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Should Your Service Department Be Open Weekends? How to Decide What’s Best for Customers

For dealership service departments, the decision to open weekends involves some tricky trade-offs. Like most things, there are pros and cons to weigh. It can’t just be a knee-jerk reaction based on assumptions.

In my experience, many managers default to limited weekend hours because they presume customers don’t want them. But is that based on actual demand, or internal biases? As the industry evolves, we need to rethink ingrained notions of what customers want. 

With today’s busy families, weekends are often the only freely available time for repairs and maintenance. Yet many departments offer bare bones staffing and services compared to the week. Is it really fair to judge the potential of weekends when operations are intentionally hamstrung?

attracting new customers

In this episode, let’s dig into some best practices around weekend hours:

– Are customers really asking for it?

– Managing weekend staffing realities  

– Maximizing capacity before expanding 

– Setting schedules based on access not preferences

– Judging weekends fairly – not via limited ops

– Executing weekends right if you offer them

Let’s explore how to make the decision from an outside-in, customer-first perspective.

Observing Behavior is the True Litmus Test

When mulling over weekend hours, many managers start with internal assumptions versus external data. Things like:

– “Customers just want to relax on weekends.” 

– “My staff won’t work Saturdays.”

– “It will hurt work-life balance.”

The problem is these are biased hypotheses, not facts. Before even considering weekend hours, you need to objectively assess customer demand. Walk across assumptions and observe actual behavior:

– Check phone records – are people calling about weekend appointments? 

– Review online search patterns for your site. 

– Drive by competitor shops on Saturdays and Sundays – what’s the crowd activity?

– Talk to customers.Surveys and focus groups can reveal interest.

Data trumps speculation. Let real world behavior guide your approach.

When I became GM years ago, my sales manager suggested being open on Thanksgiving. I balked…who would come in on a holiday?  

But he showed me security footage revealing huge browsing crowds every holiday we were closed. The proof opened my eyes – our assumptions were totally wrong.

We ran a test, staffing a skeleton crew Thanksgiving. Shockingly, we had a blowout sale day from out-of-towners calling to see if any dealers were open. 

You truly can’t know demand unless you experiment. Use real observations to determine if weekend hours make sense before considering logistics. 

Prepping for Weekend Staffing Realities

Once sufficient customer demand is validated, preparing for weekend staffing gets real. Managing part-timers and rotations takes finesse and planning.

Many managers write off weekends assuming “no one wants them.” But blanket statements ignore willing workers with alternative availability. Think single parents who need weekends to avoid daycare costs and split families juggling custody. Students and second jobbers prize weekends. 

With the right approach, staffing can work. Some tactics:

– Canvas existing staff interest before assuming disinterest. Avoid self-fulfilling prophecies.

– Structure logical shift rotations for fairness and coverage.  

– Add weekend-only roles with hourly base plus commission incentives.

– Help teams understand weekend success depends on them.

– Consider 4-10s to preserve work-life balance for weekend staff.  

– Provide Sunday premium pay to incentivize.

– Be onsite early on to lead culture and set expectations.

Maximize Existing Capacity First – Then Expand 

Another trap managers fall into is assuming more hours automatically mean more business. But if your existing capacity is underperforming, that must be addressed first. 

Before pursuing weekends, maximize your Monday through Friday effectiveness. Look critically at stale practices that artificially suppress capacity:

– Is shop workflow optimized? How’s booking efficiency?

– Do advisors upsell effectively? Or leave opportunity on the table?

– Are staff skills continually developing or stagnant?

– How’s your marketing? Are you getting a steady flow of appointments?

When I consulted with a Boston dealer who stayed open until 9pm, the extended hours just drained resources for minimal gain. From 5-9pm they were ghost towns.

They had bigger issues with advisor productivity, tech training, and workflow. Had they maxed out their core hours first, weekends could have been an expansion.  

Be honest if you’re already undercapacity during the week. More hours spread thin won’t magically increase business. Optimize your core first.

Set Schedules Around Customer Access 

I believe the service schedule should flex around customer access, not internal preferences. What’s convenient for staff isn’t always aligned with consumer needs. 

With 40+ hour work weeks the norm, weekends are the only time many households can manage car repairs. Treat Saturdays and Sundays as an opportunity to capture business, not a chore. 

See weekends also as a chance to attract new customers who get firsthand exposure to your excellent facility and staff. Their loyalty can pay dividends for years via revisits, referrals, and retention.

Providing weekend flexibility isn’t just good business, but a magnet for talented people seeking work-life balance. Avoid boxing yourself in with rigid policies.

Judging Potential Requires Removing Handcuffs First 

Here’s another key point – if you do offer weekend hours, they must be judged fairly to determine viability. 

Many departments intentionally run skeleton crews with their least skilled staff on Saturdays. They provide bare bones services compared to weekday offerings. Restricted hours like 8am-3pm are common.  

Essentially they hamstring operations, then claim customers don’t want weekends since the results underperform. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

To genuinely gauge weekend potential, remove the handcuffs first: 

– Staff with your A-players who know how to convert.

– Offer full services to capture more business. 

– Provide hours that work for customers, like 10am-5pm.

– Incentivize weekend advisors with commission-based pay.

Skeleton crews and limited operations reveal a half-hearted commitment that won’t prove anything. And it certainly won’t deliver the same revenue as optimized weekdays.

Successful weekends require investment and execution to maximize – like any business expansion.

The Bottom Line

Expanding operating hours is not a unilateral decision or one-size-fits-all. It requires homework to determine if truly beneficial for your customers. 

There are nuances to navigate from staffing to capacity utilization. But view weekends through the lens of access and customer demand – not internal friction.

Getting weekend hours right or determining they aren’t needed takes patience and analysis. Resist knee jerk reactions. Let data around customer needs light the way.  

The role service plays only grows as dealership models evolve. Delivering profitable solutions on customers’ timelines is the new imperative.

If you enjoyed this post and want to learn more ways to transform your service department in today’s environment, book a free 15-minute strategy session with my team here.

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