I suspect like most of you have, I calculated that stupid wasn’t fixable — after all someone famous — comedian Ron White — I think said that. On the other hand, ignorance was fixable, or so I figured. I saw stupid as an inherited gene which somehow got corrupted at conception, perhaps from the plastic materials used in old car seats. I was never certain.
A business pundit once lamented, “We lose a little on each one, but we make it up in volume.” That humorous take on business strategy describes the well-used engine oil change marketing efforts perfectly. As a separate operation, oil changes are considerable losers. Low parts margins, dreadful labor rates, lost time, expensive processing, low CSI, and exaggerated customer expectations (no appointment needed dude — 30 minutes and we will wash you and the car) construct a formula for calamity.
Scenario: Customer wakes up early in the morning dreading the seemingly every-other-day trip to the dealership for the painful every 90-day, 3,000 mile oil change.
“Thank God, I have a coupon for this one. Since I don’t need an appointment, I will get there early so I can make my 9:30 across town. That’ll work,” he thinks. During breakfast, the phone rings and the caller turns out to be the talkative fascist mother-in-law, who never met a word she couldn’t repeat three times.
Kitchen: “Yikes, it’s 7:42, better get going. Well, not to worry though, only takes 30 minutes. Let’s see, if I leave at 7:55 I’ll get to the dealership at 8:20, out at 8:50 for the 45-minute drive. Not bad, I’ll only be five minutes late for my 9:30 meeting. That’ll work.”
Fifteen Minutes Later: “Wow, a lot more traffic than I anticipated. Geez, another kiddy texter in a Honda ran into the back of a Chevy Suburban. Those are so hard to see in front of you — duh. OK, 8:22 still got time. Dang, there’s a line in the service lane, but let’s see 8:29 — still ok, 30 minutes will only be 8:59, so I will only be 15 minutes late to the meeting. I can drive a little faster too.”
Service Lane: Ok, 8:42, got a service advisor. “Need an oil change, that’s all. In a hurry too — nope, nothing else padre, oil change only.”
In Customer Lounge: “Wow, $14.95 for an oil change at Dickie’s Quickie. I gotta check that out. Glad I saw that ad on TV here. Hmm, 8:57 and still here. I better check the progress.”
Service Lane: “Crud, my advisor is not here. Oh, there he is with another customer. I’ll go stand by him to remind him I am here — I’ll give him the hurried look. Wish that customer would shut up already. It’s after nine, I gotta go.”
Cashier: “Oh no cutie, not that much. I got a coupon. Just give me the discount and let me go. Phooey, gotta redo the paperwork. Let me outta here. &&%$##*@#.”
On The Road: “I am sooooo late because of those *&##$%*@$#. I have to Google Dickie’s Quickie — gotta get that address.”
Unfortunately, this common situation is repeated hundreds of times everyday in dealerships around the country. Good employees get victimized, and then demonized by customers, who developed their illusory expectations and learned their un-fulfill-able practices from dealer and manufacturer service marketing, created by so-called marketing professionals who never worked in a service lane, let alone performed an actual oil change service. Giving away an oil change — how innovative is that?
The pathetic part of this melee is that marketing oil changes as a separate maintenance item, is the number one way the dealer service industry attempts to attract customers. This is the quintessential shooting one’s foot. It’s as if practically giving away oil changes is the only alternative available to attract service business. Are we that non-creative?
Most auto manufacturers have wised up and every maintenance visit is a “package” of services. In fact it has been like that for most franchises, many years — a few holdouts still don’t get it — you know who you are. Here’s how stupid got into this. I’m teaching a service workshop, which included a Ford / Kia dealer from Ireland. While discussing the “art” of attracting and performing effective maintenance services, he learned about the dastardly American method I related above. His comment was, “Are you stupid?” To which I replied, “Of course.” Why lie?
Well, this is so much fun; I will have to continue this saga in another column. I have a few non-stupid ideas to share which can make everyone’s life easier, while generating some actual parts and labor profit. Whatta concept!