Power of a Comfy Couch
We’ve all been there — stuck in a less-than-desirable waiting area. Maybe you look at one every work day! I remember one in particular where I was afraid to even sit down. Empty pop cans littered the shelves; dirt was visible on just about every surface. And yes, this was a repair shop waiting room. (I know, I know, I should have run.)
Another one was decent enough — clean chairs, somewhat current magazines, a clean restroom. (I didn’t even venture into the restroom at the other shop — who knows what I would have encountered.) But add two active little boys into the mix, and it became a nightmare. Try keeping a two-year-old and a four-year-old occupied in a waiting area that has tires on display — and no toys or books for little ones. Needless to say, it was impossible — and I’ve never been back. So have you given any thought to your customer base? Many of them, like it or not, will judge your shop not just by the quality repairs you provide, but also by the “atmosphere” of your waiting area. I’m sure you know the drill — is there comfortable seating, current magazines, a kid-safe zone, clean restrooms? At J&G Enterprises in LaGrange, GA, the answer to all those questions is a resounding “Yes.”
Gerri and John Barrington purchased their more than 3,000-square-foot shop in July 2005 and officially opened for business that October. Gerri’s son Shawn Wilson and John serve as technicians, with Shawn also running an attached rim shop called Jazzy’s Custom Rims and Sound. Gerri says her own experience of having to wait in less-than-desirable waiting areas prompted her to give her shop’s waiting room a homey, lived-in feel.
“Tha idea was conceived from my experience of waiting at grubby, dirty unkempt repair shops in Virginia,” she says. “When I was getting an emissions inspection, there was either no place to wait, or if there was a place to wait, I would be afraid to sit on the chairs. The restrooms were disgraceful!”
In addition to comfort and cleanliness, Gerri also considered the needs of customers with children by adding a kid-friendly area with toys and books.
“Basically, I thought we should have a place where women and children could come and wait for their vehicles in a nice homey atmosphere. Yes, we did remodel; however, it was not extensive, nor expensive.”
The Barringtons added siding to the existing building; painted inside and out; installed new carpet and new lights; and bought a plush ultra-suede sofa and love seat, end tables, round leather table (which can be used to hold magazines or serve tea).
“A large unisex bathroom was installed, and I added some pictures and that’s about it,” Gerri says of the extent of the work involved in creating what looks like someone’s living room — and a comfortable one at that.
Add to that the smell of flavored coffee and homemade muffins, and you can see why customers have responded so positively to the change.
“Most of the men who enter the shop think they are in the wrong place or think we live here,” Gerri says. “The women love the ambience.”
She says the comments range from, “Oh! It’s so comfortable in here,” to “It’s so nice to have a clean restroom.”
“They also love the flavored coffee and the variety of teas I serve,” she says. “I also bake cakes or muffins for our patrons to have while waiting.”
So what advice would Gerri give to other shop owners in the market for a remodel of their waiting area? Do your homework.
“The advice I would give to other shop owners wanting to remodel would be to have their wife or significant other express what appeals to them most when they visit a non-dealer shop for vehicle repairs,” she says. “Most men are more concerned with their requirements to get the job done rather than appearance.”
Utilizing Your Waiting Room To Enhance Customer Satisfaction
Customer satisfaction starts the moment the customer enters your shop. A clean waiting area with comfortable furniture and amenities beyond the traditional coffee pot says to customers that this facility pays attention to detail.
According to Steve Pruett, sales and marketing vice president for GOJO, hand sanitizers are a low-cost, low-tech solution that could result in a big pay off in terms of customer perception of your waiting area and your shop.
“Many of your customers are already familiar with the importance of using a hand sanitizer,” Pruett says. “Today, hand sanitizers are offered to customers everywhere, from supermarkets to restaurants to health clubs.
“In addition, many of your customers are also aware of how germs are transmitted,” he continues. “Just cleaning surfaces in the waiting room has limited effectiveness. The next time someone with a cold touches that surface, the germs are there again.”
Offering a hand sanitizer, Pruett says, is much more effective than treating surfaces. “It shows that you care about the health and well-being of your customer.”