In my line of work I travel a lot and tend to meet a lot of new people. One of the rituals frequent travelers are accustomed to is introducing yourself to the other frequent traveler seated next to you on the plane. After the person next to me has given me the standard quick synapses of his name, line of work, destination and length of trip I follow suit and report my required information. When people hear that I do training for fast lubes they invariably have a story about their local fast lube or a question about their cars service. Getting your oil changed is nearly as common as going to the dry cleaners or grocery store. Getting your oil changed is an everyday thing to do, commonly found on momʼs to do list, so it is no wonder people find it an easy topic to discuss.

One of the most common questions I am asked consistently asked is “Is there any real difference in oil.” My automatic response is always a question as to what kind of oil they prefer to use; and the answer, 9 times out of 10 is simply “No, I use whatever they use at the place I get the oil changed,” Nine of ten clearly indicating a lack of brand preference. With the one of ten who indicates they do have a brand preference and always use a certain brand I ask what that brand is and why they prefer that particular brand. It is invariably “it is what my dad used” or “are you kidding? That is (insert name of race car driver) race car sponsor.” The effectiveness of a particular brands advertising is most likely responsible for a personʼs preference rather than a research of quality. Old mechanicʼs tales are occasionally mentioned as a reason for a preference. “Brand A sludges up so I use Brand B.” Of course if you leave Brand B in the engine without changing it like the guy did in the mechanics story it will sludge up as well, they all will.

With all the consolidation going on in the oil industry the lines that separate brands are getting fuzzier and fuzzier all the time. I was speaking to a national oil company representative after a recent consolidation and he told me about two oil companies who split up a brand; one got the “name” of the brand and the other got the actual formula that made that brand. In other words, after the consolidation the name brand oil will have a different formula but retain the same name and the original formula will be marketed under a different, already existing name brand!!!

I started in the fast lube industry in 1986 as a lube tech, and since then as a manager, owner, trainer and consultant I have greeted thousands of customers and have found this to be true. If you offer Brand X to your customers 90% to 95% of the people you speak to will take Brand X. If you offer Brand Y to the same people the next time they come in, they will consent to Brand Y. If you ask what kind of oil the customer wants, a higher percentage will respond with a specific brand because you have asked them to give you a specific brand.

With the increasing complexities of newer vehicles the average car owner feels less in control of their vehicles maintenance, more now than ever. The average customer is more interested in the level of integrity your shop has more than the name brand of oil you install. If you show the customer poor quality service, the brand oil you installed while giving her this poor service is irrelevant. By the same token, if you do a great job of customer service the brand of oil you use is OK with the customer because she trusts your judgment.

You as an owner/manager are obligated to give your customers a good high quality oil to meet their manufacturerʼs requirements. Our government sets the minimum standards for oil to assure quality. You nor your customer are required to give way to a large oil companies advertising. Choose oil that best suits both you and your customerʼs needs. Marquee brands cost more money. This affects your bottom line and your ability to serve your customers in the long run. If you cannot justify staying in business because of low margins you cannot serve your customers.