The devil is in the details is the old saying and it couldnʼt be more true than in a fast lube! I have often said it and still believe that we are not really in the oil change business. If an oil change is all we had to offer a customer, they would find other sources much less expensive than the typical fast lube. We as in industry are far more than just an oil change. We offer at the very least convenience, piece of mind, and reassurance. Reassurance that the job was done right, conveniently located and the piece of mind that the necessary chore of getting the oil changed is over and done.

It is my belief that these largely “feel good” items are what allowed a small niche industry to become a part of the daily fabric of American society like the fast lube industry has become. These are the things that will keep us in business.

When I mystery shop locations around the country I am commonly unimpressed by what should by the most simple things; unhappy or uncaring customer contact people, long faces, poor grooming habits, dirty lobbies, cold or old coffee in the waiting room are examples. But the biggest and most consistent problem is simply a blatant lack of concern for customers. The average customer doesnʼt feel wanted, needed or appreciated. If a customer doesnʼt feel wanted, why would they return to that business? Everyone wants to feel needed or appreciated. This problem is by no means a unique problem to our industry. When I visit places of business for personal use I get similar results. Poor customer service is running rampant in America and we experience it every day. It has gotten so bad that we are subconsciously lowering the acceptable level of customer service everyday. We are starting to consider it “over and above the call of duty” when someone says “thank you” or “we appreciate your business.” The longer it goes on the lower our expectations get. Getting a live person to speak to when you call on the phone about a bill or account is tough and sometimes impossible. I called an airline this past week to get a ticket and instead got a recording that said they were too busy and to call later! Can you believe that? A customer with money to spend being told, by a machine no less, to call back later to give them money! And they wonder why they are going broke?

Our business like many others absolutely requires customer contact. This provides you a fantastic opportunity to wow and impress the customer with great service and makes them feel as important as we know they really are; the lifeblood of your business!

Operators complain about how hard it is to find good people to give this type of service and I know it certainly presents a challenge, but what more important task is there when these people are what represent you and your business?!

Perhaps there needs to be a shift in the way you recruit or modify your hiring criteria. Do you hire people with mechanical back grounds for work in your fast lube or do you hire people who canʼt seem to stop smiling? I have always said that I could teach anyone to change oil, but I have never been able to teach anyone to be friendly. A lot of people are nice and friendly after you get to know them, but your customer contact people need to show customers immediately upon their arrival that they are not only welcome but appreciated. Good customer service starts with the people we hire.

Remember, it is the little things that count. A smile and hello to a customer, greeting a customer by name when they pull up, a genuine compliment towards a customers car, an appreciative word when they leave. These are the things that bring customers back. The fast lube business relies heavily on repeat business and the competition has never been more intense. Dealers with built-in credibility are going after your customers more than ever. New lubes are being built on nearly every corner.

Unless you can answer the question objectively as to why a customer would return to your location instead of the dealer or the lube on the corner then you need to start paying attention to the details. And remember everyone will change the oil correctly, what else can you do better than the other guy?