The service drive is your customer’s first impression. Again and again.

The Service Drive is your customer's first impression of your service department. Vero Beach Toyota's service drive is bright and clean with a bold graphic on the wall and a Hunter Quick Check Drive system.
The Service Drive at Vero Beach Toyota in Vero Beach, FL – clean, bright, welcoming, and with a big, bold, exciting graphic. Each arriving customer drives their car through the Hunter Quick Check Drive. This gives both the customer and the service advisor a condition report of the tires, alignment, and vehicle condition.

There’s an old saying, “Sales sells the first car, service sells the rest.”  While this saying may be more about people, it’s actually the whole service experience that the customer considers. The Service Drive is the customer’s first impression of your dealership’s service department. What is it saying to them?

 If you were to drive into your service drive today.  What would you notice? How clean is it?  It certainly should be tidy, but is it clean?  Are the floors dirty from traffic or with oil drips and stains?  How clean are the windows?  Is the area well lit? Does the Service Drive feel inviting? It should. People are arriving knowing they are about to make a financial commitment to the dealership.  Some might be in just for an oil change, but others are about to spend thousands of dollars. The Service Drive should make them all feel welcome and appreciated.  Big “thank you” signs aren’t required, just a clean, professional welcoming environment.  

During the development of a dealership project, we spend a significant amount of time ensuring that a new customer’s experience, as they enter the dealership, is well thought out. Customer parking is well marked and convenient. The front of the dealership is well landscaped and welcoming. Once through the front door, the reception desk is a clean design with flowers or other greenery to continue the welcoming feel.  In addition, we try to make sure directional signage is visible and a clear line of sight to the lounge, restrooms, café, and any other customer amenities our client has added for their customers.  

A great front entrance is fine for first time customers.  What about your returning loyal customers who are arriving at the Service Drive? In our opinion, the Service Drive is truly the second front door to the dealership. Your customers see this entrance many more times than the main entrance to your store. All too often the Service Drive winds up being treated as a secondary entrance.

Fixed Operations, generates the revenue stream that ultimately helps pay for your facility upgrade. As such, the Service Drive is just as important as the showroom, if not more so.  Here are our top 5 considerations for your service drive new build or renovation:

1. What does your customer see when they pull in?

  • The Service Drive is the customer’s first impression when they pull in to your dealership. What do they see? We have seen clients take their old vending machines and line them up along the wall in their new service drive, not realizing the negative impression this gives to the customer.  Putting vending inside the dealership with millwork cabinetry surrounds is a much more effective and pleasing solution.  It also brings customers inside the dealership.
  • Trash cans are often an afterthought. We see Industrial gray rubber trash cans with black garbage bag liners. They are randomly placed, and sometimes overflowing. It’s not a good look.  Clean metal garbage receptacles are a small investment but contribute to a much more professional/clean look. Make sure a staff member is assigned to keep them empty and clean.
  • No directional/instructional signage to guide the customer, they pull in and stop and don’t know what to do next. A few clear short instructional statements on a welcome sign will help.
A brightly lit service drives make vehicle inspections that much easier. Modern LED lighting solutions like these ones in the service drive at Pinehurst Toyota in Southern Pines, NC deliver excellent color temperatures, are long lasting, and use very little energy.

2. Lighting matters.

  • Just as in the showroom, when delivering a service car back to a customer washed,  it should shine under the lights in the Service Drive like it would in the showroom.
  • Preexisting body damage/incoming vehicle condition is more easily visible to your staff if the lighting levels are correct
  • Pulling into a well-lit service drive, with the correct color temperature helps create that welcoming feel to customers, just as it does to a customer walking into the showroom.

3. Graphics build excitement!

  • Since the Service Drive is your customer’s first impression of the service department, when they pull into the Service Drive, do they see blank walls, or do they see something that inspires them about the brand they are driving? 
  • Graphics in the Service Drive represent 10% of the cost of the graphic package for the rest of the dealership, yet they have the same impact as when a customer first walks through the front door of your dealership.  Maybe they help inspire the customer to take a walk through the showroom. Your customer might be considering a new vehicle.

4. Technology improves the experience and can increase revenue.

  • Plate recognition technology can create personalized messaging for your customers.   It also allows your service team to personally greet customers by name.  It’s a small thing, but it’s meaningful.  We talked about this in our dealership technology blog entry. Check it out here.
  • Have you implemented technology in your Service Drive to provide the customer with an assessment of their vehicles condition? Products like the Hunter Quick Check Drive, instantly provide the customer with a complete snapshot of their vehicle’s tire wear and alignment. It also provides them with a 40-photo walk around of their vehicles condition.  Equipment like this can pay for itself in short order by significantly adding to service revenue.
Automotive grade porcelain tile installed at Mercedes-Benz of Fayetteville in North Carolina. These tiles are extremely durable and clean up well. Running a floor scrubber over these once a day will keep them looking good for years.

5. Cleanliness of the entire Service Drive area.

  • Although last on this list, this is most definitely critical as a customer touchpoint area. The Service Drive is your customer’s first impression when they drive into your dealership. Exposure to wind and weather means the service drive it will get dirty much more quickly than other parts of the store.   Cleaning this area well on a regular basis, including wiping down light fixtures and washing windows all contributes to a clean look.
  • Floors are critical since every customer looks down at them as they drive in and as they exit their vehicle.  When looking at flooring options, a quality outdoor automotive grade porcelain tile is usually our go to. In our experience, polished concrete looks unfinished and epoxy, just doesn’t hold up to the traffic volume.
  • Cleaning your service drive daily with a floor scrubber is the only way to keep your service drive clean, a good walk behind floor scrubber is something we budget into every project.  Clients always tell us afterwards it was a really smart investment.

Wrapping it up:

The Service Drive is your customer’s first impression every time they come in for service. It might just be the most important entrance to your store.   It is where all of your service business starts, and it’s typically the biggest income stream for your facility. Give it the attention it deserves.

Customers are arriving thinking about the service their car needs, and quite possibly the size of the service bill they may be facing.  Creating a great looking, bright, clean, and welcoming space helps put them at ease.

Consider investing in technology that welcomes them personally and gives them clear information about the condition of their vehicle’s tires, suspension, and bodywork.  This all contributes to setting a positive customer experience, all while creating opportunities for increased service revenue.