The front desk operations are the center of your auto shop. That desk is one of the highest traffic locations inside the entire shop and typically is your customer’s first impression. Pretty much every single person that walks through your door will interact with the front desk.
First impressions last a lifetime.
In the tire and service industry, you’re already fighting against that all-too common stereotype that auto repair shops are out to scam everyone. It’s your job to make that first impression an awesome one, and instantly put prospects and customers minds at ease.
The front desk workflow process
The process starts at the first phone call and leads to getting customers in the door, gathering all the right information and sending them onto their service smoothly and efficiently.
While it’s easy to spot efficiency problems on the repair side of things, it’s easier to overlook missed opportunities or slip ups on the administrative side. If your front desk operations aren’t up to par, they can slow a shop significantly. We want to help you fix that.
8 Steps to Optimize Your Front Desk Operations
Follow these steps within your business as a whole, but also as a helpful guide for your team members managing the front desk.
Have a training manual in place. It’s important for front desk staff to have all of the elements they need to do their job effectively. Optimize your front desk operations by creating an operations manual that lays out the role of the person manning the front desk. It should provide a detailed account of all the duties expected of this role. Not sure where to start? NFIB has some helpful tips on how to write a great employee handbook. Need more inspiration? Here’s 6 inspiring employee handbook examples from Nasdaq.
Greet immediately. Think about it: there’s nothing more annoying than walking into a store and waiting for someone to greet you and address your situation. This is especially true in auto and tire shops. Customers are coming to you because they have a problem that needs solving. Recognize that they’ve walked through the door and help them immediately, or say that you’ll be right with them if you can’t in that moment. But always recognize their presence.
Quick checklist to greeting a customer:
- Always make eye contact the second they come in. Even if you’re on the phone or speaking with another customer. Acknowledge that they’re there immediately. Eye contact is a simple gesture that tells the person that you see them and will be right with them.
- Don’t just make eye contact and stare (creepy!) - Smile. Smile. Smile!
- Avoid these 3 things that could bring your front desk operations to a screeching halt:
- DON’T carry on a personal conversation with another employee when a customer is present.
- DON’T engage in any type of negative conversation about anything if there is a customer nearby.
- DON’T ever convey the impression, feeling or attitude of being “way too busy” or “overworked”. Always remain positive, friendly and happy to help no matter how swamped you are.
- Avoid the canned greeting. At all costs. “Hi. How may I help you?” We’ve all heard that canned-blank-stare-don’t-care-at-all greeting before. It’s lazy. Instead, train your staff to ask questions that show that you care. It will instantly make them feel comfortable. Here’s some examples:
- How are you doing today?
- What brings you to [name of shop] today?
- How can we make your day better today?
Use those manners your mom taught you. “Please” and “thank you” go a long way. Just show some good ole common courtesy! It shows respect—which a customer will appreciate immensely.
Get their name. Using a customer’s name instantly establishes a more personal relationship and helps to put them at ease about repairs. They’re not just another number, they’re unique individuals who will appreciate the personalization. It’s true something special happens when people hear their own name. According to a study published in the journal Brain Research, when people hear their own first name (vs. hearing other first names), there is a unique reaction in the brain. Remembering someone’s name and actually using has been shown to make people more likely to buy from you, help you and helps to build trust. When someone remembers our name, we feel more valued and respected.
Say hello. Putting your customers at ease all starts with a friendly greeting. It’s a small gesture, but greeting each person who walks through the door will go a long way. A friendly greeting disarms the person and sets the tone for the rest of the interaction. Here are a few fun ways to get creative with your greeting:
Say goodbye. Thank each customer for coming in and don’t forget to ask how their service was. You’ll set the tone for the end of their experience and can help rectify a problem if something was wrong.
Have some personality! No one likes interacting with robot people. Someone who doesn’t look you in the eye, smile and talks in a monotone voice. Add a healthy dose of personality to your front desk operations. The goal is to connect with the customer and establish trust.
Don’t be phony. Customers are smart. And they can see right through any fakeness. Always be sincere and honest with every single customer. If their initial experience stepping into your shop seems phony in any way, why would they trust you with their vehicle and spend their money with you? Be real.
Anyone can fix a car, but not everyone can provide an exceptional customer experience. People have A LOT of choices, and it doesn’t have to be you. Make it your daily goal to make the customer’s experience as personal and pleasant as humanly possible. That can be your differentiator in a crowded marketplace, and you can start today.