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The quick lube industry is growing in leaps and bounds, expanding its offerings at an astronomical rate.
The lube operators who responded to Professional Carwashing & Detailing magazine's Lube Benchmarking Survey increased their offerings in every category. In 2003, 17.2 percent of respondents offered air conditioning service at their facility whereas 2004's numbers showed that nearly 40 percent were offering the service.
No lube shops offered emissions testing in 2003, but in 2004 nearly 18 percent did offer the service. Across the board, from radiator flushes to state inspections, the number of shops offering the services rose a minimum of 10 percent.
This shows tremendous initiative on the part of lube operators and it also shows that lube shops are changing with the times and expanding to become a one-stop-shop for many car-care needs.
With this in mind, PC&D magazine decided to ask lube industry leaders to reflect on what has been accomplished and name one thing that, if they had the power to, they would change about the industry.
Customer education is the #1 wish
By Sue Ackley
If I had one thing that I could change it would be to find a way to educate the consumer on how to take care of their vehicles.
Car maintenance is something that 99.9 percent of customers do not understand.
They think quick lube technicians are there to sell them unwanted and unneeded items, which is not true, especially in the Automotive Oil Change Association (AOCA) members' shops.
Automobile manufacturers want the customer to believe that they drive normally, which is far from the truth.
Almost all of us drive under severe conditions; therefore, we need to perform maintenance (oil changes) on vehicles closer to the 3,000 mile mark.
Today, cars cost way too much money and if everyone just keeps up on their maintenance they would not have to go to the dealer for costly repairs.
The dealers want to sell cars; therefore, they wish people would not maintain their vehicles.
Mobil/Exxon has just come out with 15,000-mile oil for the consumer. What about the oil filter? Oil filters have become smaller throughout the years and cannot go for an extended period of time without replacement.
No one will come to a quick lube or repair facility to change only the oil filter, so when the oil continues to go through the old oil filter the longer lasting oil will not help the vehicle or customer.
Now, after many years the car manufacturer sees what we have done with the lube business and they want it.
Car sales are down, revenue is down and they want our business. The only one thing they have yet to provide is convenience and speed.
Sue Ackley is the president of the Automotive Oil Change Association and owner of Xpress Lube, St. Louis.
Right to Repair: Complete access to information
By Trina Davis
Independent lube operators have a right to participate in equally fair market competition. While automotive manufacturers slowly release new vehicle information, lube shops are not able to service these new customers.
This technique hinders the lube marketplace and, in turn, hurts the end consumer.
The one change we hope to see in the near future is the complete access to specific vehicle information through the timely passing of the Right to Repair Act.
The Right to Repair Act (H.R. 2048) was reintroduced on May 3, 2005, with substantial clarity in regards to the Federal Trade Commissions (FTC) oversight and enforcement role.
The Bill states "To protect the rights of consumers to diagnose, service, and repair motor vehicles in the United States..."
Keeping the manufacturers' intellectual property rights in mind, the bill stipulates that the manufacturers' proprietary information will not have to be disclosed. However, they will be required to release all information to the vehicle owner or repair shop of their choice.
Contrary to many dealership claims, the bill does not restrict vehicle owners from choosing car dealerships; rather, it gives owners a choice.
While the bill is still in the beginning stages, independent lube operators are optimistic and hope to see the bill pass sometime before the end of 2005.
As automotive manufacturers continue to roll-out thousands of new cars on a daily basis, the limitation of information is making it difficult for the fast lube industry to keep pace.
Without a standardized method of releasing specific vehicle information, information dissemination is inconsistent and unreliable.
Although some automotive manufacturers post current vehicle information on their websites, this method is inconvenient and signals the difficult tug-of-war between the two parties.
If this bill passes, it is inevitable that one of the major automotive manufacturers will declare their specific vehicle information open to the public.
As with the Moss-Magnusson Act, other industry leaders will follow suit and it will become a standardized practice.
Without a quick and accurate flow of information from automotive manufacturers, shop technicians are limited in the cars they can service.
To run a quick and efficient shop, operators need a complete software solution that includes complete vehicle information.
Without the complete and timely dissemination of information from automotive manufacturers, lube shops cannot fully reach and serve their customer base.
We at ISI believe that changing the access to information in the lube industry is critical to continued fast lube success. The passage of the Right to Repair Act would ensure a fair marketplace for both lube shop owner and consumer.
Trina Davis is the marketing manager of Integrated Services, Inc. (ISI) headquartered in Portland, OR. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deceptive tactics by few harm all
By John A. Ayres, Jr.
Quick lubes are faster, more convenient, and less expensive than most dealerships.
In short, quick lubes are well positioned to continue to increase market share and solidify their position as the nation's preferred provider of oil changes and other routine vehicle maintenance.
While most quick lube companies treat customers fairly, there are less scrupulous operators that employ hard sell tactics, deceptive practices or outright dishonesty.
A network television undercover news story showing an employee of a national quick lube company charging a customer for a service that was not completed springs to mind.Earning our customers' trust
Quick lubes must work hard to earn customer trust by providing honest service at a fair price. This requires a commitment to business practices that focus on the long-term.
The key to success is the ability to earn the customers' trust. This hard work, however, can be compromised by the shortsighted actions of others.
Some quick lube operators place far too much emphasis on today's sales. They view a service as a single sales opportunity and pressure employees by setting unrealistic sales goals.
Instead, they should view a customer's first visit as an introduction to a unique service and all visits as opportunities to earn that customer's loyalty.
Research shows that our customers are more likely to purchase additional services, such as radiator flush, power steering flush and gear box service, on subsequent visits.
While some of this is due simply to the length of recommended service intervals, we're confident that customers need to feel comfortable with a company before trusting them to provide additional services.
There are no waiting rooms at Oil Can Henry's.
Instead, customers remain in their vehicles throughout the service. This gives our customers peace of mind and enables our technicians to talk with them throughout the service.
We share the manufacturer's recommended service interval information with customers so they feel involved in the service and educated about service decisions.
We tell our customers what services their vehicles may need and, equally important, tell them what is in good operating condition.
Hard selling or deception may produce strong sales in the short term, but these practices will ultimately lead to failure.
So, it's critical that all quick lube operators recognize that honest sales practices are the key to long-term success — for individual operators and the quick lube industry as a whole.
John A. Ayres, Jr. is the president and chief operating officer of Oil Can Henry's International, Inc.
Making it a win/win situation
By Tom Ritter
It's the job of the companies that supply products and services to quick lube businesses to serve the needs of entrepreneurs, and provide cutting edge solutions and products.
It's not enough to simply sell good products, stand back and hope for the best. Real value lies in partnering with business owners to seek win/win outcomes.
The question is not "what would one industry player like to change about the industry?" but rather, "how can a supplier such as Valvoline help an installer succeed?"Having a strong name
Knowing a consumer's wants and needs is more important than trying to throw programs or promotions at an operator, hoping one of them will work. To that end, it's critical that an operator choose a premium partner.
Premium brand imagery means nothing unless the operator can deliver premium service. Again, suppliers can play a key role in helping train an operator's personnel in everything from performing special services to marketing those services most effectively.
In conclusion, we can't think about changing the quick lube industry; consumers decide what type of services they want, what they will pay, and where they will go for those services.
What the industry can do is work toward serving consumer needs better and bringing premium solutions to quick lube operators.Case in point
Jim Dailey, Valvoline Express Care operator, Lubbock, TX, continues to focus on providing superior personnel, while expanding the business's automotive maintenance services, providing his customers an outstanding facility and quality product.
Dailey grew his business by pursuing an effective marketing campaign, and requires his managers and lube technicians to be Automotive Oil Change Association (AOCA) certified.
The business enjoys a sizeable percentage of the local market and is operating above the industrial norms for vehicles serviced, repeat customers, sales per employee, etc. He has developed a strong customer base including many professionals, local celebrities and medical-oriented personnel.
The Daileys of the quick lube industry cannot change consumer habits. They can meet and exceed consumer expectations.
Tom Ritter is the manager of the Valvoline Express Care Division.