GLEN MILLS, Pa. -- David Kelleher made a number of improvements at his David Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep-Ram store here as part of a $3 million expansion and renovation, but one often overlooked area drew particular attention: service.
Amid the big-screen TVs in the new service lounge are an automated coffee machine and free snacks for his customers.
Behind a wall are a well-appointed break room and locker room for his technicians, complete with their own bathrooms.
And in the service lane, he added greeters whose primary task is simply to make customers' day in some way -- and get them to return for service.
For Kelleher, who opened his renovated dealership in March, the goal was simple: to entice a larger percentage of his customers to service their vehicles at his store.
"In our industry, the benchmark for retaining your clients [after the warranty expires] is something like 25 percent, which is amazing to me," he said.
Losing three of every four customers should not be a goal, Kelleher said.
"The whole idea is to have a customer who was so enthralled by their experience and the personalization of that experience that they feel that this is 'my mechanic.'"
The dealership sold 168 new and 64 used vehicles in May.
Kelleher spent a year on the dealership renovation. The updated service department expanded to 19 bays from 14, and he added two detail bays with windows, making them visible from the drive-through service lane.
Each month since the renovation, the service department has posted substantial growth in revenue and service advocacy, along with record numbers of repair orders.
Service advocacy -- the percentage of customers who would recommend the service department to a friend after having their vehicles repaired -- rose from 77 percent in June 2014 to 85 percent in June 2015. Similarly, Kelleher said the percentage of customers retained after 12 months rose from 31 percent last June to 37 percent this June.
"Those are tangible results," he said.
Last year during the renovation, Kelleher implemented extended service hours to boost revenues. The department started opening at 7:30 a.m. and closing at 9 p.m. six days a week. His service advisers work three days and have four days off, while technicians largely design their own schedules.
Since the renovations, two areas in service have taken off.
First has been the detail center that is open the same hours as the service department. In addition to detailing new vehicles for delivery, the center sells to service customers, who choose from a menu ranging from a $14.95 wash and vacuum to a $249 "extreme detail" that takes a minimum of five hours.
"That's been the biggest surprise," Kelleher said. "We put up a menu by the service advisers' desks, and 80 percent of the people [who want some detail work] are choosing the $249 full detail. These guys are busy from morning till night."
The experience has been so overwhelming that it has the dealer thinking about opening an off-site, five-bay detail center.
"I think detail is one of the greatest gross opportunities in any service area," he said.
The second service growth area is client services. Greeters welcome each service customer by name, and use notes from any previous visits to personalize their greetings.
Later, Kelleher said he plans to implement a program in which his client service reps might offer free lunches at local restaurants or manicures at local salons while their vehicles are being serviced.
"We're not done yet," says Kelleher. "We're going to keep going."