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Quick lube operators know that getting customers in the door is only half of the battle; keeping them coming back is the other half. While some operators are hesitant to associate their operation with a brand, others know that branding is crucial to helping them win the battle for customers on both fronts.
Branding, both externally and internally, can not only help an operator distinguish his operation from another quick lube, but it can also help build recognition and credibility within the community.
External branding: The importance of proper signage
In today’s highly competitive market, quick lube operators can increase the likelihood of attracting potential customers and higher revenue through the most cost-effective and efficient form of advertising: on-premise signage. Utilizing concise and well-positioned signage quickly and effectively communicates to customers the products and services available.
Consumers have a strong dependence on visuals and word-of-mouth when considering where to go for an oil change or vehicle maintenance. Maintaining proper signage is one of the most critical factors in a business’s success or failure.
Recent trends support the value of investing in professional signage. The over-scheduled American has shifted from a do-it-yourself oil changer to a do-it-for-me oil changer, and has increased the emphasis on convenience and efficiency.
Strong on-premise signage informs consumers that a business exists. Signs also serve as an effective yet inexpensive 24-hour advertisement, developing brand equity by emphasizing words or graphics associated with the business. These same words and graphics will also reinforce other advertising and promotional efforts.
In addition to advertising benefits, signs have the ability to prompt a purchase, particularly those made on impulse. Once a consumer makes the decision to stop and make a purchase, temporary signage calling attention to “specials” can change a purchasing decision or choice.
For a sign to be effective it should communicate, in as few words as possible, what you are selling. Sign type, size, color and placement are also critical to its effectiveness. It is important to remember that a sign doesn’t have to say everything.
It is intended to attract potential consumers to the quick lube, where they can receive additional information.
As a lube operator, a primary goal of your signage is to create brand recognition for your business in the community. The proper words and logos on well-positioned signage will build your image and will help brand your business and location, while creating top-of-mind awareness for existing and potential customers.
Internal branding: Creating a positive experience
The proper exterior signing can attract customers to a quick lube, but a positive experience inside will keep them coming back.
When an operator decides to brand his quick lube, or become a franchisee, the operation becomes an extension of the brand. Because of this, customers will likely have higher expectations in terms of customer service and product quality, which can create a challenging environment for an operator.
Customers who have high expectations for the level of service that they will receive will likely leave feeling one of two ways. If expectations are not met, customers will leave feeling unsatisfied with their experience and are not likely to return. Conversely, customers who are satisfied with their experience or feel that their experience exceeded expectations are likely to return.
Maintaining the level of service and product knowledge that customers expect not only helps to further build the reputation of the operation, it also helps to build the reputation of the brand as a whole. It is extremely important that operators work hard to ensure that their operation meets and exceeds customer expectation. After all, there are plenty of quick lube facilities out there from which customers can choose.
Be knowledgeable, be friendly
The key to providing customers with a positive experience is presenting them with knowledgeable and friendly employees to assist them during their visit. Because a customer’s needs and knowledge of motor oil will vary, employees must be properly trained to thoroughly understand each product and service offered by their operation. They should be able to comfortably and confidently answer any questions that a customer asks and offer advice, when needed.
Making use of branded materials, such as in-store signage and product menus, will help customers visualize the product and will also make additional information such as price and product benefits readily available. Making use of the product menu during the “greeting process” provides a consistent approach to your customers, and allows service greeters to become comfortable with the questions they may be asked by the customer. It’s important to keep in mind that the way the quick lube employees interact with customers as soon as they walk in the door sets the tone for their entire experience with the operation.
For some customers, simply pointing out the list of oils and prices is enough, and they will make a quick decision. Others may need further guidance and request more information about the products, or even recommendations. Either way, it’s important to steer your sales team away from a “selling” and “up-selling” mentality and towards a more educational approach that will make customers more comfortable and increase their understanding of motor oil.
Pressuring customers to make a purchase is something that should be avoided. A better approach is to present options to customers, provide them with information that they need to make a decision, and let them choose the right motor oil for their needs.
Remember, the key to increasing profits for a quick lube operation is customer education, not a hard sell. When presented with the options and a bit of information about the benefits of each product in the line, customers will typically select the product that’s best for them. They’ll feel that they are in control of the situation and as a result will have a positive experience with your shop. That not only will result in a profitable sale, but it will help ensure that the customer comes back every time his, or her, vehicle needs an oil change.
When it comes to branding, what’s on the outside is just as important as what’s on the inside. With the right mix of attractive exterior signage and excellent customer service, operators will be on their way to running a quick lube that attracts and retains valued customers.
Tom Segletes (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a field marketing coordinator for ExxonMobil’s Mobil 1 Lube Express program.