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Multi-profit Centers

Slick service

October 11, 2010
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With car counts down by nearly 15 percent and quick lube competition fiercer than ever, lube shop operators tend to push customers through as quickly as possible. The result of this “get in and get out” strategy has been a decline of quality customer service practices and a drop in consumer trust.

Since a cheaper and faster mentality does not effectively build a loyal customer base, here is some insight on how to attract new customers, develop positive relationships with patrons and ensure your customers return time and time again.

Know your clientele
To the surprise of some, more than half of fast lube patrons are women. However, little messaging is tailored directly to female customers. This can create an instant disconnect during their experience at a fast lube location.

It is important for staff and technicians to take extra time and create a features-and-benefits dialogue to suit the audience. Asking questions and relating benefits which align with the customer’s needs is crucial.

A customized approach when dealing with male or female clientele will improve your chances of building a solid platform for recommending future services and products. Remember, your customers chose you. It is up to your staff to ensure they choose you again.

Be consistent
If your fast lube staffers are unclear of your strategy, conversations with customers over features and benefits could become diluted and, therefore, less believable. It is imperative all staff members convey identical messages about the goods and services you offer.

Messages should be consistent and reinforced through items customers read or see, such as printed literature and posters. Investing time in a training session to clarify what you want to say and how you want your staff to say it can lead to improved customer loyalty and trust.

Another way to build customer trust is to present and discuss what services their vehicle will need down the road. Advising customers of these needed or required services in advance will give them time to consider their options, ask questions and demonstrate that you are not out to take advantage of them.

Recommendations made in a helpful, concerned and comfortable demeanor help to turn today’s customers into repeat customers.

There are many ways to inform and educate customers of the benefits possible by purchasing premium goods and services. Passive upselling is an extremely effective compliment to talking directly with customers.

Make a deliberate, conscious effort to describe product features and benefits using language customers can easily identify with and understand. This is not easy to accomplish.

For example: “My owner’s manual indicates I should use a ILSAC GF-3 API SL, SAE 10w30 motor oil. What does all that mean and why should I consider the product you are offering?”

How would or should you answer that? How does an upsell opportunity fit into your response?

Most customers will not understand many of the industry buzz words and phrases, such as oxidation resistance, volatility, stability, robustness or lubricity.

To help form an effective response, try considering the following: “How would I explain this to my mom?”

While one cannot assume their customers are completely out of the loop when it comes to proper car care, easy-to-understand terminology can help customers more clearly understand the benefits and make an easier job of upselling more profitable services.

Remember, investing effort in a measurable customer service program is key to ensuring your fast lube stands apart from local competition. Well-deserved word-of-mouth recommendations from loyal patrons will help build a strong and lasting business.

Ray Sparling is the director of marketing for automotive lubricants, ConocoPhillips Company, Kendall Motor Oil brand.