Working With the Weather
Our unpredictable Canadian weather can be a boon for business, if your service department is willing to work with it.
It’s been said about Canada: “If you don’t like the weather—wait ten minutes.”
Environment Canada may disagree with the accuracy of that statement but anybody who has lived through 30 cm of snow in Calgary followed by a Chinook the next day, wiping out most of that accumulation, or an ice storm in Ottawa with sunny skies an hour south on the St. Lawrence River, might want to agree with that utterance.
Service departments know all too well that weather drives our business. The trick is to try and beat the weather at its game.
We know it’s going to snow starting in October or November, depending on where we are in the country. We know our customers are going to want to swap their summer tires for winters, or buy new winter tires, as required.
Why do our customers wait until the first 20 cm snowfall to get the job done? Because we let them.
Start calling returning clients in late September or early October to book them in. Offer an “Early Bird” special: “Come in before the first snowfall and get balancing at half price.” Here’s the bonus—most of your customers may not have planned to get balancing done in the first place. They figure the tires came off the car balanced, so they must be okay.
Many times that is not the case, they need to be re-balanced. So your department picks up extra customer-pay business.
Same thing with alignments—offer reduced price alignments for the Early Birds. Same scenario as above—many weren’t planning on an alignment in the first place. It’s found money.
Ready for the rush?
So let’s say the snow has already hit—or it’s later in the season and the rush has occurred. Are you ready?
It may be hard to add additional staff, especially for a short term like winter tire season. The answer is to redeploy the staff you do have. Let the receptionist pre-book tire swaps. All you need to do is teach him or her the rudimentary skills of booking an appointment. Let the professional service advisors take it from there.
See if your shuttle driver has extra time. Maybe he can help the parts department get the tires to the shop in a timely manner. Sales staff are generally less busy early in the morning so maybe they can put in an hour shuttling cars in and out of the shop allowing techs more time to work on the vehicles.
How about your hours? Could they be lengthened just a bit to allow your techs to see more vehicles? Is the service department open Saturdays? It is at all the independent aftermarket shops—evenings too?
And speaking of techs, you don’t need licensed mechanics to bust down tires and balance them. Have apprentices, seasonal high school or college students handle these chores.
Now that you’re thick in the middle of the busy tire season, it’s time to set the wheels in motion to keep the post-Christmas season busy. Too many shops think they have to do high volume business at this time of the year. But it’s time to think again. Now is the time to do thorough business.
Are you getting all you can from your tire sales and swap business? Balancing, alignments, sales of winter rims, floor mats and snow brushes are there for the asking. Do you offer nitrogen service? Filling tires with nitrogen reduces the ups and downs of tire pressure changes experienced on cold mornings. TPMS sensors for winter rims and tires are a must. Be sure to offer re-programming to those customers getting their swaps done.
The biggest benefit of doing tire swaps and selling new tires is the opportunity to look under the vehicle. It’s up on the hoist getting its new rubber, which means you get to see how the brakes look, along with the shocks and struts, tie rods, ball joints and all the related steering and suspension components. Plus check for any corrosion on older vehicles. If they don’t have a protection plan, now is the best time to offer it.
In addition to under vehicle inspections, this is the best time of the year to check batteries and other under-the-hood components.
This year was unseasonably hot in many parts of the country resulting in a tremendous drain on batteries and charging systems. Thorough checking of the starting and charging system while the weather is still warm-ish can save a lot of heartache in January and February.
Keep it clean
Here’s another idea to make your techs happy and your customers, too—a quick spray wash under the vehicle before it goes on the hoist will ensure salt and slush doesn’t run down their necks while performing valuable under vehicle checks. Your customers will be happy to have a cleaner vehicle, with less corrosion potential, and your techs will be drier and warmer.
Our unpredictable Canadian weather doesn’t have to be the enemy. It can be the service department’s best friend.