Infiniti of Denver used valet service to boost business amid product void

Written by on May 21, 2022

In early summer 2020, Infiniti of Denver debuted a vehicle pickup and delivery program for its service customers. It was an effort to keep customers from defecting because the dealership knew it was going to be without a critical vehicle for months.

Production of Infiniti’s previous-generation QX60 midsize crossover would end in December 2020, and a redesigned version wouldn’t arrive at U.S. stores until a year later as a 2022 model.

“While we were offering lease extensions to current customers, I was concerned about them leaving the brand altogether,” Infiniti of Denver dealer principal Christopher Smith told Automotive News. “We needed something to differentiate ourselves, especially in this time of a product void.”

The convenience for customers has also helped draw new business to the out-of-the-way dealership in Aurora, Colo.

“We are difficult to find and not necessarily in the best part of town,” Smith said. “What better way to get customers to continually come to us for service than to pick up their vehicle, drop off a loaner if necessary and bring their car back when finished?”

The valet program created scheduling flexibility for the store, which has just 14 service bays.

“We had to get creative on how many cars we can handle at one time,” Smith said. “We found customers are much more flexible when they never have to spend their time visiting the dealership.”

The service has boosted Infiniti of Denver’s fixed ops revenue and improved customer satisfaction. Last year, the store’s customer satisfaction score was nearly 15 percent above the national average.

Customer-pay repair order volumes rose 11 percent in 2021 from 2020, while out-of-pocket customer spend on service surged 28 percent.

Customers who use the valet program are also more likely to return for service, with retention up 16 percent year over year in 2021, said Smith, whose store sold 273 new and 546 used vehicles last year.

The valet program also has helped Infiniti of Denver hang on to more out-of-warranty business that is typically lost to independent repair shops.

“Sixty-five percent of service vehicles we pick up via valet are out of warranty,” Smith said.

The program’s success led Infiniti to roll out a similar valet service to its 203 U.S. retailers last year. Infiniti Americas’ chief Craig Keeys said the Aurora store’s initiative “helped convince us it could be a sustainable, profitable model for the entire network.”

“Their engagement, as showcased by the numbers, helped us reinforce the value of the valet program internally and to other retailers,” Keeys said.

Before Smith could sell his customers on the valet service, he had to convince his employees of the benefits.

Service advisers were concerned it would be harder to get repair work approved by customers if they weren’t sitting across the table.

“For the first six, eight months, I had a lot of pushback,” Smith said. “We were getting in our own way, and I finally had to insist that this is what we’re going to do. Period.”

To create demand for the program, Smith incentivized the customer service team to schedule valet appointments proactively.

Dedicating employees and loaner cars to the program has not been inexpensive. Smith said he budgets up to $25,000 a month for the service, including a $1,000 outlay on subscription fees for software to manage customer communication, appointment scheduling and performance tracking.

“I don’t believe this is for everyone,” Smith said. “It is hard and expensive, and if the entire operation is not 100 percent committed, it will not work.”

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