Sunday service hours can be a boon

The service department at Olathe Toyota in Olathe, Kan., is open on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It's among only 7 percent of U.S. dealerships that provide full Sunday service, the National Automobile Dealers Association reports.

It hasn't always been easy to assign 13 shop employees to work on Sunday, concedes Tom Blackman, Olathe Toyota's fixed operations director. Most applicants for jobs in his service department don't want schedules that include Sunday hours, he says.

But other workers prefer the predictability of Sunday shifts, Blackman says. And in any event, he told Fixed Ops Journal, the dealership continues to buck the closed-Sunday trend for "one reason: customer convenience."

About 80 percent of Olathe Toyota's Sunday work consists of maintenance jobs, including quick service, Blackman says. The dealership averages 55 repair orders each Sunday.

Efficient dispatchers and a system of green, yellow and red lights that lets service customers know how much of a wait they face help the department manage its workload, Blackman says.

So-called blue laws in several states continue to limit dealership operations on Sunday. Union contracts at some dealerships rule out Sunday work for service employees. Religious resistance to Sunday commerce still prevails in some communities.

But where such things aren't obstacles, industry analysts say, service departments can build good will and loyalty among customers by opening on Sunday. Expanded schedules also enable dealerships to compete better with aftermarket quick-lube and auto-repair stores, they add.

"Dealerships are retail," says Rick Wegley, an instructor with NCM Associates, a dealership consulting and training firm in Kansas City Mo. "The need is there. It costs you not to be open."

Bonnie Knutson, a professor in the School of Hospitality Business in the Broad College of Business at Michigan State University, says consumers expect "convenience, customized service and control of the experience."

Dealerships, including service departments, "should be asking: How can I give time back to my customers?" Knutson says.

NADA's 2016 Dealership Workforce Study reported that 23 percent of dealerships in South Atlantic states and 10 percent of dealerships in Pacific states offered full Sunday service last year. In other regions across the country, the rate of such service was no more than 2 percent, the study said.

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