increase the longevity of the furniture and the wall finishes, reducing the need to re-paint and replace seating.”