SINGAPORE — Imagine inviting your best friends over for a nice, home-cooked meal. Executed well, that ranks as one of life’s finer experiences, creating memories to be treasured and providing a deep joy that money can’t buy.
But while cooking well requires talent and love, a chef’s abilities are only part of a wholesome dinner party.
There’s plenty of infrastructure involved: a welcoming living room, a cosy dining area, a well-equipped kitchen and well-stocked pantry… And don’t forget to clean the toilets!
In fact, a great evening like that starts the moment your guests walk through the door, and it’s that philosophy that many car dealers keep in mind as they strive to leave customers a positive experience.
And while there’s a human touch at the core of what makes a trip to a car dealership pleasant, what’s just as important is the hardware involved. And even though the showroom might be the most visible area, there are unseen parts of a proper dealership that are just as essential to a good experience over time — after all, buying a car doesn’t take long at all, but the ownership of one lasts years, and that’s where a dealer’s efforts in a 3S facility pay off.
The ‘3S’ concept refers to “showroom, service and spares”, which is what a real dealership should offer.
Naturally, the showroom gets a huge amount of attention, and it isn’t just place where cars are put on show with extra-powerful lighting. Taking Borneo Motors’ Toyota showroom on Leng Kee Road as a case study provides a fascinating insight into how a holistic approach to 3S is carried out.
It starts the moment you enter. The very first space that prospective customers step into the showroom is the most critical. It’s where consumers make the transition from the outside world and have their first experience of Toyota, which is handed by Borneo Motors.
This moment provides the first impression that the customer has of a given brand — like how stepping into someone’s home and seeing a pile dirty clothes on the floor causes you to judge them whether you like it or not.
That is why Borneo’s customers are greeted by a friendly Japanese concierge right at the entrance — if you have friends dropping by, you don’t just tell them to let themselves in. A warm welcome is very much welcomed.
If you drop by the Toyota showroom, have a look and you’ll notice that the cars on display are grouped according to need, so cars from a similar category tend to be grouped.And that’s exactly how its sales representatives approach the art.
Comfortable tables and chairs are lined in the middle of the showroom for discussions. They are laid out so that you can have a discussion with the sales engineer while still keeping the car you want in your line of sight. Customers are also served beverages and snacks by Borneo’s Japanese concierge.
It’s very much like being welcomed into your friend’s home, and then being settled onto the comfy sofa for a chat, with snacks to get your appetite going for dinner.
If all that effort is put into your first encounter with a brand, then imagine the work that goes into sustaining that good impression.
Having bought a car from a dealership, you now have the other two “S”s to rely on. The Servicing and Spares side of the business actually go hand-in-hand, and form a key part of a lasting relationship — it’s not much of a dinner party if your friend says, “Come to my place for a meal… but make sure you eat elsewhere first.”
Instead, a competent workshop and full parts store are like the essentials of a fine meal, analogous to a well-stocked kitchen with a talented cook running it.
But if the showroom part is about aesthetics and literally creating an inviting environment, the servicing and spares side are all about efficiency and scale.
Because the population of officially-imported Toyotas is large, Borneo Motors has eight facilities spread the island that offer workshop facilities — four main service centres in Leng Kee, Ubi, Sin Ming and Pandan with 121 servicing bays between them, two satellite centres in Bukit Batok and Woodlands with 12 more bays, and a Bodycare Centre with 73 repair bays on its own.
Providing the parts to keep them all humming along so that customers don’t face unnecessary delays is a Central Parts Depot with a storage space of 77,737 square feet — that’s enough to to keep 14,00 line items on hand.
It boggles the mind to think that some car retailers don’t even have one spare part to sell.
That would be like being turning up at the dinner party and being told to come back again because the host ran out of rice. Even the nicest living room couldn’t do much to salvage an evening like that. And over the long term, you might find yourself coming up with excuses to skip every a dinner invitation from a host like that.
On the flipside, the hospitality that can be extended to customers with 3S facilities is the reason real dealerships pour tens of millions into developing their showroom and aftersales infrastructure.
Even though two of the three elements of a 3S business are largely unseen — few customers have ever laid eyes on Borneo Motor’s Central Parts Depot, much as you’ve probably not seen the kitchen or freezer of your favourite restaurant — it’s nice to know that they’re there for you to rely on.
While the Showroom provides the first impressions of a car brand, the Service and Spares areas of a car dealership are what allow those first impressions to be nurtured into a fulfilling feeling of long-term satisfaction.
That’s something to keep in mind when you’re choosing your next car — even if you can excuse a humble showroom, the other two “S”s are much more important.