Women who have their cars serviced on Wednesdays at Toyota of Killeen get more than the usual.
The Killeen, Texas, dealership hosts Women's Wednesdays nearly every week that take female customers out of the service waiting room and into a special event complete with lunch, dessert, networking, gift bags and a presentation on such wide-ranging topics as scarf tying and auto leasing. Free manicures are also offered. As a further enticement, women receive oil change discounts and free car washes.
Dealer Paula Lohse and her team chose the program as a way to support women in the community, including many who are the sole caretakers of their homes and children while their spouses and partners serve in the military.
Killeen is home to Fort Hood, a 214,968-acre U.S. Army base where forces are trained and deployed, according to military.com. As the largest active-duty armored post in the U.S., it is home to about 33,000 active-duty military personnel; 248,800 retirees, survivors and family members; and 13,400 civilians and contractors, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
"I'm personally thrilled that in addition to having the best service department and personnel of any automotive dealership in central Texas, we now offer a very special day just for women to come in and be pampered a little bit while they get their service done," Lohse, who developed the idea with General Manager Robert Gill and Lori Montero, the marketing and customer relations manager, wrote in an email to Automotive News.
"As a female dealer, mother of three grown children and the Mimi of four precious grandchildren, I am well aware of the many responsibilities that women carry on their shoulders," she wrote. "It gets a bit lonely. This is our way of helping lighten the load a bit."
The dealership launched Women's Wednesdays in May through word-of-mouth and online promotions. The idea is to show that the dealership takes women seriously as customers and respects the little downtime they have. Lohse, Montero and Gill envisioned giving women who made Wednesday service appointments a place to relax and learn. Women may sign up for the free program online or through a dedicated 800 number.
There's never a problem filling the 15 slots. Women are allowed to bring their children.
In case dealership customers are unaware of the program, dealership staffers go through the service waiting room on Wednesdays to invite women to join. After the program, which lasts from about 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., dealership leaders ask the women for comments. Here's a sampling.
Gloria S.: "Well done!"
Megan M.: "This is GREAT!"
Kendra B.: "This was aweeeesome!"
Corie C.: "So much fun! Had a blast with the TOK team."
Charlotte B.: "Kudos to the team at TOK"
The one negative comment was about the coffee served. Montero remembers talking to Gill about that concern afterward and his prompt reply: "I can fix that."
The next event included a new coffee machine that allows women to make individual cups of gourmet coffee.
To further boost women in the community, the dealership reaches out to businesses owned by women for food, presentations, manicures and more. An 11-year-old entrepreneur with her own cupcake business supplies desserts.
"It's been proven that women are the primary decision-makers during car buying," said Montero. "One of our goals with Women's Wednesdays is to help educate them. For example, Toyota offers a 2-year/25,000-mile regularly scheduled maintenance plan, but what does that really mean? When I'm asked if I want conventional or synthetic oil, what is the difference? We have top diagnosticians and technicians speak to them so they understand some of the intricacies."
The dealership spends about $300 for each Women's Wednesday but is paid back in loyalty. The ever-increasing service appointments show that: Wednesday appointments are more than 50 percent higher than before the program started. Also, the dealership points to the program for encouraging at least one car sale and two pending sales.
"Just this past week when I was visiting with one of the ladies who was attending our event she told me that she loved our event and would never buy a car from anyone else," wrote Lohse. "That's exactly what we are going for!"