Can Dealerships Capitalize on Starbucks Mentality?

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Understanding Starbucks Coffee Company's simple strategies will make your entire dealership more profitable ...

Ahhh. ... It's autumn and the distinct aroma of pumpkin spice latte has returned to a Starbucks near you for the cold weather ahead. Your neighborhood coffee house has conditioned consumers to get what they want right now. And in today's fast paced world, are they ever successful!

Yet for most auto dealership service departments, it's all the more difficult to address customer needs in the driveway when customers are lined up and in a hurry. 

So how does Starbucks do it?

Starbucks Strategy #1 — Start by using the customer’s name

The greatest trick Starbucks has up its sleeve is writing your name… on its sleeves. When I first stepped in the door and ordered a tall specialty coffee, I told the baristas my name. It personalized what would otherwise be the most generic purchase a middle-class human can possibly make and endears every store to you as if it were your regular neighborhood haunt. Customers much prefer to hear their name, rather than “hey you” or “bro.” Start using your customer’s names!

Starbucks Strategy #2 — A comfortable place to work and socialize

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Customers want to hang out at Starbucks! It’s their secret ingredient — and you don’t see that at a typical Dunkin Donuts. While independent coffee shops that are struggling to make ends meet may see the need to flush out the low-revenue laptop users, Starbucks founder Howard Schultz, in fact, was a big proponent of building a comfortable third place for people to work and socialize. (The first two places being home and the traditional office.) It’s part of the company’s mission. “We strive to create a welcoming environment for all of our customers. We do not have any time limits for being in our stores, and continue to focus on making the Third Place experience for every Starbucks customer.”

Starbucks’ Wi-Fi is even free — although not infinitely. Customers (with Starbucks cash cards) get two hours for nothing, after which they have to pay. But if you have free access to Starbucks’ AT&T Wi-Fi via another avenue, such as your DSL account, they won’t eject you.

Even Starbucks will comp a regular. When was the last time your dealership did that? Coffee might be what’s on the menu, but the experience is what brings us in, and back for more.

Starbucks Strategy #3 — Easy to understand menu

“Explore our Menu. Freshly brewed coffee the way you like it.”

All Starbucks beverages, handcrafted drinks, and food items are clearly visible, online and in-store, with their sizes, nutrition, and pricing. Do the same with your most popular services, products, tires (can you smell the tires?), including specials, accessories, and seasonal services. Your service walk-around should feature a battery check, topping off washer fluid and looking for obvious concerns - with your customer in tow!

Starbucks Strategy #4 – Prepare in advance of the customer's visit

Examples: Pre cooked breakfast and pre prepared sandwiches, salads, and bakery. 

Using a pre-prepared work order can help to expedite the process by having the service information already documented. The only things that are necessary when they arrive would be taking down the mileage and performing a walk around with the customer at your side.  

Starbucks Strategy #5 – Mobile ordering

Starbucks, McDonald's, Dunkin Donuts, Tim Horton's are others use their web sites and mobile apps to allow customers to order their beverages and food on line so it will be ready when they arrive.


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Use a similar strategy by allowing customers to schedule appointments on line so they can simply drop off their car and go.

Starbucks Strategy #6 – Self Serve

Many dealerships offer customers the option of either an early bird or late night drop. They mount an envelope dispenser and security box outside the showroom so customers can fill out their service request, drop the keys and take off. This strategy can also be employed with success during the morning rush. We are seeing this offered online, as well. 

Starbucks Strategy #7 – Pick-up and Delivery

Now this really goes above and beyond the normal service department, but there are those who’ve created tremendous repeat and referral business from some of these ideas:
•    Service in your driveway, at home or work – Specially designed service vans provide regular maintenance and tire rotations.
•    Drop off service – many luxury retailers are providing pick and drop off of customer vehicles.  Some even drop off a service loaner at the same time.

It’s all about Convenience!

Some of these ideas may not work as well for your dealership as they do for others. But we’re certain that others have the potential to improve customer relationships and, therefore, long term retention. 

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