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Food for thought - Being a "yes" company is not always the best policy

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For the past 18 months I have noticed that the overwhelming advice for shop owners is to get the customer in ASAP. If they want an oil change NOW you accommodate them. I have been using this method for the past year and for the most part it has been a miss for me and I will explain...


In my shop we work on a high ARO and smaller car count. We are also mostly appointment based. This has worked well for us because we can spend quality time on an inspection and repairs to provide the best service. The thing we do best that has generated high dollars is our ability to properly inspect and sell the inspection list which many times can be thousands of dollars in additional work. What has been a problem for us is the waiter oil changes and the people that want NOW NOW NOW. Generally these are people who want nothing more than an oil change. They want to wait around for their oil change and have little time to spend if additional work is necessary. The probability of that customer leaving and coming back to get the estimate work done is rather low. The highest percentage we have for selling work is absolutely when customer drop off their vehicles and can authorize work from the comfort of their home or work. The NOW customer and the waiter oil change become more of a waste of time than an opportunity. Have we generated some good clients from the now customers? Yes. The percentage however is low compared to all the NOW and waiter customers we serve.


What I am working on now is explaining our value for every possible NOW customer and oil change. We explain to them we provide an oil SERVICE and don't perform oil changes. We explain and sell the value of our inspection, people, and culture. We do the best we can to convey why we are very different from any other shop and why they are making the right choice in bringing their vehicle to us. If after all this is explained and the customer is still insistent on NOW and waiting then we say NO and we are better off for it.



Our business model may be slightly different than yours but I'd love to hear your thoughts. Have you found trouble with selling to NOW and waiter customers?

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I would agree on waiters. We do schedule all oil changes and we spend time going over the vehicle for needed service. We never really try and sell them at that point. We make them aware of the service needs and schedule the appointment for any needed repairs. Our "waiters" are customers for the most part that have scheduled an appointment. It's pretty rare for us to just do an oil change for a walk in. Most of the time we will tell them to "let me check to see if we have an available lift and technician available" knowing full well we most times don't but it keeps us from just immediately reject them. We then educate the customer on scheduling the service so we can spend the proper amount of time inspecting the vehicle and that although the lube center across the street might offer a 10 minute oil change, it's kinda pointless if you have to wait in line for an hour before your 10 minute oil change. Plus how well are the really inspecting your vehicle for needed service. We also let them know we are not like the doctor's office and schedule multiple people for the 9:00 appt. If you have an appointment we will have the resources available to service you at the scheduled time.

I do like the terminology of the Oil Service rather than Oil change.

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We schedule one waiter per day to keep those customers happy. They are the ones that repair instead of maintaining. When the car breaks down we make our money. If we stopped serving the want to wait community I imagine we would stop repairing them when they break down also. I do not take walk ins or last minute callers for oil change.

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You bring up excellent points, and I agree. The key thing is to understand your business model. In your case, it would be financial suicide to bring in "Oil Change" waits. Also, for you the Oil Service is the way the way to go.


On the other hand, there are many successful general repair shops that have dedicated oil service bays. They use those bays to bring in additional cars for Oil changes in the hope that they can create new customers and up-sell work to the other production bays.


There also needs to be a balance. Too many oil change waits can kill a business. The mindset of a wait customer is get it in, get it out, and on to the next task of the day.


If we as an industry can only sell more Oil Services, we would all be in a better place.


Great post!



Thanks Joe!


Nailing down a system that works and implementing it consistently is what is needed. Trying to find a balance is tough. I really do hate turning people away as I start to think the value of their potential future business. I also have very little confidence in other shops around me so I do not think they are better served going somewhere else especially for a "quick oil change". With that being said it is crucial to have the proper presentation to potential oil service clients that will educate the value in better technicians, better oil and filters, and a complimentary inspection.

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Everything is a matter of trust.


You need to profile your best customer and seek them out.


Qualify those prospects that come through your door that want to wait for their car. Develop a relationship and guide them accordingly. Steer away from you those that are not profitable, inflexible, or difficult to work with.


We strive to avoid to have customers wait for their cars, we want to do the job right and to recommend only what is needed to keep their cars in reliable road worthy condition.


You must have the discipline to choose your customer wisely, if you don't, you will slowly but surely will create your own trap with difficult people that lower your margins.

Edited by HarrytheCarGeek
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If you truly want to build a solid, predictable money-making business, here's
something to consider.

I know it's been taught for a number of years that you need to define your
customer profile. That's true to a point. For example, most shop owners do not
want to service the customer who brings in his own parts.

However, the customer who wants to wait in your waiting area for their lube,
oil & filter, is not necessarily a cheap customer who doesn't care about their

Let's face it. Customers have been conditioned for YEARS that auto repair shops
have a waiting area with coffee and a TV. (Even wifi, these days.)

So, based on that...
Assuming that waiters are not customers that care enough to spend money
for the maintenance of their vehicle is a misconception and is costing
you sales and profits.

The other issue to turning away waiters is it decreases your return of
investment for your marketing.

Think about it:
Marketing is about getting the customer to call or come in. If they respond
to your marketing, but then you're telling them you don't want their business
unless they are willing to leave their vehicle, it sends a mixed message.

Customers choose a shop based on a number of things and convenience
is very high on the list. Why make it hard for the customer to do business with you.

If you have trouble selling service, it's not the customer's fault. It's a problem
with your selling process.

Think about this: Customers only know three main things about their vehicles:
They need to put gas in it constantly, change the oil periodically and buy

tires occasionally.

The good news is: They're coming in to get their oil change from your shop.
It's up to the service advisor to use that oil change as an opportunity
to educate that customer - in a customer-friendly manner - what else
their vehicle needs to get the maximum life out of it.

The question is not how do we limit waiters. The question is: how do we
effectively sell legitimate repairs and scheduled maintenance to all customers,

including waiters?

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Yep, no doubt waiters are a pain but I find it is a manageable & temporary pain. We do the same complete inspection & full oil service.

I explain to the first time customer who might question why we are looking their car over for extra work that it is done just as much to protect them from any safety issues. It also is to give us a base line that may resolve the "since you" issues after we touched their car, much better to tell them about that oil leak before they say it wasn't there before the oil was changed. (like we never have heard that before!).


I find we can not turn anyone away now days and we can many times turn that BMW owner that has been going to just any shop into a good customer with a little information/knowledge & hand holding. I believe getting the waiter in is what keeps our ARO high, many do return for further work, some don't & it will always be that way. I am continually amazed at the customer that wants to repair everything we tell them the car needs & they are happy we did that, at the end of the week I am happy they did all the work$$.


Of course a lot of this depends on your shop size, we have 6 lifts for 3 techs so it is easer to juggle cars.


Dave, I keep telling myself nobody said it was easy...........

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To sum it all up:


TAKE CARE OF YOUR "A" CUSTOMERS! Use common sense and be Likeable. People do business with people they like. If you have 1 or 2 bays it will be tough to service waiters. If you have 4 and up have a dedicated lube tech and a system in place to do proper multi-point inspections where you can set up recommended repairs for a future appointment with the parts already there and ready to go. Build relationships with your best customers and don't waste time on the ones who take up your time and will never spend money. There is no blanket statement to be made on any subject that comes up here.

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Waiters cause stress, there's no question, but for us they represent 20% of business. We have a loaner car in case that "real quick" isn't. Some customers just need immediate service, like a walk in medical center. I would much prefer everyone to make an appointment and let us call when done but I'm not too keen on throwing away 1/5 of my business. That being said I don't stop work to do an oil change, I make an appt. They are free to wait during their scheduled appt. I do stop work if their wheel is falling off. We all know they aren't going anywhere when they find out they have a broken bearing or strut, and its a safety issue.


You really need to evaluate each case as it comes in. Do you want to stop everything and put on a guys used tire because he has an "emergency"? Sum it up, if his emergency was caused because he wanted to run his bologna skin until the air came out then too bad it's his problem and he deserves to wait. If a soccer mom with a reasonably maintained car picked up a nail and needs to get Suzy to the dentist in an hour its a real emergency and deserves your attention.


The only exception is " Sinse-Ya", as in "ever since ya did my brakes my alignment is off" I get these folks in immediately, as in right now. 99% of the time it's not our fault but I 100% guarantee if he goes to a competitor I'm going to get him back in the front door with receipt in hand talking before he even makes eye contact. Its much better for me to see that "oh it appears that you ran over a screw causing a low tire to make your car pull, Its possible you picked it up in my lot so we fixed it no charge" and we can keep the customer and our reputation. Joe down the road might plug his tire (without telling him) after selling him new control arms/motor mount/o2 sensor because we broke them when we did pads. The customer then thinks Joe is the hero and we are the hackers.

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There are a number of things to consider when it comes to
categorizing customers. If you are the shop owner and the
service advisor, you have total clarity on who you do or
do not want, as a customer.

It becomes a slippery slope when you have a service advisor
because now when it comes time to ask the service advisor
"why they didn't sell that job", the easiest excuse for
them becomes: That customer didn't fit the customer profile.

When that happens, you have nowhere to go from there, in
coaching your service advisor because now it's subjective,
meaning there is no clear-cut way of evaluating if that's
the real reason that job wasn't sold.

You would have sold the job but he believes the customer
profile was the reason he didn't sell the job. When that
happens, what could have been a learning opportunity for
him to realize what step(s) of the sale he missed...
now becomes the customer's fault he didn't get the job.

The excuses are endless:
"Waiters never buy."
"Coupon clippers never buy anything other than what's on the coupon."
"Waiting oil change customers never buy."
"Nobody is buying this time of the year, especially
people with kids."

In almost every case, the customer didn't buy because
the job wasn't sold correctly.

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      A recent study, done by Harvard Business School, concluded that the real problem with attracting and retaining employees has more to do with the workplace environment, not pay or benefits. While the study did find that an adequate pay plan and offering an attractive benefits package did help with recruiting and retention, it’s not enough to satisfy the needs of employees, especially those of front-line workers.
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      Step one to attracting and retaining quality employees: Create an amazing workplace environment for your employees!  Trust me, happy employees make happy shop owners too!
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