Hidden Meanings, Sales Barriers and Opportunities

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A number of years ago, one of America’s top soft drink brands redesigned its logo to a slightly different one. The same three colors were used in both logos, but the shapes created by the three colors were marginally altered. The new logo was supposedly some sort of Da Vinci Code and was said to draw on Feng Shui, the Renaissance, the earth’s Geodynamo, the theory of relativity and much more. But I have to say, as I observed the new logo I certainly didn’t see all of that.

In fact, if you asked me about the change I’d probably say something like “Oh, that looks pretty much like their old logo with a faintly different shape.”

Incidentally, the slight alteration cost the soda company $1 million, and as a result, they also had to spend millions more to rebrand everything. Whether or not the hidden meanings in the new logo came through to their customers is anyone’s guess, but hidden meanings are everywhere in business.

Much like corporations and organizations have hidden meanings in their logos, the customers who come into your fast lube center may also have hidden meanings in their comments and responses to the sales approach presented by your service personnel.

Let’s consider one fairly common customer response: “I don’t know if that’s really a necessary service right now. I think I’ll wait.”

That kind of reaction from a customer, after having a service recommended by one of your service staff, reflects a number of possible hidden concerns. Improving sales in your fast lube operation will most likely occur only when the list of customer concerns and hidden barriers have been eliminated.

In this column, we’ll consider the list of customer concerns, which diminish sales in your center, and identify the steps you can take to eliminate hidden sales barriers and reduce the apprehensions your customers may have.

The Four Categories of Customer Anxiety: T.O.R.N.

In analyzing a response such as, “I don’t know if that’s really a necessary service.” the customer is making a decision, but not identifying the specific reason behind their choice to forego a service.

A variety of industry surveys, over 30 years, have shown there are basically four reasons — hidden sales barriers — that influence a customer’s decision not to purchase products or services. Let’s consider each of the four and determine the best way to eliminate the sales barriers that may be hiding in your operation.


Lack of trust is one common reason given by customers, especially when it comes to automotive service, for hesitation in purchasing additional service offerings beyond the original purpose for a visit to the service center.

According to customers, the hidden-trust-barrier is the result of the following key factors:

  • What they see: When a facility is dark, unprofessionally identified with poor signage, is not well maintained and out-of-date or not associated with a recognized name, then trust is diminished.
  • Recognized staff members: When customers see the same staff members visit after visit, trust levels improve remarkably.
  • A sense of permanence: The No. 1 reason customers give for taking down the trust barrier is a consistent, quality experience over a considerable period of time. There is no substitute for quality over time.

Obvious Need

The information barrier is put up by customers when the need for a service is not obvious, because it has not been explained well. When technicians give what appears to be a canned presentation, learned in the back room just moments before presenting it to the customer, the obvious need barrier comes up quickly.

It’s not only what your technicians say but also how they say it. The information presented must be accurate, pertinent to the customer’s concern, succinct and done by a perceived professional who knows from experience what they’re recommending.

If any of these elements are missing, you will likely hear, “I don’t know if that’s really necessary. It doesn’t seem like something my car is in obvious need of.”  

Rip-Off Detector

If there is no connection between the value of a service and the sales price, the rip-off barrier comes up. For example, if your customer can’t easily understand why synthetic oil offers superior performance and protection, an adjustment to either the price or the explanation of the product’s value must be made. The connection of a product’s value to price being charged must be easily understood by the customer, or they’ll opt out and perceive they’re being ripped-off.

Now-Driven Decisions

Your customers’ time is an irreplaceable asset. After all, the primary reason for the creation of the fast lube industry was an answer to a single question being asked by customers: “Where can I get an oil change, now?”

When you don’t treat a customer’s time as valuable, the now barrier is raised. Poor equipment, poor staffing, untrained personnel, lack of product and slow point-of-sale systems are all factors that take up a customer’s valuable time. They come in for services when they have the time in their schedule, and for each customer the time that works best for them is now.

When you can’t be trusted to respect your customer’s time by making every part of your operation efficient, there is very little likelihood a patron will add precious minutes to their visit by purchasing an additional service.

If, on the other hand, a customer can see, or better yet has previously experienced, their time is important to you and a service will truly be completed quickly and accurately, they will be much more inclined to say, “Yes, let’s get that done right now, while I’m here.” 

By improving your operation’s performance in these four areas, customers will not be T.O.R.N. about their decision to trust you with their time and their vehicle.

New Opportunities

More than ever, customers are searching, especially when it comes to vehicle maintenance, for someone they can trust. For that reason, the opportunities to provide the ever-growing list of more than 35 peripheral fast lube services and new products, such as synthetics and high-mileage oils, have actually never been better.

Your customers know what’s most important to them. Consequently, for those fast lube operators who have the foresight to make the adjustments described previously, the prospect of improving sales and broadening customer base is significant. Why? Because there has never been a time in the history of the fast lube industry or in business generally, when words like trust, obvious, rip-off and now have been more important to customers as they choose service providers.

So the next time you look at a logo, you may or may not detect the hidden meaning intended in its design. But when your customers experience trust, obvious value, service that’s free of rip-off’s and a service provider who will help them with their needs when it’s best for them — now — they’ll come back time after time and pay you for providing what they’ve been so carefully searching for. There’s no hidden meaning in that.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on removing hidden sales barriers. Please email me at: matthew.dipaulo@bp.com

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