As times change, we in the automotive service industry have to adjust to the new realities of how to stay in business and increase profitability in a world where everything is costing more. It seems that selling additional services that also add value is an attractive way to help achieve that goal.
Many of these products and services are aimed at the vehicle driveline. This is all fine and well, but these sales do not provide the service opportunity that can drive the bottom line in a more positive fashion. In order to increase those numbers, you need to think outside the box; or for our industry, inside the car. Fast lube operators typically overlook the interior of the vehicle as an opportunity to up-sell the ticket, but it is there that some of the more lucrative sales in our industry can be offered.
Not all hot air
The air quality inside of a vehicle is determined by the presence of unwanted contaminants that live in the ducting of air conditioning and heater systems. These concentrated contaminants can degrade the air quality in a vehicle causing foul smelling, health threatening mold and mildew deposits.
Many of the products that are used are simply perfumes that only temporarily remove the bad odor but do nothing to remove and prevent this problem from returning as soon as the “perfume” loses its masking odor. It’s a Band-Aid solution to a problem that needs a lot more attention.
When the service technician goes to move a vehicle into a service bay for service it is very simple to turn on the heater or air conditioner and smell the air that comes out of the vents. If it smells bad, the technician should bring it to the attention of the customer and offer an on-the-spot fix for the problem.
Most customers are more than happy to find out there is a safe, economical and fast solution for the problem. The service can be performed while they have the original service they came in for completed and it will take little or no additional time to perform.
Understanding foam cleaners
Other products that are more effective may be more expensive or difficult to apply and actually require drilling into evaporator boxes and spraying several chemicals into the system that have the potential to stick vent control systems and still do not effectively remove the contaminants.
The most cost effective and easiest solution are the foam cleaners that are safely and easily introduced into the system (with the vehicle not running and no drilling of holes) with an installation tube that is inserted into the evaporator box or heater by way of the drain tube
All systems have a drain to remove the condensation that provides the ideal growth medium for the contaminants
to grow. This drain tube often becomes plugged and the tube will clear it allowing the water to now leave the system properly instead of growing smelly contaminants.
With the tube in place the entire content of the can is discharged into the evaporator box or heater. The foam fills the system and the tube is removed. In 15 minutes the foam collapses and turns into a disinfectant liquid and flows out of the drain tube taking the bad smell and contaminants with it. The process is simple and easy, and completed while you are busy performing other services.
Take control of the situation
By taking control of the situation and using your nose as a diagnostic tool it becomes very easy to market interior additives as an added or bonus service that provides the customer with a safer environment and provides you with an easily marketed add-on service that can make a positive contribution to shrinking profits during this tough economic time.
Another bonus to consider is that the problem will come back, especially this time of year (hot, humid climates will need the service more often) and it creates the opportunity to perform the same service at a later date. Remember, if they liked the service you have already provided, and they trust you, then they now know where to go to get it fixed and will hopefully be back again and again.
Patrick Burrows is technical director at International Lubricants Inc. in Seattle, WA. Prior to this position, Burrows worked for 21 years in the automotive lubricant test industry. His primary expertise is lubricant and additive technology for automotive applications. He can be reached at: Pat@LUBEGARD.com