In the early 1990s, Saturday service department hours became a major focus for dealerships. To remain competitive, it was a “must do.” All those people that said it wouldn't work were wrong!

Now, the local retail competition is open on Sundays. Even though I live in the “Bible Belt” (Birmingham, AL), Sunday hours are common for large tire stores. Why? Because auto dealers expanded to Saturday hours.

Sunday service has many advantages:

  • It is the equivalent of adding a 13th month (or more, depending on your hours of operation) to your business.
  • It is convenient for many customers.
  • It is an additional selling point, giving you a competitive edge.
  • It appeals to service customers who had rejected your dealership as lacking convenience in the past.
  • It allows customers to drop off cars on Saturday and pick them up on Sunday and not interfere with their work schedule.
  • It's an additional day for fleet business.

Before you open for Sunday service, consider the following recommendations:

  1. Once you have made the decision to open on Sundays stay with it!

    Don't present it to the staff as, “We will try this but…” Your staff will find ways to make sure it never works if you are just doing it as a test run. Be committed to it.

  2. Develop a complete business plan to identify your market

    Include your objectives. Prepare a launch plan with a timeline of each required action and employee involvement.

  3. Determine hours of operation

    In some markets, opening at 1 p.m. is common so not to interfere with church activities. Take a survey of your market and determine what would be the most beneficial hours. Is the mall open at 10 a.m. on Sunday? Are your potential customers playing golf Sunday morning?

  4. Determine what services will be offered

    You may consider offering maintenance, light mechanical repairs, tire changes or basic diagnostic work only. Some dealerships have opened only their quick-service side while others open as a complete operation.

  5. Determine staffing requirements

    This can vary depending on your business plan. Generally, staff an advisor, two-three technicians and a parts person for a 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. operation, unless your plans extend beyond the maintenance-only operation.

  6. Determine the work schedule

    Don't assume no one wants to work Sunday. Consider hiring part-time technicians for the weekend. A lot of service managers think they have to work every Sunday. That's not the case. They may need to be there for the start up, but not beyond that.

  7. Get the word out

    Consider:

    • “Sunday” taglines with your ads.
    • Banner ads at the golf course, saying, “We could be servicing your car right now!”
    • Flyers attached to each service invoice announcing the new hours.
    • An email blast and website banners.
    • A promotion event with a live radio broadcast.
    • Special Sunday discount coupons.
    • Employee business cards offering discounts on Sunday work. Create an incentive for the employee who has the most cards redeemed.
    • Phone greeting that promotes the expanded hours.
    • A free diagnosis on Sundays.
    • If you schedule the first oil change for new owners, ask if they would like it done on Sunday.
    • Dealership newsletter promotions.
    • The parts truck and courtesy van adorned with banners announcing Sunday service.
  8. Anticipate staff objections.

    Discuss advantages. Staffers will ask hard questions, i.e. “How will this impact me?” You may not have all the answers. Get employees involved in the business plan. Have them help you find the answers.

It may take some work, but “open on Sundays” has real advantages.

Lee Harkins, president of ATcon in Birmingham, AL, is a dealership management consultant and industry speaker. He is at 800-692-2719 and LHarkins@ATconSSE.com

Questions or comments about this column? Send us an e-mail at Dealers@wardsauto.com.