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Knights Group: Why we extended our working hours to 2am

On Friday evenings, the business is open until 7pm, although there is some uncertainty about the level of demand from customers to have their car serviced then.

The impact of the opening hours change on staff was handled with as much sensitivity and flexibility as possible, following a series of consultations on the new schedule, dubbed ‘open all hours’.

After the launch meeting, there were departmental team meetings and then three individual consultations with staff.

Nine out of 10 staff members said they could understand why Knights was making the changes and agreed it was right for customers. However, at launch, only 60% wanted to be involved.  

“This made the consultation process essential, since once you find out individual needs you tailor hours and create rotas to suit. From then onwards, the amount of staff ready to come on board increased,” Dow said. Nonetheless, as ‘open all hours’ meant changes to working conditions, the group’s HR manager was involved at every step.

While it was impossible to please everybody, Knights retained 85% of its staff after the change.

Recruiting replacements was challenging and staff were “thin on the ground” to begin with, said Dow: “While I don’t think the job market was ready for this change – and we saw a number of candidates who didn’t want to work our hours – we have been able to attract very good people.

“A lot of interviewees told us they expected this in a retail environment.”

Knights applied the philosophy of ‘recruit for attitude, not experience’ and was prepared to teach the technicalities of aftersales to those with the right mindset for extended working hours.

In some cases, former service advisers who left automotive  retail for other sectors have joined Knights and for them, ‘open all hours’ is not an obstacle.

The transition went so well, in fact, that the showroom staff opted to mirror the service department’s opening hours and is now welcoming customers from 8.30am until 9pm. “It made sense when it was clear an aftersales department open for business would mean showroom traffic,” said Dow.

Reception staff changed to weekend working two years ago. There was initial opposition to giving up free time and being at home when most people were at work.

“The reception staff wouldn’t go back to the old working patterns now. This helped us convince service advisers and technicians of the importance of change,” said Dow.



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Comments

  • busterrabbit - 26/11/2014 12:27

    Working on similar assumptions to Knights to give customers more choice/convenience, back in the early '80s the Sytner BMW workshops in Nottingham were open from 07:00am until 11:00pm. We used to work either an early or late shift with a handover period from 3-3:30pm. The biggest problem was getting customers to come in outside of the "normal" working day. Calling customers at 10:00pm asking for authorisation for extra work wasn't well received either. I guess the same would apply to requests to fleets via 1Link. We actually ended up doing mostly internal work in the evenings, so there was an improvement in retail lead times, but I guess the extra costs weren't recovered and after a year or so the system was dropped and we returned to normal hours. Most people are reluctant to "lose" their car during their leisure time, yes they'll have a distress purchase like tyres fitted; it usually doesn't take long and there are few variables. Taking your car for a service in the evening and "having a coffee" which turns into pads/discs and missing your evening meal/putting your kids to bed is not for the majority. It might help reduce unnecessary upsell though, with customers itching to leave to get home.