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Joe Marconi

Free Dealership Oil Changes Backfire

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The daughter of a long time customer came to our shop the other after the dealer, during their free Oil Change service, informed her that she would need brakes on all four wheels. (This dealer gives free oil changes with the purchase of a new car) She called her father from the dealership and the father emphatically told her to get the car out of the dealer and bring it straight to Joe. She brought with her the invoice that clearly stated: “Brakes needed front and rear, pads at 3mm”.

 

After a road test and a four wheel brake inspection, we found that she only needed rear brakes. The front measured at 5-6mm. In addition, the car was due for its annual NY State inspection, the wiper blades were torn, and the tires needed rotating. She authorized the rear brakes, the wiper blades, the Sate Inspection and I included rotating and balanced the tires at no charge.

 

She was happy and upset (at the dealer) at the same time. I did not discredit the dealer, but did bring up the fact that sometime free is not a good value.

 

This situation got me thinking. This car had 42,000 miles on it and has been going back to the dealer since new for the free oil changes. So, in that time, the dealer was unable or could not establish a relationship strong enough for this customer to trust them. When the customer needed repair work that would actually cost them money, my relationship won out.

 

I think this is a lesson for all of us, don’t give up on what makes us so strong as independent shop owners: The relationships we have with our customers.

 

I plan on working hard finding out what customers have purchased new cars recently with free service and market to these people that free is not to be confused with value. I also plan on inviting these customers for my FREE safety check, after all these are still my customers and I want to make sure their cars are safe and maintained.

 

Let’s brainstorm on this and see if we can share ideas. The customer may still go to the dealer for that free service, but their hearts are still with us. WE need to capitalize on this.

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