“I firmly believe, in this day and age, customers should be able to have their cars serviced and repaired during hours convenient to them, not just us.
“For too long we’ve channelled people into our requirements of 7am – 6.30pm. If you want to be a true retailer you have to open over the weekend. Name a high street store that doesn’t.”
Like so many other dealers – and manufacturers – Knights looked at the Apple store model.
“You can go and have your phone looked at up to nine o’clock at night in most stores. So, why shouldn’t a customer bring his car in for a service after they have finished work and sit and have a coffee in a far more relaxed environment than trying to do it before work and then get back to us in the rush hour, possibly, to collect it?”
Dow doesn’t know why it has taken the industry so long to catch up with other retail sectors, but suggested increased costs are a factor.
“Everybody is concerned about return on investment and certainly if you want to stay open longer there is a cost. We’ve accepted we’ve had to employ more people. But we’re starting to see the benefits.”
In June, Knights North (the Stoke site) began opening from 7am until 9pm, Monday to Thursday.
It means that a while-you-wait customer who uses Knights’ ‘fast lane’ service can bring their car in up to 7.30pm and be on their way home at 9pm.
“This is a reasonable time for a customer who is on their way home from work to call in, have their car serviced and be away,” said Dow.
“If we’d have opened until 7pm, while there would have been a benefit for customers to be able to collect, I don’t see that there would be a tangible improvement in delivering service on the same day.”
All routine servicing is possible during the new opening hours. The business is also open on Saturdays, from 9am-5pm, and Sunday, from 11am-5pm, for sales and service.
The bodyshop reception is open at weekends, but the bodyshop itself is closed. However, consultation has started with staff on changing this.
Introducing the 2am MoT
Knights has also introduced a service department night shift. It carries out internal preparation and MoTs up to 2am, Monday to Thursday.
“When a customer comes in during the day, we may identify a number of issues that need resolving, and whereas before we’d probably put the customer into a courtesy car and the customer would come back the next day, we’ve now got the ability to get the customer’s car ready for the next morning,” said Dow.
“They can collect it on the way back to work from home, rather than having another day without their car. It’s made the business more efficient.”