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

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.


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.


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.”


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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Spring Training

by Amanda Bowman

The sun is shining, snow has melted, birds are chirping, grass is growing a brilliant shade of green and the frigid air has been replaced with warm a breeze. Yes, it’s springtime. Do you know what that means? No, not spring cleaning, though that is important. It’s time for spring training!

After the tumultuous weather much of the U.S. experienced during the winter, it can be easy to feel off your game. Have your technicians take a cue from professional sports and practice ’til it’s perfect to improve their stats.


Run Drills

Every major sport, from football to soccer to baseball, has players run drills to fine-tune their athletic abilities. In baseball, infielders and outfielders will practice catching pop flies to work on their hand-eye coordination and practice tracking that white baseball while staring up toward the sun.

This spring, have your technicians fine-tune their oil changing abilities by running drills of your own. Set up a practice area for them so they can work on replacing oil or air filters. You could also time your employees on how fast and efficiently they clean the customer’s windshield and then have them try to beat that time.

Practice New Plays

In basketball, coaches come up with different plays for their team to run to keep their opponents second-guessing themselves. However, if they continually run the same plays, it becomes predictable and the competition will soon catch on, giving them the advantage.

Adding a new service to your menu is like adding a new play to your game. It takes time to adjust and have the entire team be able to run it as a unit. Adding a new service will diversify your play calling and keep your competition on their toes.

Preseason Games

Preseason games allow teams to assess every player in each position without a potential loss counting against their record. It’s a great way to let players show off their skills and get real life experience in a low-stakes situation.

Running drills allows your technicians to hone their skills, but giving them real life experience lets them put those skills to work. If practicing on paying customers gives you pause, consider setting up an after hours oil change “game” where you use the crew’s vehicles to practice on while your technicians show off their A game.

Spring training is a great way to shake off the cobwebs from winter and get into peak condition. Run drills, practice skills, learn new plays and get your techs game-day ready.

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What We Learned About Leadership From “Remember the Titans”

by Erin Coldewey

4014_c121-2-6George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.; our history books are teeming with great leaders. And as it happens, so are our theaters. As we settle in with popcorn and the lights dim, we sometimes learn a little something about effective leadership.

Coach Herman Boone, portrayed by Denzel Washington, and the rest of his on-screen football team in the 2000 film “Remember the Titans,” are a prime example because as we settled in with popcorn and the lights dimmed, we learned a little something about effective leadership.

To watch the trailer click here: http://video.disney.com/watch/remember-the-titans-trailer-4beb46cbf80a9207ce46f149

Lead by Example

“You been doing your job?”

The challenge was issued after a particularly taxing three-a-day practice, escalating into a heated exchange.

“See man, that’s the worst attitude I ever heard,” said Bertier, the team captain, setting up his counterpart to deliver this succinct truth: “Attitude reflects leadership, captain.”

As an operator, you are the neck of your business. You have the ability to turn the head any way you’d like it to go. If you want your employees to greet customers enthusiastically and respectfully, make sure you do the same. If you want your team to be punctual each workday, make sure you are the one turning on the coffee pot in the morning. If you want shop problems to be dealt with calmly, promptly and respectfully, remember to do the same in the face of a complaint or angry customer. If you want to find your business facing the right direction, it’s in your power.

A Nugget of Truth

“I may be a mean cuss, but I’m the same mean cuss to everyone.” –Coach Herman Boone (Washington)

While you won’t find “be a mean cuss” in any managerial self-help book, there are two important leadership qualities buried in this line delivered by Coach Boone: consistency and equality. From starting quarterback to third-string bench warmer, Coach Boone was going to treat every player the exact same way and every player knew what to expect from him. Be consistent in both your reprimands and your rewards, and employees will never wonder about results of an action. By the same token, consistency is part of good employee DNA. Good employees do their job to the best of their ability on a daily basis with each car and each customer. It’s also part of being a good follower.


“If we don’t come together right now on this hallowed ground, we too will be destroyed, just like they were. I don’t care if you like each other or not, but you will respect each other. And maybe…I don’t know, maybe we’ll learn to play this game like men.”

With this quote, Boone gave us the work place version of “I love you, but I don’t have to like you right now.” It won’t ever be perfect, but respect for time, for opinions, for personal property, for all things and in all things, including disagreements. It will go a long way with all parties. Teach your team to reach for respect first.

Being a leader has its own unique set of joys and challenges. Should you find yourself in need of a little direction, it may be possible to find the truth you’re looking for somewhere between the opening and closing credits of a good movie. And if that doesn’t work, you can always, always, remember the Titans.

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Dear Service Writer,

by Lauren Henderson

After years of routinely getting my vehicle’s oil changed, I’ve learned a few things about myself and what makes me want to return to a specific quick lube. I’m writing this letter to tell you I care that the technician servicing my car knows what they are doing but — more often than not — you determine if I return the next time I need my car serviced. That’s a powerful position to be in, so use it to your advantage!


While you may not think the time you take to greet me with a smile, ask to pet my dog in the back seat or look up directions on how to reset my service light — I forget how to do it every time — is significant, I do. I like that you don’t just look at the sticker in my window, write something down on your clipboard and trudge away. Instead, you take the time to confirm with me the type of oil I’d like to be poured and confirm several times that I don’t have any other questions or concerns. If I’m not sure or forget what type of oil my car requires, you refer me to my vehicle’s owners manual and we find out the answer together. Even though you may have sneaked a peek at my windshield, it’s OK. Referring to my owners manual assures me my car is being fed the correct oil.

I know it’s impossible for you to know everything, but when the situation arises, you turn “I don’t know,” into an opportunity to go above and beyond. There’s nothing more frustrating as a customer than to ask a question and feel like you’re getting a half-baked answer. Instead of just making something up or guessing, you take the time to find one of your co-workers on the floor who can answer my questions. You taking the time to do that instead of blowing me off says a lot about the quality of care your shop provides. I don’t care that you don’t always know the answer to my questions, I care that you know how to find out what the answer is.

I appreciate you explaining to me what was done to my vehicle and not just rushing me out of the bay doors to get the next person in line over the pit. The work order I receive is great! It’s color coded and easy for me to quickly understand before I file it away in my glove box. Before I go on about my day, you tune in to my needs and take the adequate time to answer any lingering questions I have.

You’re respectful of my time while still fitting all of these things into my service experience, and I know talent when I see it. You’re in a more influential position than you may realize. To me, you’re the face of the company, owner and technician. You’re the person who relays and explains the health of my car to me. When you do a good job, I’ll more than likely assume that everyone else on your team did, too, and chances are I’ll continue to visit you every few thousand miles.

Thank you for being professional, thorough and patient with me. You’re the primary reason I keep coming back, so continue representing your team well!


A Satisfied Customer

P.S. Don’t be afraid to throw in a joke or two — funny always wins me over.

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Take a Step Towards Reaching New Customers

by Lauren Henderson

photo-1422728221357-57980993ea99Taking the steps to broaden your business and reach new customers is a little scary but mostly exciting. When you’ve spent significant time (We’re talking 50 plus years) in any industry it’s guaranteed you’ll see the best and the worst, the highs and the lows. If you do a good job you’ll become a voice for the industry, an icon of sorts. But maintaining a leadership position means that you must constantly evaluate what you can do to keep your business relevant.

That is what the brands Bar’s Leaks​ and Rislone​ have recently done by launching new advertising campaigns to engage their younger audiences and broaden their customer demographics. You can check out what they’ve done and get some inspiration of your own.

It doesn’t always mean reinventing the wheel. There’s a reason you’ve been successful so far. Stay true to your company values — they’ve served you well — but don’t be afraid to take a small step today towards reaching new customers. You may be surprised at the new faces rolling into your bays.

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Throttle Back: Tips for successfully balancing work and life.

by Lauren Henderson

mac-glasses“You cannot imagine the craving for rest that I feel — a hunger and thirst. For six long days, since my work was done, my mind has been a whirlpool, swift, unprogressive and incessant, a torrent of thoughts leading nowhere, spinning round swift and steady.” — H.G. Wells

Wells penned those words in his novel, “When the Sleeper Wakes.” Though written in the late 1800s, that sentiment has stood the test of time. Finding work/life balance is hard. When it’s time to throttle back, here’s how:

1. Track Your Day
You’ve heard the saying, “Time is money.” So why not budget your time like you do your money? Knowing where you’re spending your time will shed light on where you can save it.
Start by breaking down your day on a piece of paper. Record what you do throughout a normal day. From the time your feet hit the floor to the time you put them up, write down what you do.
Next, look at the day you’ve tracked and keep these questions in mind: Where did I waste the most time? What tasks can I consolidate? Am I completing my daily to-dos in the most efficient order?
If you’ve been feeling crunched for time, hopefully you find error in your ways and time in your day. Track as many days as you need to get the most realistic picture of your week. Write down a routine that maximizes your time and stick to it.

2. Say No
There’s freedom in the word “no.” Things that seemed quick and easy when you committed to them usually end up taking the longest to complete, robbing you of your time. Before agreeing to take on another responsibility, consider where it will fit into your day. Be realistic about how long it will take. Be selective about the “extras” you take on.

3. Say Yes
Learning to say “yes” is just as important as teaching yourself to respond with “no.” The temptation to be a one man show and take everything on by yourself is human nature, but the reality is, it’s impossible! For goodness sake, say “yes” when others offer their help!

4. Simplify
Take the confusion out of your processes. Make notes in your phone or in a notebook. I prefer to physically write my schedule down in a day planner. Do what works for you.
You’ll be amazed with how getting things out of your head and onto a piece of paper streamlines the day.

5. Recharge
Take some time for yourself. Do one thing daily that is for you and only you. Maybe it’s taking the dog on a walk, going to the gym before work or waking up early enough to enjoy a cup of coffee and read the paper. Regular time for yourself will help you not get worn down as quickly.
Periodically, allow time to recharge for a longer stint. Know what you need to feel renewed. For some, that means spending time relaxing at home. For others, it means an adventurous trip with friends.

Do you struggle with maintaining the work/life balance? How do you throttle back in order to keep moving forward? I’d love to know. Send me an email: lauren.henderson@noln.net

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