What Coffee Teaches Us About Service

by Lauren Henderson

image1[1]I intentionally skipped a step getting ready this morning. Don’t worry it wasn’t anything critical like deodorant or brushing my teeth, I just left my hair a little undone. Why did I sacrifice beauty for an extra five minutes? That’s easy, an extra five meant I would have time to stop by my favorite local coffee stand on the way to work.

Now, this coffee shop’s service is a little slower than your average Starbucks drive-thru and their prices are considerably higher than McDonalds and my local Chism Travel Center but their service and their coffee — oh their coffee — is markedly better than both.

As I pulled behind three other vehicles, I sorted through emails, watched the clock and got my cash ready. A few minutes later, I inched forward, rolled down my window and hastily responded to the employee waiting at the window, “One venti, nonfat latte, one pump vanilla, please,” I said. The employee grabbed an oversized cup — required by only the most committed coffee drinkers — and artfully started making my morning brew.

While waiting, I thought to myself, “Isn’t it funny how even when not at Starbucks their cup sizes are still the standard?” I had ordered a “venti” drink and even though this coffee stand’s cups were clearly marked “small, medium and large” on the menu, the employee knew what I meant. Without hesitation, he’d grabbed the right cup. Somewhere along the lines, whether they were my favorite coffee shop or not, Starbucks had set the standard.

Who is setting the service standards in the quick lube industry? Is it you? Even if you’re not the biggest chain, look and see what others are getting right, what they can improve on and then do it better! That’s what coffee can teach us about oil changes. Now to make my way through this giant cup of joe! (Just kidding, I already finished it!)

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Oil Change Veterans Finish Day Three Strong in Amarillo, Texas

by Lauren Henderson

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Joe Perkins and Larry Read cross the finish line for day three in Read’s 1939 Buick.

Larry Read, Joe Perkins and Scotti Lee know their way around cars. Yesterday in Amarillo, Texas they proved it again as “Blue 92″ crossed the finish line and completed day three of The Great Race in position No. 43 out of 109 teams.

The third leg of The Great Race began in Oklahoma City where teams spent the night after finishing day two. They continued to follow historic Route 66 west to Elk City, Oklahoma where they stopped for lunch before heading into the farm country of Texas. Racers report the lonely farm roads offered great rallying conditions but were a challenge.

Read spent the day navigating, Perkins drove and Lee pulled into Amarillo with the parts truck, having already coordinated a place for the team to be able to lift the 1939 Buick and change the fluids.

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Scotti Lee, Joe Perkins and Larry Read (left to right) in Amarillo, Texas after day three on their Great Race adventure.

Today, the team will stop in Tucumcari, New Mexico for lunch before heading to Santa Fe, New Mexico to finish day four. If you can catch The Great Race on their way to the finish line in Santa Monica, California I highly suggest doing so. They’ll also be making stops in Albuquerque and Gallup, New Mexico,  Winslow, Flagstaff, Kingman and Lake Havasu City, Arizona, Twentynine Palms and San Bernadino, California.

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Read’s 1939 Buick cruises down historic Route 66.

The cars are incredible and you may never get a chance to see automotive history this way again. Goodluck and safe travels Team No. 92! Here are some more moments from day three:150622_GR_0300150622_GR_0335150622_GR_0417IMG_4279IMG_4282IMG_4285IMG_4299

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10 Reasons We Love the Automotive Maintenance Business

by Lauren HendersonDSC01758We get it, customers can be rude, competition is brutal and automotive technology is becoming increasingly complicated. Even still, gear heads like us can’t walk away from the service bays because the satisfaction and reward we find in our jobs far outweigh a grouchy customer here and there. Here are our top 10 reasons why the fast lube industry makes our hearts race:

1. Every customer is a new opportunity to “hit it out of the park.”

2. Working on cars is a lost art and we’re experts on it!

3. We get cars, cars get us.

4. Getting dirty is more fun than staying clean.

5. We like a challenge, especially one we have to solve FAST!

6. We can still get more customers in, professionally serviced and on their way faster than the dealerships.

7. What’s more fun than hearing an engine roar? Starting one that wasn’t purring before we fixed it.

8. Have a question? Bet we can find somebody with the answer.

9. We get to make a lot of customers’ days — everyday.

10. We can grow with our careers.

Why do you love your job in the automotive maintenance industry?

Interested in finding an automotive service job? Check out our classifieds for regularly updated employment opportunities.

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Industry Pioneers Race From Kirkwood, Missouri to Santa Monica, California in a 1939 Buick

by Lauren Hendersongreat_race_2015

Industry pioneers and NOLN contributors, Larry Read and Scotti Lee are going on a new kind of adventure in exactly 11 days. The duo along with Read’s buddy, Joe Perkins who restores cars and is also a mechanic and 130 other antique car teams will trek along old Route 66 in a 1939 Buick from Kirkwood, Missouri to Santa Monica, California. The nine-day road rally is called The Great Race and tests driver/navigator teams’ ability to follow instructions and the car and teams’ ability to make it on a cross-country trip.

Read's 1939 Buick that will be making the trek on old Route 66. The team has nicknamed it

Read’s 1939 Buick that will be making the trek on old Route 66. The team has nicknamed it “Blue 92.”

Read, Lee and Perkins will go through all kinds of terrain and make drastic altitude drops along the way. Perkins is the driver, and Read is the navigator. The rules state they can’t have access to cellular or GPS devices so they’ll be relying on Read’s map skills.

Lee is in charge of driving the chase vehicle. He will follow a different route than Read and Perkins. The chase vehicle will carry extra parts and supplies should the 1939 Buick break down along the way.

“It’s a process called ride, repair, repeat,” Read said. “The chase vehicle can only meet up with us at night where we spend the night. If we break down before we get there, there’s a sweep vehicle that will pick us up and take us in. Once we arrive at the rest spot, we start working on the car all night to get ready to go in the morning. We will also be counting on our connections in the quick lube industry. If our car needs something we plan on calling on our quick lube friends in the towns along the route.”

We plan on checking in with Team “Blue92″ (the name of the Buick they’re driving) throughout the race and will be reporting how they fair. Read said out of the 130 cars that start the race, only 90-95 will finish.

To read more about The Great Race including specific rules, sponsors, checkpoints and prizes visit their website: www.greatrace.com

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All Motor Oil Must Provide 10,000 Miles of Safe Lubrication, SB 778

by Lauren HendersonProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 presetMany say California tends to be the leader when it comes to what the rest of the country is going to do. Whether that’s true or not, the recent California Senate Bill (SB 778), introduced by California Senator Allen on February 27, 2015 is one to pay close attention to.

“If it becomes law, as currently written, this bill will require all passenger car motor oil sold in California to be certified by the oil manufacturer to achieve a minimum useful life of 10,000 miles when used in accordance with the automobile manufacturer’s recommendations, and to meet current automotive industry standards. The bill now goes to the Senate Committee on Appropriations. If it is approved and becomes law, it will require all automotive oil sold in the state of California to provide 10,000 miles of safe lubrication by 2018.  That’s close to doubling oil change intervals. Violation of these provisions would be a crime on and after January 1, 2018,” wrote Thomas Glenn in a recent newsletter for the Petroleum Quality Institute of America (PQIA).

Of course, just because a bill is presented doesn’t mean it becomes a law. Lots of bills never make it through. However, it’s important to know, Glenn says that on May 1, 2015, the California Senate Committee approved this bill. It’s also important to note that according to our research, customers are only driving an average of 152 miles more than they were in 1999 (Click here for more on that.) So even if oil drains were to double in 2018, would customers really go that long between oil changes?

To read the full PQIA article including more about the bill and the unintended consequences of it click here: http://conta.cc/1K6WgV2

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What You Need to Know About the 2015 Fast Lube Operator Survey and Oil Change-Plus Survey

by Tammy Neal

This year we’re shaking things up. We want to make sure all of our readers know what’s going own and are familiar with the 2015 Fast Lube Operator and Oil Change-Plus surveys. In the past, these survey results have been available to everyone in the September and November magazines. This year, unless you complete the 2015 Operator Survey (here) or are a premium subscriber (here), you won’t receive the survey results.

Here’s who, where, when, why and what you need to know:

What: The Fast Lube Operator Survey results are usually published in the September issue. In 2014, the Oil-Change Plus Survey results were published in the November issue. However, in 2015 only operators who complete the 2015 survey or are premium subscribers will receive the survey results.

Who: Any owner, operator or manager of a preventative maintenance or automotive service/repair facility should complete the survey.

Where: A 2015 survey questionnaire was polybagged with the May issue of NOLN for you to complete and return to us. If you’d like to complete the survey online you can do so at: www.surveymonkey.com/s/NOLNSurvey15 If you misplaced the printed version from your May issue, call us at 800.796.2577 and we’ll get a new one sent to you.

When: The completed surveys are due back to us by Friday, June 26, 2015, so we have time to tabulate the results.

Why: If you want to be sure you can compare the statistics of the industry with those of your business, please be sure to either complete the survey or purchase a premium subscription. If you have a username and password that you use to access our special subscriber-only features on the website, then you do, in fact have a premium subscription. However, just because you’re receiving the printed issue of NOLN for many years, we can neither guarantee you have a premium subscription nor can we guarantee you’ll receive the 2015 Fast Lube Operator or Oil Change-Plus survey results. If you’d like to inquire about the status of your subscription call Sheila at 800.796.2577 ext. 205.

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Gentleman Start Your Engines

by Lauren Henderson

On April 10, 2015, Jason Smith, vice president of operations of Express Lube in San Antonio, TX  had the honor of being the grand marshal at The 2015 O’Reilly 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series.

In addition to saying, “Drivers start your engines,” Smith got to attend the drivers’ meeting and shake all the drivers’ hands after the driver introductions.

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Smith says being the grand marshal of a big race wasn’t on his bucket list before but it was a fun opportunity and he’s glad he had the opportunity.

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Good News For Your Customers Means Good News For You

Let’s face it, life is 50 percent luck, 50 percent hard work and sometimes it feels like it’s 100 percent out of our control. So many factors affect the consumer mindset but a recent report from The NPD Group gives our industry a reason to celebrate.

“An interesting phenomenon is happening on the roads today,” David Portalatin executive director for the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Analyst writes. “At the same time consumers are driving more, they are also spending less at the pump. In spite of the 4 percent increase in gasoline usage, consumer spending at the pump is down $39 billion so far this year. This situation leads to some long overdue market opportunities for the automotive aftermarket.”

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More miles on the road means more visits to your bays.

“Motor oil tells a good story, with the total category up 7 percent in dollars and 4 percent in quarts — a different story line than what we’ve grown used to in recent years,” Portalatin said. “Now as consumers find some relief in their wallets, dollar and unit sales across “bonus categories” are growing. These categories include air fresheners, appearance accessories and appearance chemicals.”

To read the whole story check out The NPD Group blog: http://bit.ly/1RwGbuY

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Speed Ratings

by Lauren Henderson

April is National Car Care Month and a great time to remind customers of general car maintenance and safety guidelines like the importance of having tires with the proper speed rating on their vehicle.

The need for higher fuel economy, lower emissions and increased performance have spurred engine technology forward in just a short amount of time. Today, the tires on basic family vehicles often share speed ratings with those developed for ultra-high performance sports cars.

“High speed ratings — which indicate how fast a tire can roll at specified sustained speeds safely carrying a load — no longer are limited to the performance category,” explains Rick Brennan, executive director of marketing at Falken Tire Corporation. “When replacing tires, consumers need to ensure that they’re not compromising safety by opting for a lower-speed rated tire.”

If you offer tire services, pay close attention as you change out winter tires for all-season or summer tires on your customers’ vehicles. Winter tires usually have a lower speed rating than the original manufacturers’ speed rating. Remind your staff to consult the owners manual or the tire placard in the glove box or doorjamb for the correct tire size and speed rating.

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Falken Tire recommends reminding customers of these three things before changing their tires:

1. Never downgrade: A tire’s speed rating indicates how fast a tire can roll while carrying a maximum load. Always select a replacement tire that at least matches the rating of the tires that were on the vehicle when it was purchased. You can always go up with the speed rating but never go down.

2. Don’t rely on a tire’s speed rating to tell you how much grip or cornering ability the tire provides: The speed rating tells you how fast a tire can roll safely, not how much cornering capability it has. If you’re looking for a tire that provides better handling or grip, you must research what the individual tire was designed to do. Consult the tire manufacturer’s website or ask the sales person at the tire dealer.

3. Never mix and match tires with different speed ratings: Doing so limits the speed you can drive your vehicle to the lowest rated tire on your car, which could be lower than the speed your car can reach. It can also expose you to potentially serious vehicle handling problems, including unpredictable steering.

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No Customers Allowed

by Lauren Henderson

You wouldn’t put a marquee that read, “No Customers Allowed” outside your quick lube, but you may inadvertently be saying it anyway. There are a few common mistakes that can drive customers away from your shop instead of inviting them to stop. If you’ve been wondering why you can’t get anyone to pull in your bays, read the following list and make sure you’re not accidentally telling them to “keep out.”

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Do you keep your bay doors down?
After the winter most of the country had, it’s understandable your staff wants to stay warm and dry inside instead of having to deal with the outside elements. But, vehicles still need their oil changed, no matter the weather. Closing your bay doors when you’re open is a surefire way to decrease traffic. Customers assume you’re closed or not able to service their car when your bay doors are down. As a result, they’ll drive right past your business.

Unless there is a situation where you must shut your doors completely in order to keep the elements out of your bays, encourage your employees to prepare for them and only shut the doors two thirds of the way when absolutely necessary.

Do your customers know what time it is?
Not having a clock in your waiting room or in the customers’ sight line can make five minutes feel like 15. Let a clock do the bragging for you by making sure one is visible, whether your customer is browsing through a magazine in your waiting room or waiting in their car. You want them to know how fast you are, not wonder how long it’s been.

Do you start cleaning up before the end of the day?
I get it. At the end of the day, everyone is ready to clean up, close up and get home — including you! But don’t allow your eagerness to end the day unintentionally drive customers away. If you or your employees begin to end the day in front of a customer, it can make them feel unwanted and guilty for being there. If that is the feeling they have when they drive away — no matter how good of a job you did — they probably won’t return.

Do you post a lot of shop signs?
Too many shop signs can make a customer feel like you’re hard to do business with and make them leery of bringing their vehicle to you for service. Avoid posting multiple signs saying things like, “No Checks,” “Don’t lean on the counter,” and “No customers allowed in the shop.” If something becomes a problem with a specific customer, you can address them professionally and individually instead of potentially turning off everyone who comes to you for service.

Do your employees have side conversations in front of the customer?
Camaraderie among employees should be encouraged. It instills a healthy work environment and is an incentive for them to show up on time and ready to work. However, remind them to keep side conversations to a minimum when they are in front of a customer. Talking about “drinks last night” or “March Madness” could make certain customers feel uncomfortable. Customers who relate your shop with feeling uncomfortable won’t return.

Are you guilty of any of these things? If you are, don’t worry. The good news is they are all easy to fix! Keep in mind, the customer is king, and you will attract more than you know what to do with! And that’s a very good thing!

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